Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Basket Makes Its Way Back To Ho-Chunk Nation After 62 Years
by Ken Luchterhand - Hocak Worak

The Ho-Chunk Nation has received a gift that symbolizes its culture with a recent donation from a Duluth couple.

Annette and Russ Port came to the Executive Building on Monday, March 2, to donate a basket made in 1953 to the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Annette father received the basket from a Ho-Chunk woman 62 years ago.

"I'm very happy to be able to donate this basket," Annette said. "I asked my sisters in Milwaukee and North Carolina, and they also were thrilled."

The basket was a gift to her father, Richard "Jay" Webster, from a Ho-Chunk woman. It was given to him while he managed the Badger Village on the former Badger Ordinance Works grounds.

"My father, like many returning World War II veterans, decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and attended college. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1949 and graduated in 1953," she said.

Located between Madison and Baraboo, Badger Village had barrack housing (constructed in 1942) for employees of the Badger Ordinance Works. After World War II ended, the influx of GIs at the University of Wisconsin caused such a housing shortage that part of Badger Village was turned into GI housing for married students.

"My parents, sister and I were among this group of 750 veterans and their families who lived in Badger Village," Annette said. "Like their neighbors, my parents were strapped for money and dad did everything he could to earn a few bucks from driving the bus back and forth to the UW campus, which was 70 miles round trip, to managing the community building which held the 'Bar Room.'"

He worked at the position from February 1952 to July 1953. In this capacity, he met many Badger Village residents as well as people from the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, which was known as the Winnebago tribe at the time, she said.

"This is how my dad came to know a Native American woman named 'Big Bertha' and her husband who soon became friends. Dad served them alcohol just like he would for any customer," Annette said. "This practice irritated the non-native patrons who did not want 'Indians' in their bar.

"Dad was an inclusive man and wouldn't tolerate discrimination in any fashion. So he decided to write a letter to the Attorney General of the state of Wisconsin, asking if there were laws restricting him from serving any group of people," Annette said. "The written answer came back clearly stating that all people were welcome. Dad posted this letter along with a statement of his own. That statement read, 'Heretofore, all people are welcome in this establishment.'"

Shortly after that, "Big Bertha" came to their home.

"She knocked on the door and presented my dad with a beautiful hand-woven, vegetable-dyed basket which she has made as a gift of appreciation from her and her husband," Annette said. "My parents and our family used and cherished this basket for more than 60 years. If you look carefully, you will see the exquisite craftsmanship and inside colors are still evident."

After her father died 10 years ago and her mother four years ago, Annette and her two sisters went through their parents' house and found the basket. They remembered how they had used it throughout the years for many occasions, especially as a picnic basket for their outings. They told their children the story of how the basket had been given to their father.

Annette and Russ had not given the basket another thought until they spent the weekend at Meskwaki casino and hotel in Tama, Iowa, when they saw baskets on display as a tie to the Meskwaki cultural heritage.

"That made me think about giving the basket back to the Ho-Chunk Nation," she said.

"To my sisters and me, this basket has always been a reminder of a philosophy in our family: 'All people are welcome here,'" she said.

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000 - 2015 of Vicki Williams Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999 - 2015 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!