Ho-Chunk Nation unveils new mural along the Great Sauk State Trail

NORTH FREEDOM, Wis.– After many months of hard work, the Ho-Chunk Nation proudly revealed its newest mural in Sauk County at a dedication ceremony Sunday afternoon.

The ceramic tile mural called “Earth, Water, Sky,” represents the Ho-Chunk Nation’s connection to what they call the Sacred Land, according to lead artist Melanie Tallmadge Sainz.

“Our clan affiliation with the natural world is divided according to the Earth clan, sky clan and water clan,” Tallmadge Sainz said.

The mural is permanently installed to repurposed stem walls on the Great Sauk State Trail, and intended to be a gift of appreciation to the Ho-Chunk Nation for a generous donation to complete the trail.

The River Arts Inc. of Prairie du Sac chose the Little Eagle Arts Foundation to design and create the mural with the help from dozens of artists.

“Our original proposal got accepted and then COVID hit,” Tallmadge Sainz said.

The pandemic restricted artists from working together in one room, but it still took a lot of creative hands to finish the mural, including multi-generational artists.

“In our culture, that’s how we do things,” Ho-Chunk Elder Nela Stacy said.

Stacy’s family designed a portion of the mural, adding their own special meaning. Stacy’s daughter Devinn Sky said she’s proud to pass this on to her future generations.

“This is something that I did with my mother and I can tell my grandkids that,” Sky said.

Despite the challenges that got in the way, artists said the mural is only better because of it.

“I think it’s important for us to find these opportunities to gather safely and to celebrate,” River Arts Inc. of Prairie du Sac Executive Director Lindsey Giese said. “This feels like a big win.”

The mural dedication was included in Sauk County’s Fermentation Festival.