Ho-Chunk tribal members, students begin dugout canoe journey through Yahara lakes, Rock River

MADISON, Wis. — A group of Ho-Chunk tribal members and students is on a weeklong journey, exploring Madison’s lakes and the Rock River in dugout canoes similar to those used by their ancestors.

The group set out from Mendota County Park on Lake Mendota Monday morning.

Michael Sallaway, the Ho-Chunk Nation’s executive administrative officer, said many tribal youth may not understand their culture’s history. The canoe trip is one way to help them experience firsthand what generations before them saw every day.

The trip is designed to be both educational and spiritual while helping the 15 students realize their potential, he said.

“It helps that person developing, and we’re talking about teenagers — every parent has gone through the experience of teenagers and knows how they’re trying to find themselves and how they’re trying to adapt to the society — the people that they meet in their lives — and determine what’s going to be happening to them so that they have that good set of values, like do they have endurance? Well, we’ll know from this canoe trip. Would they have the patience, do they have the listening skills, do they have the strength to make that trip like that, is there a little bit of self-awareness learned out of those trips? These are the intrinsic values that make up a Ho-Chunk,” he said.

Once the youth realize what skills they have, Sallaway added, they can turn that around and help the tribe.