As a member of the Ho-Chunk Indian Nation, Lisa DeLong of Birchwood is proud to share her culture with others through dance and displays. Last summer, DeLong brought dance regalia and other Native American items to the Haugen Museum and discussed their importance to her tribe. She also has given demonstrations of dance and presentations of the Ho Chunk Native Americans for fundraising efforts and Scout troops, including the Birchwood Boy Scouts. DeLong has been expressing life through dance taught to her by tribe members since she was 4 years old. She was primarily a fancy dancer, but she has now turned to more primitive dance. "Fancy dancers mimic the butterfly when dancing," said DeLong. "The butterfly symbolizes change and transition. "Fancy dancers are called upon to dance when the seasons change, marriages, deaths, births and more," she said. The primitive type of dance is more of a traditional sharing of culture.
History of Ho-Chunk The Ho-Chunk tribe, formerly called the Winnebago, were established in Wisconsin at the time of French contact in the 1630s. The traditions of the tribe, particularly the Thunderbird clan, state that the Ho-Chunk originated at the Red Banks on Green Bay. Tribes such as the Quapaw, Missouri, Iowa, Oto, Omaha and Ponca were once thought to be part of the Ho-chunk, but these other tribes continued to move farther west, while the Ho-chunk stayed in Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk call themselves "Ho-Chungra," which means "people of the parent speech," or "people of the Big Voice." The English name of Winnebago is derived from an Algonkian word meaning "people of the dirty water," and is thought to refer to Wisconsin's Fox River and Lake Winnebago, which often had bodies of dead fish in the summer. Unlike their Wisconsin neighbors the Menominee and Potawatomi, the Ho-Chunk relied more on agricultural products for subsistence. They planted large gardens and stored dried corn, beans and other products in fiber bags and in pits dug in the ground for winter use. Using handmade dugout canoes, they also travelled up the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to hunt. The Ho-Chunk also crossed the Mississippi to reach the prairies to hunt buffalo. Like other Wisconsin tribes, the Ho-Chunk became involved in the fur trade with French and later British traders. During the 1600s and 1700s, the tribe spread west and south and eventually established villages throughout the Fox River valley and Lake Winnebago regions, the Wisconsin River Valley below Portage, the upper tributaries of the Rock River valley and the Upper Mississippi River Valley. In 1913, many Ho-Chunk settled at Wisconsin Dells and shared their culture through dance performances and native crafts. Many Ho-Chunk alternated this work with agricultural work. During this entire period, the federal government didn't recognize the Wisconsin branch of the Ho-Chunk nation as a sovereign Indian tribe. However, in 1934 when the government passed the Indian Reorganization Act, tribes such as the Wisconsin Ho-chunk gained federal recognition and tribal sovereignty. Twelve years later the government passed the Indian Claims Commission Act. Since that time, the tribe has acquired about 554 acres of land for tribal housing. In November 1994, the tribe adopted "Ho-Chunk" as their official name.
Lifelong traditions DeLong's maternal side of her family were known by the last name of Thundercloud and her dad, Daniel DeLong, is French Canadian and is a native of Birchwood. "My mother's name is Early Dawn Riser Garvin-Spiegler and is full-blooded Ho-Chunk," said DeLong. "Horuxucreiga is my Ho-Chunk name," she said. "It means 'looked upon.' I was named by an elder in my clan, which is the deer clan." DeLong credits her family for teaching her the skills of her tribe's traditions, dance and language at an early age and keeping the ways and traditions of her people in her life. "This is thanks to my parents and grandparents, who supported and encouraged learning and living our traditional Ho-Chunk ways," said DeLong. "My sister and I had our first fancy dance exhibition in 1974 at the Kashena Powwow in 1974," said DeLong. "We were adorned in fancy dance regalia that my mom handmade," she said. DeLong said that she and her sister learned the skills needed for fancy dance by watching their elders and listening to their advice. Her first adult fancy dance regalia was made by Haga Cleveland and his wife. "We traveled to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan to dance at various powwows while my mom sold her traditional Ho-Chunk arts and crafts," said DeLong. "My family has been involved in several cultural exchanges, which include trips to Sitka, Alaska and Kauai, Hawaii," she said. "My younger sister, Danielle DeLong, who is a traditional dancer, and her husband, a grass dancer, drummer and singer, joined us in Sitka, Alaska, for the cultural exchange with the Athabascan, Inupiat, Aleut, Yupik, Haida and Tlinget dancers in 1998." "My mom and I participated in a cultural exchange with the Polynesians, "islanders" of the Hawaiian islands in 2008," said DeLong. "These were all incredible experiences.
Fancy to traditional The regalia that DeLong now wears and displays for the traditional style of dance is made by Kenny Funmaker Sr. and his wife, Rhonda. Funmaker was the traditional chief of the Bear Clan who died in 2008. He was also an athlete in Wisconsin as a boxer and rodeo rider. He grew up in a traditional Ho-Chunk way and was active in preserving the tribe's cultural richness including language. "The regalia they made for me is Ho-Chunk traditional applique regalia," said DeLong. She said that the traditional form of dance has a slower pace. "It's very graceful and smooth. "My mom has encouraged, supported and taught me this with the help of my grandma Lillian Thundercloud," she said. "And nowadays I still dance," DeLong said. "But not competitively, only for educational purposes and when I am asked to do for certain occasions." To contact DeLong for a presentation, call 715-296-0463. "Whether it is for an educational presentation, wedding, funeral or something else, I dance to strengthen my spirit and for all my relations," said DeLong. "And we still continue to share our culture."