Fall Excursion Highlights

Thirty-two FRIENDS members and guests boarded a Lamers motorcoach in September, and invested three days in a sweeping study of Wisconsin’s Indian Nations, the prehistoric lands of the Moundbuilders and the Woodland people, and the present-day reservations of the Ho Chunk, Menominee, Ojibwe and Sauk. The Autumn Excursion, the FRIENDS’ signature event, enjoyed favorable weather, great fall colors along the roadside, good food, pleasant accommodations, and the congeniality of like-minded travelers. Most importantly, however, the FRIENDS group heard excellent speakers, guides and interpreters, who made the tour an adventure in adult learning.

The 2012 Excursion followed a route that took travelers, first, to the Hoard Museum in Fort Atkinson, where we got details of the Black Hawk War of 1832, a skirmish in which Abraham Lincoln soldiered against the Fox and Sauk warriors.

We visited the Koshkonong Mounds, eleven earthen structures along an ancient trail, then moved on to Aztalan State Park, where the early Middle Mississippi culture built a complex, well-organized city made up of earthen platforms, stockade walls, communal housing, a sports arena and fields in which the first real agriculture was practiced. At the Man Mound, near Baraboo, the curator portrayed William H. Canfield, who first surveyed the state’s only man-shaped effigy mound in 1859.

Our Monday night lodging was the Wisconsin Dells Ho Chunk Casino, but our after-dinner program was so compelling that few of our tourists went gaming.  In the morning, we drove to the photographic studio of H.H. Bennett, whose landscapes and native portraits made the Dells famous. The building in the old downtown area is now one of the historic sites of the state historical society.

Headed north, we enjoyed lunch in Stevens Point, followed by an instructive stop at the Menominee Indian Cultural Museum in Keshena. Our guide described the creation of the five clans, who at one time occupied ten million acres of land in what is now Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. On their reservation, the Menominee’s forestry practices were held up as models for modern forest preservation.

Pushing on to the lakeside resort, Minoqua, we filled the classic Norwood Pines Supper Club with lively conversation, and began our encounter with the Ojibwe, the Lac de Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The guided tour of a recreated native village was inspiring, and the George W. Brown Cultural Center and Museum offered top-notch exhibits and informed commentary  on Ojibwe beliefs and traditions, and the tribe’s historic struggles to survive in times of economic and political turmoil.

This three day Excursion earned rave reviews from the participants, as have all of our recent September tours.  Board Members Chuck Hatfield and Penny Kleinhans have carefully coordinated the events and destinations to bring travelers  a blend of historic enlightenment and pleasant companionship.

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