Ho-Chunk Nation, US Army sign agreement to protect, honor land at Fort McCoy

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WKBT) – The Ho-Chunk Nation and Fort McCoy are working together for a better future. On Tuesday, the two groups signed a memorandum of understanding, allowing tribal members access to sacred sites and plants found on the installation.

This agreement was first signed in 1999 and has not been re-signed since.

“The land base that Fort McCoy sits on today is our ancestral land,” Marlon WhiteEagle, Ho-Chunk Nation president, said.

“Ho-Chunk has been here… oral history goes back two ice ages,” Ritchie Brown, a Ho-Chunk elder, said.

The agreement allows the Ho-Chunk nation to continue protecting Native American burials, historical and sacred sites on the installation.

“Being a good steward of the land, being a good neighbor and a good partner, and re-establishing that just to demonstrate our dedication to the people of the Ho-Chunk nation,” said Col. Mike Poss, for U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy.

It also allows members to access the installation for traditional plants and natural medicines while also helping to give input on natural resources.

“In-ground burials, stuff like that. There’s also a lot of medicine plants there,” Brown said. “It’s easy to fix if you stay out in front of it.”

This all came in a ceremony that combined military and Ho-Chunk traditions.

“To reaffirm the gesture of good will and continued support and continued understanding from that time until today,” WhiteEagle said.

The agreement is more than a gesture.

“By re-signing it today, it brings it back to the forefront. Makes people think about Fort McCoy,” Brown said.

It is also about honoring what’s to come.

“There will be a day where the US army doesn’t need Fort McCoy anymore. Then, we’ll be there,” Brown said.

Agreements like these are required by multiple federal laws.

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