All 12 Wisconsin Indigenous Flags Displayed at Verona High School
By Robert Chappell
Verona Area High School students and visitors now have a near-constant reminder of Wisconsin’s Indigenous heritage.
The school unveiled the flags of all 12 of Wisconsin’s Indigenous Nations hanging above a common area near the school’s performing arts center in an event Monday.
“It’s another example of our intentional strategies for increasing the sense of belonging among our student body and our staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Tremayne Clardy. “We continue to prioritize being the national model of excellence and equity. And we’re doing that through actionable steps of making sure all of our demographics are truly represented, and that we’re teaching about our history so that we can inform our future.”
School counselor Lesley Morrison got the ball rolling three years ago, reaching out to all 12 nations seeking donations of the flags.
“We wanted to spark those questions and that curiosity in people, in our students and in our community, to gain more knowledge,” said Morrison, who is white but grew up in Lac du Flambeau surrounded by Indigenous people and culture.
“It’s really important that all students feel that they belong at their own area high school,” said school principal Pam Hammen, noting that the location was intentionally chosen because it’s near the performing arts center, where most members of the public visit the school. She also noted other displays in nearby areas honoring Asian, Latino and Black cultures.
“I’m really grateful to Lesley for bringing the acknowledgment and the celebration of the indigenous people to Verona area high school,” she said. “It’s part of a big effort, because we believe very strongly about the value of our students.”
The event comes near the end of Native American Heritage Month, when some curriculum also delved into the history of Wisconsin’s Indigenous people. David O’Connor, the state Department of Public Instruction’s American Indian education consultant, would like to see more of that year-round.
“I would feel it’s a good opportunity for all of our students or our community members to learn about the rich histories of our First Nations,” he said.
He also noted Indigenous people aren’t just historical.
“It’s one thing to talk about the history of indigenous people, but if you’re not including that contemporary voice, it’s a lost opportunity,” he said. “Indigenous people … we’re your lawyers, we’re your teachers, we’re your doctors, we’re your plumbers.”
O’Connor, who is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, said it’s also important to acknowledge all 12 nations, beyond the Ho-Chunk Nation who are native to the area that is now south-central Wisconsin.
“It’s great to learn about your local history first. But as you expand (beyond) your local history, it’s a good opportunity to learn about all the nations that call our state home. It may give you an opportunity to think about some of the things that make them similar but also some things that make them different as well,” he said.
Eleven federally recognized Indigenous Nations are based in Wisconsin: Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation, Forest County Potawatomi, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, St. Croix Chippewa, Sokaogon Chippewa (Mole Lake), and Stockbridge-Munsee. Each is represented in the flag display, in addition to the Brothertown American Indians, which are based in Fond du Lac.