Native Americans at UW–Madison

Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to understand how and why Native American history and culture was present and appropriated at UW–Madison.

Students will be able to understand how Native American students and student groups advocated for a variety of different causes.

Students will be able to understand how Native American history and culture are intricately linked with the development and continuation of UW–Madison.

Sources and Readings

Recommended Primary Sources:

Pipe of Peace Ceremony: Read Source Here

This is the script from the peace pipe ceremony for the class of 1921 to 1922 and 1922 to 1923. The peace pipe ceremonies were when delegated members of the senior class would pass down words of wisdom and guidance to the juniors. The members from each class would then engage in the ritual smoking of the peace pipe as an act of togetherness, while typically wearing historic Native American attire. 

1929 Yearbook: View Source Here

This is a yearbook photo from 1929 with images capturing the peace pipe ceremony

Our Shared Future Plaque: Read the Plaque Here 

Our Shared Future represents UW–Madison’s commitment to respect the inherent sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk Nation and the other First Nations of Wisconsin. It is a first step that calls on each of us—faculty, staff, and students—to deeply consider our shared past and present with Indigenous peoples in this place, Teejop, and to make our own personal and institutional commitments to achieve a shared future with them.”

“Indian Students Seek Support, Understanding” Article: Read Article Here

This article explains how Wunk Sheek, the Native American student group on campus, held a series of festivities to better familiarize the Madison community with the plight and experiences of Native Americans. The article also explained how Wunk Sheek and some of their scheduled speakers protested against the trials for demonstrators of the 1973 Wounded Knee protests.

“Resisting their Removal” Article: Read Article Here

This article explains how UW Madison’s administration planned to close the Native American and African American cultural centers. Wunk Sheek attempted to rally support from the community to keep the center open and planned on resisting the university. There is also information about how the university was planning to not create centers for Asian American and Spanish speaking students. The respective groups asked students to boycott classes to keep the centers open and raise support and awareness for their cause.

Recommended Readings:

David Wallace Adams, “More Than a Game: The Carlisle Indians Take to the Gridiron, 1893-1917,” Western Historical Quarterly 32, 1 (Spring 2001): 25-53. Read Article Here

Public History Project Blog “On Listening: A Reflection on the Challenges and Opportunities of Writing Native Histories of UW–Madison.” By Zada Ballew. Read Blog Post Here

Additional Primary Sources:

UW–Madison Native American Student Brochure: Read Source Here

This was a brochure issued by UW–Madison to try and attract Native American students to the university. In the brochure, they cover the logistics of how students apply to the university, the course requirements, and other requirements. The other half of the brochure is tailored specifically towards Native American students with information about financing, scholarships, and Indigenous experience at UW.

Additional/Alternative Readings:

Chapter Two “Compromising Positions: Racializing Bodies at Pueblo Indian Schools” in Mitchell, Pablo. Coyote Nation: Sexuality, Race, and Conquest in Modernizing New Mexico, 1880-1920. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). Find Book Here

Selected chapters from Philip J. Deloria, Playing Indian. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). Find Book Here

Discussion and Questions:

Primary Source Discussion Questions

Peace Pipe Ceremony:

  •       Why do you think the peace pipe ceremony was created and continued at UW–Madison?
  •       How did the ceremony reinforce stereotypical ideas of Indigenous peoples?

Wunk Sheek:

  •       Why do you think the cultural center was so important to Native American students?
  •       How did Wunk Sheek link their protests and activism with larger contemporary issues in the community and society more broadly?
  •       How did Native American activism on campus fit within the larger history of student activism in the 60s and 70s? 

Reading Discussion Questions

  •       Adams uses the idea of the “frontier myth” and football as ‘cultural text’ (28) to ground his analysis. Explain what these are and how those ideas are embedded throughout the text?
  •       Why do you think Adams chose to include the story about Lone Wolf and his efforts in the Kiowa community? 
  •       What similarities and differences do you notice between the press coverage of the Carlisle football players and the peace pipe ceremony at UW–Madison?
  •       Why do you think certain groups of individuals struggle to appear in archival records? (Think about what is typically housed in an archive in terms of physical records versus how histories, stories, and traditions are passed on).

Discussion Norms: These are based on Walter Parker, Teaching Democracy: Unity and Diversity in Public Life, 138-9

  •       Do not raise hands
  •       Address one another, not the discussion leader
  •       Invite others into the conversation
  •       Cite and/or reference the texts to support your texts
  •       Base response in the reading/sources
  •       Listen to and build on others’ comments
  •       Critically Agree and Disagree

For more ideas about structuring discussion and asking good questions, see The Discussion Project

Source Citations

Pipe of Peace Ceremony: Pipe of Peace Oration, Delivered by Charles Assovsky, 1921, Pipe of Peace Ceremony Subject Files, UW–Madison Archives, UW–Madison Libraries.

1929 Yearbook: University of Wisconsin–Madison, Badger Yearbook Vol. 43 (1929), UW–Madison Archives, UW–Madison Libraries.

“Indian Students Seek Support, Understanding” Article: Mike Dorgan, “Indian Students Seek Support, Understanding,” Capital Times (Madison, WI), January 24, 1974, accessed at

“Resisting their Removal” Article: Diane Sherman, “Native American Center Won’t Close, Seeks Allies,” Capital Times (Madison, WI), September 14, 1974, accessed at

UW–Madison Native American Student Brochure: Office of Undergraduate Orientation, “The Native American at the University of Wisconsin–Madison,” Accession 2011/033, UW–Madison Archives, UW–Madison Libraries.