Ho-Chunk Nation honors veterans at Memorial Day Pow-Wow

Published: May. 28, 2023 at 8:41 PM CDT
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BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - The Ho-Chunk Nation kicked off their first pow-wow of the year this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The emcee for the event, Boye Ladd, said the pow-wow honors all veterans.

“Tomorrow’s a very special day, and we honor all warriors, you know, native, non-native alike, because we all fought under the same flag. I’m fortunate in going to Vietnam and serving my country and I wear my Purple Heart proudly,” Ladd said.

The pow-wow is a festive gathering of people, featuring traditional dances, food and art. The Ho-Chunk Nation president, Marlin WhiteEagle, said it’s representative of the nation’s past and present.

“We were a warrior society at one time, and what we do today is try to transition to modernize our practices, yet maintain cultural practices. The veterans that have deceased and that were killed in battle, remembering that and then, living the good life and then enjoying life to the fullest is one of the things that that we want to do here,” WhiteEagle said.

“The rights that we do enjoy are celebrated by our warriors that have gone into battle and they bring these certain rights. So we hold the word right in high esteem, because to the right to speak, the right to wear a feather and the right to do things that we do in our traditional world is based on the exploits of many of our warriors,” Ladd said.

One dancer and Ho-Chunk royalty, Dianna Funnaker, said she dances at the pow-wow in honor of her tribe and her family.

“I love dancing. I love representing my people, especially the Ho-Chunks. My grandfather, Boye Ladd, got wounded in war, so I think I would like to represent them in a way that they can’t represent themselves right now,” Funnaker said.

While honoring those who served in the military, Ladd said the pow-wow also helps create a better understanding between cultures.

“It’s become more than a profession, but a way of life for a lot of us. I have been fortunate in traveling throughout the world, and pow-wow was kind of my beginning, humble beginning, and it’s giving me an education, giving me an opportunity to travel the world, meeting a lot of people and a lot of the positions that I have served,” Ladd said.

The pow-wow will continue through Memorial Day. The Ho-Chunk Nation also hosts another pow-wow at the Andrew Black Hawk Memorial Pow-Wow Grounds, every year for Labor Day.