Four prominent Ho-Chunk leaders address campus on significance of treaties

aerial shot of downtown madison with "Treaties" across the sky

Jo Deen B. Lowe ’85, JoAnn Jones ’86, Wendi Huling ’01, and Michelle Greendeer-Rave ’98 moderated campus discussion on treaties, as the marquee event of Treaty Day 2021.

As a University of Wisconsin Law School student years ago, Lowe felt a deep connection to the land where she studied every day. The campus — and the territory around it — is the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk, her forebears.

“I always appreciated that I had this tie to Bascom Hill and to the people who came before me on this land and the sacrifices they made,” says Lowe, chief judge for the Ho-Chunk Nation Trial Court.

Many of her fellow students, though, were unaware of the Indigenous history of the land, she says. That’s starting to change with recent university initiatives, Lowe says, which is why she eagerly agreed to moderate a campus discussion about treaties.

“I hope it will provide people with a basic understanding of the importance of where we come from and what our histories are as a people,” she says.

Four of the Ho-Chunk Nation’s leading legal experts, including Lowe, offered perspectives on the fundamental significance of treaties and Indian law at the live virtual roundtable.

The panel discussion, titled “Treaties: How We Come to Be Where We Are,” was the marquee event for Treaty Day 2021, an annual campus commemoration begun three years ago.

Treaty Day is named for the Treaty of 1832, signed on September 15 of that year. It forced the Ho-Chunk Nation to cede territory that is now Madison and the UW–Madison campus — a place the Ho-Chunk call Teejop (Dejope, or Four Lakes).

Lowe is a 1985 graduate of UW Law School. Prior to that, she was in-house counsel for a number of tribes and worked at the Great Lakes Intertribal Council. She served as the district attorney for Jackson County, Wisconsin, and was the first attorney general for the Ho-Chunk Nation.

In addition to Lowe, the panelists included three other UW Law graduates:

  • JoAnn Jones, associate judge, Ho-Chunk Nation Trial Court. Jones was the first female president of the Ho-Chunk Nation and has been active in national-tribal-state issues and matters involving tribal sovereignty. She is a 1986 graduate of UW Law School.
  • Wendi Huling, senior tribal counsel, Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice. Huling has been working for the Ho-Chunk Nation since her graduation from UW Law School in 2001.
  • Michelle Greendeer-Rave, tribal attorney, Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice. Greendeer-Rave has worked for the Ho-Chunk Nation as an in-house tribal attorney since her graduation from UW Law School in 1998.