New historic marker honors Native burial site at Wisconsin State Fair Park grounds
A new marker remembering Native American history has been added at State Fair Park. Part of the grounds was once a burial site for many native people of Wisconsin. These sites were historically represented by mounds in the Earth. While it was a widespread practice across the area, only a few thousand remain today. The mounds site in the State fair park has recently been renamed as Tee Siskeja, meaning "bad waters village".
James Skibo, the Wisconsin State archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Bill Quackenbush, the tribal historic preservation officer of the Ho-Chunk nation, both played a role in the realization of the new marker.
Tee Siskeja is historically significant because it is one of the last remaining sites of its kind in the greater Milwaukee area and surrounding suburbs. It has been preserved and protected by Wisconsin State Law since 1910 when the Wisconsin Archeological Society was established.
Despite the preservation efforts beginning in 1910, culturally significant aspects of the area were lost.
"Through the process of losing our footprint over their ancestral ties [and] being forced out of that area, it became more important for us to assure that our cultural resources still remained intact," Quackenbush says.
The site in State Fair Park hosts tens of thousands of visitors each year, providing an ideal opportunity for education. The name "Tee Siskeja" refers to the people who lived in the area and what the region was known for.
"We were a Great Lakes State tribe and we remain so today. The moment you mentioned 'Tee Siskeja' those who know the Ho- Chunk language know you're talking about that lake out there," Quackenbush explains."So, it's very important that we ensure that we tell that story accurately."
The site is significant for capturing the entirety of Wisconsin area's history. "We are really interested in telling the whole story of Wisconsin — history which includes the first 14,000 years before Euro-Americans arrived," Skibo says. "And we haven't done the best job of that. We can only do this if we collaborate."