Mound Care Project, January 2023

This is an invitation that we’ve received, that may interest some of us as we move into the spring and beyond. In 2022 we drafted a parish land acknowledgment. We have given Amends funds to an organization representing the Wisconsin tribes.

We’ve also been on the lookout for some restorative actions we could take, too – not just words, and not just dollars, both of which can be abstract, but ways some of us can commit our time and energy and skill to doing the things that the Native peoples of Wisconsin and beyond would like their allies to do. 

We’ve looked at lists of restorative actions from other organizations and have been preparing to develop our own – and in the meantime, we were approached and asked to consider something. 

Governor Nelson State Park is kind of our neighborhood state park. It’s up on County M; its southern end is about an 8-minute drive from right here. At that southern end of the park there are a few effigy mounds – an animal shape, called the Panther Mound, and four conical mounds. These are mounds created by the Native peoples of Wisconsin, centuries ago; they are sacred places that need and deserve care. State agencies and the Wisconsin tribes have worked together to develop some very clear best practices for the care of mounds like these. 

We are being invited to help care for these mounds. 

At the most basic level, and perhaps to begin with, that would look like working with park leadership, with some guidance from tribal representatives, to help care for the Governor Nelson mounds in a culturally appropriate way. That might be a small-to-medium group of volunteers going out for two or three workdays a year to weed whip, remove woody brush, look for animal holes, and so on. 

At the slightly more committed level: Maybe there is a cohort of us who would like to really get trained on the specifics of mound maintenance – which is different in small but important ways from how we care for our grounds here, or how you might work in your garden at home. Then we would be able to help out at park workdays by lightly supervising other community volunteers, making sure they’re abiding by those best practices. That would ease the burden on park employees and tribal representatives to keep explaining the guidelines, and could make it easier to use community volunteers without compromising the standard of care. 

At the most ambitious level: Maybe our team could become part of a sort of Friends of the Mounds network – perhaps including interested folks from the other Madison Episcopal churches and other churches and community organizations with similar commitments. That group could go out as needed to help maintain mounds located on private property – for example, on farms out in the nearby counties. We have learned that that’s where the real need is – because the parks have willing volunteers they can call on, to some extent, and have been providing some level of care for their mounds already. Some of the mounds on private property need a lot of care, and it would be great to have a team that could go out on a Saturday, with the landowner’s agreement, and just do what they can. 

We do want to stress that this can start small, and we can see what our capacity is. We believe this is an opportunity where a relatively small group of committed folks can be part of something important and worth doing. 

The next likely steps are gathering a few folks, as soon as the ground is relatively clear, to go “meet” the mounds in Governor Nelson, and probably separately, an early-spring training on mound maintenance best practices. 

If this interests you, contact Rev. Miranda or the office and we will loop you in!