Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Milwaukee Public Museum Tours Mole Lake

Story by Richard D. Ackley, Jr.

Three staff members from the Milwaukee Public Museum visited Mole Lake on August 14th, seeking Tribal input on the future plans for the museum located in downtown Milwaukee.

Dennis Kois, President/CEO, Dawn Scher Thomae, Curator of Collections and Anthropology, and Kelly Gauthier, Director of Strategic Projects, met with members of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office in the main conference room at the Sokaogon Chippewa Tribal Administration Building.

A slide presentation was shown to six committee members, covering a general overview of the current museum and the plans for relocating and expanding the facility within five years. Mr. Kois explained the museum needs to move to a new location somewhere in the metropolitan area of Milwaukee because the current facility is inadequate and the building is more than 50 years old.

“More than a one-half million people visit the museum each year,” Mr. Kois said. “The plan includes an ability to better house the historic artifacts it now has and to showcase all 11 Wisconsin Indian Tribes in a more appropriate manner.”

Mr. Kois also explained that the museum is a great “platform” for the Tribes to share information, tell their stories and ensure the preservation of their past.

“This is a long-term process and many problems need to be solved before we can break ground in five years,” Mr. Kois said. “All Wisconsin Tribes are now being informed and encouraged to participate. Budgeting will eventually come during the 2021 and 2022 budget cycle with the State of Wisconsin.”

At least 1,400 Ojibwe items are currently held at the Milwaukee Public Museum according to Dawn Sher Thomae, Curator of Anthropology Collections.

“Many stories are needed to be told within the museum environment and 50 years of “oral history” is now being digitized for safe keeping,” said Thomae.

Ms. Thomae invited members of the Sokaogon Tribal Historic Preservation Office to the Fourth Annual Repatriation Conference, “Advocating for Our Ancestors” on November 13th through November 15th at the Forest County Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted on November 16, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. The Act assigned implementation responsibilities to the Secretary of the Interior. Staff support is provided by the National NAGPRA Program, including: Publishing notices for museums and Federal agencies in the Federal Register, Creating and maintaining databases, including the Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains Inventories (CUI) Database, Making grants to assist museums, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations in fulfilling NAGPRA.

Members of the museum were also taken on a tour of the Mole Lake reservation, visiting the former proposed Crandon Mine site, Rice Lake, the 1870’s restored Dinesen House log cabin and the 1806 Battle of Mole Lake historical marker on Hwy 55.

The visit is the beginning of a process. “What is necessary is to find out what the needs of the Tribes are and this is a first visit to Mole Lake and many more visits are yet to come. We also want to invite Mole Lake to a special social gathering which is planned the night before Indian Summer Fest, on September 6th at the museum,” Mr. Kois said.

This upcoming social gathering and 25th Anniversary Celebration of the exhibit, A Tribute to Survival, will be on Thursday, September 6th at 6:00 pm.

Individuals interested in attending should RSVP to Aimee Leigh Burmeister by Monday, August 27th, at 414-278-2748 or send an email. Free admission to the museum is included.