Fort McCoy and Ho-Chunk Nation officials gathered May 10 in Black River Falls, Wis., in a special ceremony to renew an agreement in a memorandum of understanding.
The ceremony was held at the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Office Building on the east side of Black River Falls and included Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. Michael Poss and Command Sgt. Maj. Raquel DiDomenico, garrison command sergeant major, and Ho-Chunk Nation Chief Clayton Winneshiek and Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle.
The ceremony also included participation by members of the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch — especially Ryan Howell who serves as the garrison archaeologist, cultural resource manager, and Native American coordinator. Howell was the key organizer of the event.
“This memorandum of understanding between the Ho-Chunk Nation and Fort McCoy represents Fort McCoy’s assumption of the U.S. Army’s legal responsibility under multiple federal laws and presidential executive orders to protect natural, historic, and sacred places with traditional religious and cultural importance to all Native American peoples, but especially those of the Ho Chunk Nation, on who’s aboriginal territory the Fort McCoy military installation is now located,” Howell said during the ceremony. “The Army recognizes that access to and protection of such special places are essential to maintaining the cultural integrity of Native American tribes, and that such places are critical to the cultural survival of Native communities.
“In order to preserve the character and physical integrity of such special places and their associated natural resources, and to facilitate tribal member’s access to them, this agreement specifies Fort McCoy’s commitment to conducting active and persistent tribal consultation with the Ho-Chunk Nation, and specifically with tribal representatives of the Ho-Chunk Department of Heritage Preservation and Ho-Chunk Department of Natural Resources.”
Howell also said specifically the agreement details how Fort McCoy will consult and inform the Ho-Chunk Nation prior to any ground disturbance, construction or training activities that may impact potential Ho-Chunk archaeological sites, traditional cultural properties (i.e. sacred sites) or other areas of concern specified by Ho-Chunk leadership or representatives.
WhiteEagle said he appreciated the opportunity to renew the agreement.
“Thank you for your kind presence here today as we reaffirmed this memorandum of understanding with Fort McCoy the U.S. Army as well and the federal government and the Ho-Chunk Nation,” WhiteEagle said. “I've been in this role here since 2019 as the Ho-Chunk Nation president, and it’s humbling for me to take part today in the recognition of the respectful relationship that we have with the federal government and particularly here today with the colonel reaffirming the relationship … and this respectful collaboration with the nation to preserve the … ancestral land.”
Poss also added his appreciation for the special relationship between the Ho-Chunk Nation, Fort McCoy, and the Army.
“This agreement we signed today has been in place for nearly 23 years and has produced very positive results over that period,” Poss said. “Citizens of the Nation … utilize this agreement to harvest natural resources for traditional cultural activities. … We also reaffirm both our desire to be good neighbors to the citizens of the Nation.”
Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.” Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.
The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.” Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base.