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Wisconsin Lawmakers Discuss Preservation Of Native American Burial Sites

Summer Study Committee Will Weigh Business, Cultural Concerns

Native American burial site at Vilas Park in Madison, Wisconsin. Rick Wiecki (BY-NC-ND)

State lawmakers are examining ways to better protect Native American burial sites in Wisconsin.

A legislative study committee met for the first time on Monday to discuss balancing the interests of tribes trying to protect their heritage with businesses like quarries and real estate developers.

Wisconsin has more Native American burial sites than any other state in the country, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of the 9,682 recorded burial sites, 3,109 are mounds.

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Two of those mounds are located within the Wingra Stone Company’s Blooming Grove quarry. Robert Shea, president of the company, told his fellow committee members on Monday that the state’s current preservation law is too restrictive.

“We feel that the law is very difficult to navigate through and does not allow the landowners to have enough access to the area in question,” Shea said.

Representatives from Native American tribes on the committee said their interest is to honor and protect their ancestors and their heritage.

“These laws are made from the outside society looking in, and oftentimes we’re subject to this process still, and we oftentimes wish we had an equal right, or say, in the matter,” said Bill Quackenbush, preservation representative for the Ho-Chunk Nation.

The 13-member committee will continue to meet throughout the summer.