Courtesy Ho-Chunk Nation
Approximately 20 Ho-Chunk Nation singers and dancers in full regalia participated in MLK celebration at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Ho-Chunk Nation Participates in MLK Day Celebration

Vincent Schilling
1/24/14

On Monday, residents of Madison, Wisconsin attended the 34th Annual “Tribute and Ceremony” Celebration honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though many attendees may have expected speeches honoring Dr. King or other related activities on this federal holiday, many were perhaps pleasantly surprised to also see the participation of a Latino Youth Orchestra or approximately 20 Ho-Chunk Nation singers and dancers in full regalia.

Dr. Jonathan Overby, from Wisconsin Public Radio, himself of African American and Native Descent, says the complete inclusion of diversity to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy is a “No-brainer.”

“For me personally this is a no-brainer. Dr. King's life and his legacy particularly celebrated inclusion and his vision of inclusivity was very broad. My grandfather was an enslaved Cherokee First Nation American and he married an enslaved woman. That is a part of the fabric of my own background,” Overby said.

During the event, which was produced and hosted by Overby, Stefan Collins, a student at Madison Area Technical College delivered Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. Jack E. Daniels was the keynote speaker and performances were given by Milwaukee's Latino Arts String Orchestra and Singers and Dancers from the Ho-Chunk Nation.

“To put on an event like this is an opportunity to see not only what Dr. King represented but how he wanted us all to celebrate our differences and the uniqueness of the ancestors of this country. It is a definite way to illuminate as to what makes this country wonderful. It was important to have the Ho-Chunk Nation there,” Overby said.

Collin Price, the Public Relations Officer and enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation spoke well of the event which he saw first-hand.

“It was great to see. This was the second year we've done this. The organizer, Dr. Overby has been doing this for a number of years. Last year, he called our office and discussed that this should be about the diversity and celebration of Dr. King's legacy,” Price said.

“Dr. Overby stated he didn't understand why he didn't think to reach to the Native community In Wisconsin considering there are 11 tribes here. So he said he figured he'd give us a call.”

“Last year and this year, we’ve provided a drum and about 20 dancers to participate at this approximate one hour event at the state capital. The Governor, Chairman John Greendeer and other officials in state government were in attendance. It was pretty cool, all of the dancers felt like rock stars taking pictures with everyone,” Price said.

Dr. Overby says celebrating several cultures under one roof was a concept worth remembering.

“The most talked about aspect of this year's event was the recognition that there was an intentional design to bring these groups and these cultures together. This is the only time of year that this happens at the state capitol – in which there is a celebration with so many diverse groups, including the audience members, who are sitting next to each other celebrating gospel music, Indian dancing and an orchestra of Latino kids. It was a powerful, powerful experience.”

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