Canoe Conundrum: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Ho-Chunk Nation's Dugout Canoes in Lake Mendota |
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Canoe Conundrum: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Ho-Chunk Nation's Dugout Canoes in Lake Mendota

Thursday, June 8, 2023 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

In late 2021, maritime archeologist Tamara Thomsen found a 1,200-year-old dugout canoe partially submerged in the lakebed during a recreational dive in Lake Mendota. This discovery caused ripples of fascination in Wisconsin and generated international news coverage. The only thing more surprising than finding this canoe was the discovery of a 3,000-year-old dugout canoe less than a year later, only 100 yards from the first canoe.

These canoes are part of the deep cultural heritage of the Ho-Chunk Nation, the original inhabitants of Teejop, now known as Madison. Bill Quackenbush, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation, has been involved in the preservation and study of these canoes since they were discovered. As part of his work, Quackenbush took a group of Ho-Chunk Nation youth on a five-day journey in a newly made dugout canoe through the Four Lakes region. Quackenbush worked with Dr. James Skibo, the former Wisconsin State Archaeologist, on exploring the lakebed of Lake Mendota in search of more archaeological discoveries.

Dr. James Skibo passed away unexpectedly in April while preparing for the upcoming maritime archaeology season. Highly regarded for his archaeological work in the Great Lakes region and beyond, his passion for uncovering, preserving, and sharing history was truly inspirational. You can read more about Dr. Skibo’s life and legacy through this social media post made by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Dr. Amy Rosebrough, the Interim State Archaeologist of Wisconsin, will be joining us on June 8th to talk about the dugout canoes and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Skibo, the “People’s Archaeologist.”

On June 8, 2023, Bill Quackenbush and Dr. Amy Rosebrough joined us at Rutabaga Paddlesports for an engaging talk covering the scientific and cultural significance of these dugout canoes, the science behind the preservation of these delicate and important historical objects, and what else may be buried in the lakebed of Lake Mendota. 


Thank you to Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Rutabaga Paddlesports for supporting this event.    


William “Nąąwącekǧize” Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Deer Clan Tribal Member serves as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) and Cultural Resources Division Manager for the Ho-Chunk Nation. As the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Historian, Mr. Quackenbush has presented extensively on Ho-Chunk history and culture.


Dr. Amy Rosebrough is a Staff Archaeologist with the Office of the State Archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society. A native of the Missouri Ozarks, she has long had an interest in burial monuments and archaeology.

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