Skunk Hill: A Native Ceremonial Community in Wisconsin

By Robert A. Birmingham

Paperback: $14.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-705-1

96 pages, 45 b&w photos, 6 maps, 6 x 9; E-book available


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Rising above the countryside of Wood County, Wisconsin, Powers Bluff is a large outcrop of quartzite rock that resisted the glaciers that flattened the surrounding countryside. It is an appropriate symbol for the Native people who once lived on its slopes, quietly resisting social forces that would have crushed and eroded their culture. A large band of Potawatomi, many returnees from the Kansas Prairie Band Potawatomi reservation, established the village of Tah-qua-kik or Skunk Hill in 1905 on the 300-foot-high bluff, up against the oddly shaped rocks that topped the hill and protected the community from the cold winter winds.

In "Skunk Hill", archeologist Robert A. Birmingham traces the largely unknown story of this community, detailing the role it played in preserving Native culture through a harsh period of US Indian policy from the 1880s to 1930s. The story's central focus is the Drum Dance, also known as the Dream Dance or Big Drum, a pan-tribal cultural revitalization movement that swept the Upper Midwest during the Great Suppression, emphasizing Native values and rejecting the vices of the white world. Though the community disbanded by the 1930s, the site, now on the National Register of Historic Places with two dance circles still visible on the grounds, stands as testimony to the efforts of its members to resist cultural assimilation.

Robert Birmingham is also the author of Life, Death & Archaeology at Fort Blue Mounds and co-author of Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town.

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This book is part of the Wisconsin First Nations: American Indian Studies in Wisconsin collection. Developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin American Indian tribes, Wisconsin Public Television, and the Wisconsin Historical Society, this collection of resources provides educators and pre-service teachers accurate and authentic educational materials for teaching about the American Indian Nations of Wisconsin.

Note: This book meets and exceeds the requirements of the Wisconsin American Indian Education Act (Act 31).

Robert A. Birmingham served as Wisconsin State Archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society and teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. He is the author of "Life, Death, and Archaeology at Fort Blue Mounds" and co-author of "Indian Mounds of Wisconsin" and "Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town", which received a merit award for history from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. He has been researching Drum Dance communities for over 30 years and has worked with descendants of Skunk Hill, the Kansas Potawatomi, and many others to document its history. He is also the author of Life, Death, and Archaeology at Fort Blue Mounds and coauthor of Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town.