fbpx
facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1
 

MADISON, Wisc.— On Thursday, Sept. 22, the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) recovered a 3,000-year-old dugout canoe from the bottom of a Madison lake with the assistance of two Wisconsin Tribes.

The canoe, recovered from Lake Mendota in downtown Madison, is about 14.5 feet long and carved from a single piece of white oak. According to the WHS, radiocarbon dating analysis performed on the recovered canoe places its origin at 1,000 BC — making it the oldest canoe ever discovered in the Great Lakes region by approximately 1,000 years.

It is the second canoe recovered in the last year from the same lake —last November, the WHS announced that it recovered a canoe that dated 1,200 years old. Both canoes were likely made by ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

“Finding an additional historically significant canoe in Lake Mendota is truly incredible and unlocks invaluable research and educational opportunities to explore the technological, cultural, and stylistic changes that occurred in dugout canoe design over 3,000 years,” WHS Archaeologist Dr. James Skibo said in a statement. “Since it was located within 100 yards of where the first canoe was found at the bottom of a drop-off in the lakebed, the find has prompted us to research fluctuating water levels and ancient shorelines to explore the possibility that the canoes were near what is now submerged village sites.”

Representatives from the Ho-Chunk Nation and Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa joined the WHS to recover both canoes.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 
 

“These are things that we, as Ho-Chunk people, have known,” Ho-Chunk Nation Public Relations Officer Casey Brown told Native News Online. “A canoe finding isn’t revelatory to us because we have known we have been here for thousands of years.” 

The canoe was first discovered in May 2022 by WHS Archaeologist Tamara Thomsen while diving in Lake Mendota, Madison’s largest lake. 

Last year, Thomsen also discovered the first canoe recovered early this year.

The area of the lake the canoe was found in is populated, with homes and recreational boat traffic nearby. 

“It was pure luck that someone from the [Wisconsin] Historical Society that is also a scuba diver happened to go there,” Brown said.

An end of the canoe was protruding out of the lake. Brown said that other divers likely had seen the canoe before but didn’t know what it was. 

“To anyone else, this would look like a piece of wood, or driftwood, just sticking out of the water,” Brown said. 

Brown went on to say that lower water levels — an effect of climate change — likely made the canoe visible. 

 

Brown said that both canoes confirm that the Ho-Chunk people have been in the Madison area for thousands of years. 

 

“Western academia, especially history, is based on evidence, or proof,” Brown told Native News Online. “Well, here’s a 3,000-year-old canoe. Anyone who wants to deny Indigenous history, it’s harder to do that now.”

Tell Us What You Think


More Stories Like This

Native News Weekly (April 21 2024): D.C. Briefs
Q+A: Journalist Connie Walker Reflects on Season 3 of 'Stolen' Podcast Investigating Navajo Nation MMIP Cases
Native Bidaské with Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglála Lakota) on the Indigenous Fashion Collective
Twelve Cherokee Nation Cyclists, 950 Miles: The 40th Annual Remember the Removal Bike Ride
Leona Carlyle-Kakar (Ak-Chin), Instrumental in Securing the 1st Water Rights Settlement in Indian Country, Walks On

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

 
About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.