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Highlights: SPASH baseball remains undefeated, athletes compete at Wisconsin Valley Conference outdoor meet

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Highlights: SPASH baseball remains undefeated, athletes compete at Wisconsin Valley Conference outdoor meet


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – SPASH baseball remained undefeated with a 7-3 win over Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday night. In the afternoon, athletes competed at Wausau West for the Wisconsin Valley Conference outdoor meet.

SPASH jumped out to a 4-0 lead over Rapids behind a two runs on a fielders choice and a wild pitch, respectively, and a two-RBI single from Chase Geyer. The Red Raiders got a run back in the top of the second but couldn’t overcome the deficit in the 7-3 loss. The Panthers are now 22-0 on the season.

Track and field is reaching the postseason as the Wisconsin Valley Conference teams converged on Wausau West for the outdoor meet. In shotput, Wausau East’s Lily Clifford looks to make even more noise at this year’s state meet after taking 12th last season. She threw the shot 39-feet, 2.75 inches for a new personal best and the win. In boys discus, D.C. Everest’s Jorden Ukpong threw the discus 159-feet, 3 inches for a personal best and the victory.

In the long jump, Abby Berens of Wausau West takes home the gold. In the high jump, the Ridgeway sisters duked it out for the victory. Gracie Ridgeway set a new personal best at five-feet-two, but sister Emma takes the win with a jump of five-feet-four. Wausau West won the girls team competition and SPASH won the boys competition. You can find the full results here.

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Wisconsin Ojibwe leader included in White House discussions on rural issues

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Wisconsin Ojibwe leader included in White House discussions on rural issues


Mole Lake Ojibwe Chairman Robert Van Zile had a message for rural community leaders at the White House earlier this month.

“Why compete with one another when we can work together,” he said. “We can focus on the things we have in common in being able to prosper.”

Van Zile said it was good conversation between leaders in tribal nations, rural towns, rural counties and federal officials as they discussed ways to bring in federal dollars to improve infrastructure.

He said tribal nations can play a role in helping surrounding rural communities in creating broadband access, building water and septic infrastructure, housing and health care.

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Van Zile was among those invited to the White House this month by the Biden-Harris Administration as part of its Rural Communities in Action event.

“We got invited to help push the envelope,” he said.

They met to discuss the issues with senior White House officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“Rural communities are being gutted by lack of economic opportunity, lack of broadband access, lack of housing, lack of access to healthcare due to inability to recruit healthcare professionals to address a variety of medical and mental health challenges,” Van Zile said in a statement.

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Van Zile said the Mole Lake Reservation in northern Wisconsin is in a rural region that even lacks cellphone service in many places. And the lack of internet access was apparent during the pandemic when students in many households found it challenging to learn at home.

“They could not continue their studies remotely during the pandemic,” he said. “Our rural kids were not able to participate in education because broadband access does not exist in many rural communities.”

The reservation is home to about 500 tribal members with another 1,000 members living off-reservation.

Van Zile said many people want to build vacation homes and move to the Mole Lake area, which would be a boost to the economy. But they find challenges with lack of infrastructure.

“It’s not just tribal members,” he said. “What I’m talking about is tourism.”

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In conjunction with the event, the White House also just announced $671 million in new investments for infrastructure in rural communities.

Van Zile’s visit also included a discussion with Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, which included thanking her for the $3 million she helped recently secure for the tribe’s community health clinic.

Van Zile also opened a workshop at the event with a prayer, becoming the first Mole Lake chairman to open an official meeting in Washington, D.C.

Frank Vaisvilas is a former Report for America corps member who covers Native American issues in Wisconsin based at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Contact him at fvaisvilas@gannett.com or 815-260-2262. Follow him on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank.

More: Tribal educators talk e-learning curve, prepare for fall pandemic learning

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More: State task force to look at expanding internet access to rural Indigenous reservations





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Storm damage could impact Memorial Day Weekend camping in Wisconsin

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Storm damage could impact Memorial Day Weekend camping in Wisconsin


BLUE MOUNDS, Wis. (WMTV) – People camping this Memorial Day Weekend at Wisconsin State Parks could notice some debris from Tuesday’s storm on the trails.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, all parks will be open but crews will still be out cleaning up down trees, power lines and other damage caused by winds and tornadoes earlier this week.

DNR and Wisconsin State Parks Recreation Partnerships Chief Missy VanLanduyt said 99% of their camping lots are sold out this weekend, something the staff is happy about, but they want people to be aware of remaining storm debris.

“You’ll generally notice that the properties are open and they’re safe and you can recreate, but there will be a lot of brush and down trees in some areas,” she said. “So, we’re just asking folks to be aware, avoid it and to let our staff have the space to keep cleaning it up over the next couple of weeks.”

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Storm damage could impact Memorial Day Weekend camping in Wisconsin(Marcus Aarsvold)

VanLanduyt said people who come across fallen trees, branches or other debris should walk around it, over it or avoid it. She said safety is what’s most important. Campers should not try to clean up anything.

“Some folks love a chainsaw!” VanLanduyt said. “They want to come out and be really helpful. People love our state parks system and they’re really trying to be helpful, but our staff is trained in first aid, certified chainsaw operators, so they know what they’re doing to clean this up.”

Camper Lisa Cappelli appreciated the DNR’s work.

“They do such a wonderful job of maintaining the trails for people like me,” she said. “So, what I hope what people experience this weekend is a lot of appreciation for people who are doing the good work of keeping the trails safe for us.”

Storm damage could impact Memorial Day Weekend camping in Wisconsin
Storm damage could impact Memorial Day Weekend camping in Wisconsin(Marcus Aarsvold)

VanLanduyt said Blue Mound State Park’s campsites haven’t had power since Tuesday. She said the staff’s office has power, but electricity has not returned for the applicable campsites. If this power does not return by Friday, she said the staff will email people with reservations to notify them, but the sites will still be useable.

Click here to download the WMTV15 News app or our WMTV15 First Alert weather app.

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Father and son preserve the legacy of Wisconsin’s effigy mounds

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Father and son preserve the legacy of Wisconsin’s effigy mounds


When Ho-Chunk elder Ritchie Brown started traveling around Wisconsin to see effigy mounds decades ago, he couldn’t have been in a better place.

“Wisconsin is unique in that we’re about the only place in the country that has effigy mounds,” Brown said in a recent interview on WPR’s “Wisconsin Today.”

Effigy mounds are constructions of raised earth built by Indigenous peoples of the region likely between A.D. 750 and 1200. While some of these mounds are burial sites, others serve ceremonial purposes.

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Mounds can have linear or organic shapes, but what makes effigy mounds unique is that they often take the form of different animals or spiritual entities. 

“I’ve seen fox mounds, otter mounds, eagle mounds, bear mounds,” Brown said. “You name it, they’re out there.”

Brown took an interest in the mounds in the late 1980s after visiting the farm of the late Frank Shadewald in Muscoda. Shadewald had asked for help identifying unique shapes of raised earth he’d found on his property, and Brown came to investigate as a manager at the Ho-Chunk Department of Natural Resources.

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“When I first started surveying these and looking at all these mounds, I was really interested and fascinated,” Brown said. “But I didn’t know half the story then.”

Since then, Brown has spent decades traveling all over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and even Canada to identify, survey and mark the mounds, which hold special significance to the Ho-Chunk Nation and other tribes.

Ritchie and Casey Brown at Wisconsin Riverside Restaurant in Spring Green for the Ho-Chunk Nation Panfish Tournament, May 2023. Photo courtesy of Casey Brown

And as often as he could, he took his son, Casey, along for the ride.

“I’ve been following (my dad) around since I was a little kid,” Casey said. “Other kids used to say, ‘Yeah, I played baseball with my dad or built things,’ but what we were doing was very different.”

Casey admits he didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the mounds when he was younger.

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“I knew that it was important and that we were tromping around the woods for some reason,” he said. “As I’ve grown older, the mounds mean different things to me.”

After clinching a Midwest Regional Emmy last year, Casey is now working on a documentary film about the mounds and his father’s work. 

Rather than focusing on the archaeology of the mounds, he wants to bring an Indigenous perspective to the project. For Casey, that means moving through the seasons because of how the visual experience and cultural meaning of the mounds changes throughout the year.

“A lot of these sites are aligned with different times,” the elder Brown explains. “And the interesting part about that is the stories that go with them.”

The father-son duo indeed have many stories to share, from traveling to the mounds with Ho-Chunk traditional court leaders on a casino bus to being at a mound site during a particularly spectacular sunset.

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“The majesty of the mounds is hard to transfer just by a picture or even a film or video,” Casey said.

Despite that, he hopes the documentary will bring some of the experience to viewers and educate people about what went into creating these earthworks, as he calls them.

Ritchie and Casey’s latest work has taken them back to Muscoda, where they recently marked two mounds, including a rare and culturally significant ghost eagle that spans around 700 feet.

Aerial image of an effigy mound outlined in chalk in the shape of an eagle with a wide wingspan
Drone photo of ghost eagle mound in Muscoda, Wisconsin, November 2023. Photo by Austin Williamson

This moment has been a long time in the making.

“(My dad) has been waiting decades to mark these mounds,” Casey wrote in a Facebook post. 

It can take a long time to do this survey work because the mounds are often found on the private property of non-Native farmers and landowners. Some of these landowners are very willing to work with the Browns and their team, but in other cases, it can be challenging to get direct access to the mounds for marking them or even filming them.

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Casey says the work is about building relationships. Some of the farming families have been there for generations.

“They have their own stories now,” he said. “And those are just as important.”

For both Casey and his father, they see themselves as caretakers of the mounds, to preserve their history and legacy for current and future generations.

“We’re Bear Clan, so we take care of the Earth,” Casey explained.

“I want to be able to share this stuff with the younger generation,” the elder Brown said. “They need something to hang on to just to guide them through everything that’s going on today.”

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