This year UW–Madison is celebrating its 175th anniversary, on land the Ho-Chunk Nation and other tribal nations in Wisconsin have called home since time immemorial. During the past 500 years, Indigenous people have experienced cultural genocide and attempts at eradication and assimilation. Wisconsin is home to 12 Native Nations, some tribal nations of whom were forcibly moved to this state, while others were being moved away from their lands here. The latecomedian and UW alumnus Charlie Hill (Oneida, Mohawke, and Cree) often joked, “My people are from Wisconsin. We used to be from New York. We had a little real estate problem.”
Despite what our communities have experienced, we are here, and we belong to the communities that exist here today. This will be the 10th year of celebrating Native November on this campus.
One thing that has remained a constant light is our humor. Ryan Red Corn (Osage) says, “The American narrative dictates that Indians are supposed to be sad. It’s not really true and it’s not indicative of the community experience itself. … Laughter and joy is very much a part of Native culture.”¹ Laughter itself plays an important role in wellness by bringing people together in a way that promotes healthy emotional and physical reactions in our bodies. This year’s Native November campus theme, “Laughter is Medicine,” is an invitation to look at how humor and laughter have played a role in our healing and resiliency as Indigenous Peoples.
- Nesteroff, Kliph. We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy