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Learning from history

Learning from history

The keynote speaker was Dr. Patty Loew of UW–Madison. The event began Thursday with a folk music concert. In connection with the symposium, an art exhibition by local, state and regional arts is on...

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POSTED April 9, 2014 9:01 a.m.

We often hear that we should support our local schools. The public schools also support the local communities by building community spirit through the kid activities, plays, music, sports, etc. Auditoriums and theaters are often important community resources.

We hear a great deal about how UW–Platteville can and should support local communities and businesses. How about how can the community support the activities and resources UWP brings to our area?

Thursday through Saturday, UWP, its staff and others presented the Wisconsin History Symposium: People and the Land. It was a top-of-the-line event, bringing people together to learn about Wisconsin and beyond. It included area history as well as a local tour. We hope that this will become an annual event.

Here’s a quick overview of what you missed: It started with a folk concert on Songs of the Great Lakes Thursday evening. Patty Loew of Wisconsin Public Television, a Native American, told a wonderful story of the Mole Lake Elder who answered a basic question by showing her an ancient presidential medal, a massive book of treaties, and the site of the last battle between the Sioux and the Chippewa. Loew’s presentation focused on how Indians viewed the world through a sense of place vs. a linear world view.

There were historical films running all the time the sessions were being conducted. There were three different presentations for each session period. They had areas of focus, such as Gratiot’s Grove (Lafayette County) and how the Toledo War affected the Wisconsin–Illinois border. I don’t know the answer, as I chose to attend a different session. The one I chose was “Milwaukee: Community and Race,” which included a presentation on the Midtown Rehabilitation project, where I worked in the late 1960s.

There were sessions on Prairie du Chien and the early French settlers. One of my favorites was by Mari Vice, UWP geology professor, who focused on marble quarries in Wisconsin with pictures of where the Wisconsin marble is placed in our State Capitol building.

The sessions varied from lumberjacks to West Salem’s Pulitzer Prize-winner Hamlin Garland to Fort Atkinson’s great poet, Lorine Niedecker.

The symposiums provided an opportunity for UWP undergraduates to present papers, like the student who told us how tree ring archeology was able to definitively date the (Susan) Gratiot house just south of Shullsburg. We learned that the nearby Berry Tavern dating to 1840 is being preserved by locals and a descendant from Milwaukee.

One could attend the symposium sessions two or three times before exhausting the offerings. The presenters were from the several Midwest states and Wisconsin including many locals. In other words, there was something for everyone. I can only speak to the one-third or less that I saw and heard. Tracey Lee Roberts, UWP history professor, was the symposium chair who, with the support of UWP and the help of a lot of other folks, did a great job.

Let’s all look forward to supporting another Wisconsin History Symposium if those folks recover from all the hard work they did this year.

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