Lake Mendota is one of Madison, WI’s principal lakes: Monona, across the isthmus, Waubesa, and Wingra are the others. Mendota, lately, has drawn a lot of attention for excavation of some important artifacts: Canoes. We’re not talking Old Towns or We-no-nah canoes, these canoes are dugout canoes, carved from single pieces of Oak thousands of years old. They were left by the lakeside, possibly buried underground when the lake was shallower, by the Ho-Chunk people who were among Wisconsin’s earliest residents, and whose descendants remain in the area today.
The Ho-Chunk lived in Wisconsin long before any Europeans appeared. They called Madison Taychopera (Ta-ko-per-ah), and this week, a canoe was excavated from the lake that potentially expands our understanding of how they interacted with the landscape, and how important Taychopera was to the region three thousand years ago. It is the oldest artifact of it’s kind discovered in the Great Lakes region. The story of how Tamara Thomsen and her team discovered, excavated, and how they will preserve this canoe is a fascinating one worth your time.