Burial Mounds Management/Etiquette

Cultural Significance and Mound Background

Many citizens are unaware of the presence of Ho-Chunk Moš'ok (Mounds) in the Monona area. Much of Dane County sits on higher ground near bodies of nij (water), which is the desired placement of Moš'ok due to reliable food and nij resources in the area when the Moš'ok were built. Therefore, there are many Moš'ok that need preserving in the Monona area. The maps below reveals the concentration of Moš'ok in the Teejob (“Four Lakes”) Dane County area compared to the rest of Wisconsin. An integral part of their culture, Ho-Chunk ancestors ensured the development of effigy, conical, linear, and waxee (burial) Moš'ok in the Monona area as spiritual and physical expressions of the Ho-Chunk Nation between 650 and 1200 CE. They are used for ceremonial purposes connecting current Ho-Chunk members to their ancestors or places of spiritual connections with the Creator. Moš'ok also have served as relations to constellations. These Moš'ok were also used for marking areas to help Tribes navigate through the land while marking the territory of those who built it. Some are in the shape of animals or spirits, such as panthers, geese, bears, deer, or water spirits (Native American Mounds in Madison and Dane County). Several Moš'ok in the shape of animals represent different clans of the Ho-Chunk people. The Moš'ok depict Ho-Chunk’s spiritual connection and reliance on their natural environment, as well as life renewal. Ho-Chunk ceremonies and activities surrounding the Moš'ok integrate Tribal members and Clans, strengthening their identity and beliefs.

Source: Indian Mounds of Wisconsin by Robert Birmingham, created by Amelia Janes

In Monona, Paac (Woodland Park) and Indian Mounds Park hold Moš'ok that continue to be sacred to the Ho-Chunk Nation. Indian Mounds Park consist of the Outlet Moš'ok, pictured below. This Moš'ok is a Large Burial Moš'ok on the south shore of Lake Monona.


Unfortunately, almost 80% of Moš'ok have been destroyed. Many of these Moš'ok have been violated due to non-Tribal members being unaware of the cultural significance of the Moš'ok. Some Moš'ok have been excavated for archaeological research. Others have been removed due to residential development in the area or the spread of agricultural practices. In the past, there was a lack of public understanding about Native histories and cultural preservation which led to the loss of these impressive structures. Continued public education concerning the importance of these sites is crucial. The map below shows the known number of Moš'ok in the Teejob area.


Source: created by State Archeologist Charles Brown

The resilient Ho-Chunk Nation, who have preserved and advocated for these sacred sites, continue to take action towards safeguarding the Moš'ok. Moš'ok that have survived have been well maintained, but their continued existence must be fought for. Relations have improved in recent years due to joint efforts by the Ho-Chunk and non-Tribal members who strive to increase public understanding of Ho-Chunk culture, Native presence, and respect for the Moš'ok. Due to the relevance of these Moš'ok to the Ho-Chunk culture, proper etiquette and management must be facilitated in collaboration with the Monona Parks and Recreation Department, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and citizens of the City of Monona. Public education is key in raising awareness to protect the sanctity of these cultural resources.

Proper etiquette concerning the Moš'ok includes a five foot buffer between a Moš'ok and any other trail or disturbance for ensured preservation of the Moš'ok. Aside from maintenance, pedestrians also should not walk over the Moš'ok. Lastly, awareness of the cultural importance of the Moš'ok to the Ho-Chunk Nation should be encouraged in order to encourage respect and preservation of the remaining Moš'ok. To find out more details about proper behavior and respect concerning Moš'ok, click here for the “Ho-Chunk Nation Cultural Management and Preservation in Monona Parks” pamphlet from the Nelson Institute at UW-Madison.

In order to respect the Ho-Chunk Nation, their presence in Monona, and the cultural significance of the Moš'ok, we must aid in enforcing culturally appropriate etiquette for the continued preservation of the Ho-Chunk culture.

Burial Mounds Management

Installation of proper management of today’s Moš'ok can ensure their continued existence. Moš'ok today have often been threatened and should be protected as a cultural resource. Due to their importance, the Ho-Chunk Department of Heritage Preservation composed a plan for proper tree and ground management around the Moš'ok. You can see their plan highlighted below. Preventing erosion and the control of invasive species is also key in managing the Moš'ok. Signs in the appropriate area should reveal to pedestrians the State law and appropriate behavior concerning the Moš'ok, such as remaining on the current trail. Signs should also include the cultural significance that the Moš'ok represent to the Ho-Chunk Nation (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). Furthermore, prescribed burns have been revealed to be a valuable asset to the preservation of the Moš'ok. The sacred soil residing in these areas such as Kingsley Bend have been prescribed burns in order to control invasives encroaching on the Moš'ok and also to restore an oak savanna to the area (Jerede, 2013). Enacting these management plans are vital for the continued preservation of the Ho-Chunk culture as well as the health of the parks in Monona.

Fire Ecology: Rising from the Heat

Burial Mound Preservation and Maintenance

(Ho-Chunk Department of Heritage Preservation: Cultural Resources Division.  "Burial Mound Preservation and Maintenance." 2007)

Nąą (Tree) Maintenance

Tree removal: benefit: (1) promote light for growth of protective grass; (2) prevent tree falls and loss of integrity of mound.

Phase I. Remove all hazard dead leaning trees, decayed trees, trees with excessive branch loss.
Phase II. Remove all trees on mounds.

Contact the HCN Cultural Resources Division regarding the management of any Oaks within your proposed project.

Phase III. Remove all trees within five feet of mounds.

Contact the HCN Cultural Resources Division regarding the management of any Oaks within your proposed project.

Phase IV. Create an Oak savannah, White Pine grove, or native grassland area.

Considerations: remove all low land trees that have surface roots and no taproots.


  1. All tree cutting in and around the mound site(s) is only done when the ground is completely frozen to eliminate ground disturbance.
  2. No vehicles should ever be driven across or on the mound specific.
  3. No removal of stumps from the mounds or buffer area.
  4. All new growth/suckers from stumps should be hand cut for removal, to limit growth of woody vegetation. Limited amounts of scoring into the trunk area can be conducted, in order to expedite the decaying process.

Ground Maintenance

Natural means:

Prescribe burn - setting the area to fire.


  • Reduces the woody plants
  • Lowers the pH
  • Promotes growth of protective grasses
  • Low costs


  • Not always possible due to fire hazards or low fuel load.


Mowing alternatives:

  • Hand mow at a high setting to minimize ground disturbance
  • Mow around the mounds regularly and push mow mounds only in early spring to promote grasses and to remove emergent seedlings

Benefits: higher grass on mounds - discourages pedestrian traffic and provides a protective cover.

Additional Considerations:

  • No signage or large construction within the sound and viewscapes
  • Use natural predictors for rodent issues