American Indian wigwam built at Harding High

Students at Harding High School and members of the American Indian tribe Ho-Chunk Nation got together to build a traditional “ciiporoke” wigwam in the school’s courtyard on Friday, May 16. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

On a mild Friday at Harding High, a group of American Indian men could be seen erecting a structure the size of a small garage, made of bent tree branches tied together to form a sturdy oval-shaped hut.

The structure will be used to tie in with Harding’s cultural studies classes, as part of St. Paul Public Schools’ American Indian Month. The hut can be seen out the window of the school’s cafeteria, in the courtyard.

The wigwam, called a “ciiporoke,” was built with help from Ho-Chunk Nation’s Heritage Preservation Department, and is a traditional Ho-Chunk Nation housing structure. Ho-Chunk Nation is an American Indian tribe based in Wisconsin.

Barry Franton, American Indian cultural specialist teacher at Harding, noted that there is a contingency of roughly 20 Ho-Chunk students at Harding. There are 67 American Indian students at the school in total.

To bring the wigwam to the school “gives them a sense of being,” he said, and helps raise awareness about their culture.

Beyond that, the East Side also has a lot of residents who belong to the Ho-Chunk tribes, he added.

The wigwam will be used as part of St. Paul Public Schools’ American Indian Studies program, and will also be available for community use.

Danielle DeLong, American Indian program cultural specialist for the district, helped facilitate the building of the structure. Delong is also a member of Ho-Chunk Nation. She helped secure $5,000 to build the structure and bring Ho-Chunk culture to Harding.
“It should last for years,” she said.

Juan Alonzo graduated from Harding last year, but came back to help build the structure.

He was around back when another similar structure was built to celebrate Ojibwe culture.

He returned to the campus to help out, citing an “awesome experience” at the school and a continued connection with Franton.

Following the building of the wigwam, Jackie Bird, an American Indian storyteller, dancer and musician performed in the school’s auditorium. A group dinner with traditional Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe foods was served.

Also for American Indian Month, Ho-Chunk students and their families, along with community members and families participated in a 5K run/walk held to promote awareness of health epidemics that plague American Indians.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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