Ho-Chunk I (copy)

Ho-Chunk Nation dancers perform at Mirror Lake State Park in August 2016. A Ho-Chunk dance exhibition will start a statewide reading initiative on Wednesday at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County. 

News Republic file photo

Performances by traditional Ho-Chunk dancers will kick off a statewide reading program at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County next Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Reads project is centered around Louise Erdrich’s novel “The Round House,” which tells the story of a Native American boy who seeks to avenge the rape of his mother. Wisconsin Reads “The Roundhouse” is a part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read program that will focus on Erdrich’s writings for both adults and children.

“We felt that Louise Erdrich’s work was very powerful and addressed a very important issue of sexual abuse,” said Wisconsin Reads project director Lee Friederich, who is also a senior lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County.

The initiative will feature book discussions, films, lectures, art exhibits and storytelling workshops at universities, public libraries and other venues across the state.

In addition to sexual assault, UW-Baraboo academic librarian Treasa Bane said the project highlights Erdrich’s writing in an effort to spread cultural awareness throughout Wisconsin communities. According to a press release from University of Wisconsin Colleges, the initiative is a partnership between UW Colleges and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community Colleges “with the goal of bringing communities together to discuss (the novel).”

Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences students from various UW Colleges secured a $15,000 grant in June to fund the reading initiative.

“Last summer, we started to develop our ideas for participating in the NEA Big Read during their writing for nonprofits course,” Friederich said. “Last fall, as part of their internship experience, our BAAS students followed through on writing the proposal.”

In addition to the Ho-Chunk dance exhibition, local sponsors of Wisconsin Reads “The Round House” will host a potluck and informational fair about the Big Read on February 19 at the Ho-Chunk House of Wellness.

The event will introduce participants to the book discussions and more than 70 events for children and adults that will take place across the state in the cities of Rice Lake, Hayward, Marshfield, Baraboo, Waukesha and Milwaukee in March and April.

Friederich said the reading initiative is intended to provide participants with a better understanding of Native American cultures and the issues they face.

“The purpose of the Big Read is to really bring different communities together to discuss these issues,” she said. “I hope that participants come away with a greater understanding of perspectives on the issues, and the complexities of the issues as well.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter