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This tour is part of the Voices of La Crosse History Tours, a collaborative project between the La Crosse Library Archives & Local History Department (LPLA), UW-La Crosse (UWL), and Hear, Here. If you are unfamiliar with these groups, Hear, Here is a project that collects first-person narratives—or stories—that take place in the downtown area. Each of these stories is made accessible through street signs that list a phone number to call. When you call the number, you can listen to a story that took place in the location where you are standing. The LPLA collects, preserves, and makes accessible local history for the community. Most of the research for these tours was done at the LPLA.
The Voices of La Crosse tours explore a variety of larger themes about the local community through personal narratives. The Voices of La Crosse project was, in part, funded by the UWL Margins of Excellence Fund.
This tour focuses on the Hmoob (pronounced “Hmong”) experience. Each story featured on this tour represents different experiences, different lives, different themes, and different perspectives of the Hmoob immigrant experience in La Crosse. The first will be a poem about the Mississippi and Mekong Rivers, the second is about an anti-war protest, the third story expresses the emotions that pictures from the past can evoke, and the final storyteller remembers his first home in La Crosse. The stories all touch on themes of family, home, life-changes, and community.
Please note that much of the written history about Hmoob immigration to the US has been researched, written, and published by white scholars. If you wish to learn more about Hmoob history, try to locate resources created by Hmoob and Hmoob-American scholars to educate yourself from a non-US-centric perspective to eliminate biases and misinformation.
This tour takes place on the occupied ancestral lands of the Ho-Chunk, who have stewarded this land since time immemorial.
The city of La Crosse occupies land that was once a prairie that was home to a band of Ho-Chunk. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in attempt to forcibly and often violently remove Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands located east of the Mississippi River to occupied territory west of the river. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, the Federal Government conducted a series of six attempts to forcibly remove local Ho-Chunk by steamboat via the Mississippi River to reservations in Iowa, northern Minnesota, southwest Minnesota, South Dakota, and finally to Nebraska. The historic steamboat landing where this took place is now Spence Park in downtown La Crosse.
However, many of La Crosse’s Ho-Chunk found their way back to their homeland here in La Crosse. and eventually the federal and local governments moved on to new strategies to eradicate Indigenous folks and culture from the newly established United States of America. As of 2016, Wisconsin was home to over 8,000 members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, about 230 of whom live in La Crosse County.