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Collaborative effort leads to new trilingual children’s book, ‘The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute’

January 02, 2018

Two years ago, Emily Schroeder and her class of third graders at Madison’s Lincoln Elementary worked on a unique project that led to the creation of a trilingual children’s book about the Ho-Chunk Nation.

To pull this publication together, Schroder and her students worked both with the Ho-Chunk Nation and a Ho-Chunk language school in Nekoosa, Wis.

Since Madison is located on Ho-Chunk ancestral land, Schroeder was hoping to learn even more about the Nation -- but was having a difficult time finding children’s books talking about this important topic.

So she took matters into her own hands.

The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute book coverSchroeder, who graduated from UW-Madison in 2011 with a degree in elementary education, with a minor in anthropology, worked closely with Bill Quackenbush, the Ho-Chunk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. They eventually recorded, transcribed and translated a traditional Ho-Chunk story that Quackenbush told the students in Schroeder’s classroom.

And on Friday, Jan. 5, the two are hosting a release party for a new children’s book titled, “The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute.” Quackenbush was able to secure a grant from the Ho-Chunk Nation to print 2,000 copies of the book, with some of the new publications being gifted within the Ho-Chunk Nation and others being donated to public and elementary libraries in Madison.

“Oral Storytelling,” the book explains, “is one way that Ho-Chunk culture, traditions, and language are passed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, storytelling takes place after the first snow of winter touches the land. Every effort was made to preserve the storytelling aspect when transcribing and translating Bill’s story.”

In addition to the support from Quackenbush, the Ho-Chunk translation for the book was done by students at Njjkuusra Community School in Nekoosa. Meanwhile, the story’s translation into Spanish and the illustrations were done by third grade students at Lincoln Elementary. 

“The Ho-Chunk Courting Flute” is told in English, Spanish and Ho-Chunk. The book also has three QR codes that one can scan and that allows a person to listen to Native speakers read the story in all three languages.

The book release event, which runs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary, is open to anyone interested in supporting and learning about Native language projects in public schools.

“The Ho-Chunk Nation is looking towards expanding on projects such as these as a way to simultaneously connect with non-tribal organizations and to promote their Ho-Chunk Language program,” says Schroeder, a dual language teacher.

To learn more about this project, check out this Wisconsin State Journal report.

If you are able to attend the book release event, please email Emily Schroeder ( or Bill Quackenbush (