“Ke-Chunk Ciporoke” sculpture by Wisconsin Ho-Chunk artist Truman Lowe

On September 7, 2019 we gathered on a high bank overlooking Turtle Creek at Nature At The Confluence to dedicate “Ke-Chunk Ciporoke”, a sculpture by Wisconsin Ho-Chunk artist Truman Lowe (1944-2019). Lowe created this sculpture to honor the Ho-Chunk people who once lived along Turtle Creek at Ke-Chunk village until 1832. Friends, family, and representatives from the Ho-Chunk Nation, City of South Beloit, and Hooper Corporation (who fabricated the sculpture under Truman’s direction), were among the people who attended the dedication ceremony. (see photo gallery of project below)

Wisconsin Dells Singers

Wisconsin Dells Singers

At the dedication Wisconsin Dells Singers, a Ho-Chunk drumming group led by Kenneth Funmaker, Jr. , sang an honor song in Truman’s memory, and to honor the Ho-Chunk people who lived at Ke-Chunk village.

What is the Meaning of Ke-Chunk Ciporoke? Ke-Chunk (“kay-chunk”) means “turtle”, and Ciporoke (“chee-poe-doe-kay”) means “round dwelling” in the Ho-Chunk language. It is the type of home a family would have lived in, though often families lived together in a single, larger oblong dwelling. The structure would have been made of saplings and covered with reed or grass mats.

At the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River there was a very large Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) settlement called Ke-Chunk (Kečąk) or Turtle Village until 1832. The sculpture is installed overlooking the area of Ke-Chunk Village as a reminder of the people that called this place home.

This sculpture concept was born from a Beloit College student project led by Ezra Rogers (’18) and came to life with Truman’s assistance last year. Truman finished the art piece in early 2019 not long before he passed away after a short battle with cancer.. His long time friend Jo Ortel, art professor at Beloit College, and author of a book about Lowe (Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe) worked hard to get the full size sculpture installed at Nature At The Confluence.

Truman Lowe

Truman Lowe, (1944-2019) photo by Jim Escalante, Prof. Emeritus, UW-Madison

About Truman Lowe Lowe’s sculpture is an artist’s interpretation, not an exact replica. “I am interested,” he once said, “in finding that point in time when history stops and myth begins.” Born and raised on the Indian Mission in Black River Falls, WI, Lowe studied art at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, then taught sculpture at UW-Madison for 35 years. He made an indelible mark on the art world through his elegant sculptures, installations, and drawings that interpret the natural world and his Ho-Chunk heritage. He is considered one of the foremost Native sculptors of his generation.

He’s received many honors in his life, including a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship in 1994 to pursue sculpture and the commissioning by the White House in Washington D.C. in 1997 to create a sculpture for a yearlong exhibition to honor Native Americans. In 2000 he became the first curator of Contemporary Native American art at the National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. In 2021, the National Museum of the American Indian will mount a major retrospective exhibit of Truman’s art, which will tour the country.

Truman’s art can be seen at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, to name just a few public collections.

Ke-Chunk Ciporoke honors Ho-Chunk history, but as the work of a nationally-renowned sculptor, it also stands as a testament to the continuing vitality of the Ho-Chunk people.

How To Support The Sculpture – Donations to support the sculpture installation are still being accepted. If you are interested in supporting this project with a tax-deductible donation, you may make a contribution to Be Active Outdoors, Inc., a Wisconsin-based 501(c)3 organization that supports efforts to engage more people in being active outdoors. You can mail your contribution c/o Nature At The Confluence, 306 Dickop Street, South Beloit, IL 61080. Your donation of $500 or more will be recognized with a Turtle plaque on the donor wall at Nature At The Confluence.

For further information please contact Therese Oldenburg, therese@natureattheconfluence.com or project coordinator Jo Ortel, Professor of Art History at Beloit College, ortelj@beloit.edu

Links Where You Can Learn More about Truman Lowe 

Thank You To Those Who Supported This Project!

Donors (as of 6/1/2020)

City of South Beloit
Ho-Chunk Nation
Jo Ortel
Jane and Wade Ortel
Ted Rehl
John and Meryl Lavine

Project Conception, Administration, Installation
Truman Lowe
Jo Ortel, Professor of Art History, Beloit College
Ezra Rogers, Beloit College, Class of 2018
Therese Oldenburg, Executive Director, Nature At The Confluence

Fabrication and Installation of the Sculpture

Hooper Corporation
Kyle Sutcliffe, Sculpture Fabricator
Mike Sutcliffe, Shop Manager of Custom Metal Fabrication
Jake Sutcliffe
Larry Sailing

Eric Olander, President EPI Electrochemical Products, Inc. – coating
Shayne Bryant, D&B Concrete, South Beloit – concrete footings installation