At the next genealogy class meeting, Blaine Hedberg of the Westby Area Historical Society will talk to the students about Westby’s Thoreson House Museum and genealogy center. His focus will be on the family history research materials available there. Those with Westby ancestors will especially want to attend this session.

The class will be held Thursday, July 11, at 10 a.m., at the Vernon County Museum. New students are always welcome to attend. Vernon County Historical Society members attend for free, and nonmembers are asked to pay $5 per class.

Here’s a quick review of our other events in July: Grillouts at Nelson Ag on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mark Lee program at the Viroqua Elementary School cafetorium on Saturday, July 20, beginning at 2 a.m. 100th birthday party for the Normal School building (now the Vernon County Museum) at the museum on Saturday, July 27, from 1-4 p.m. Open house at the Foreaker School, 606 W. Broadway, also on Saturday, July 27, from 1-4 p.m. Busy month!

Recently, the chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Lester Randall, visited the area to learn more about the history of the Kickapoo Indian presence here. He is traveling through the regions where the Kickapoo once lived – Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio – talking about his tribe and gathering more information about their history.

The tribe’s name for itself is Kiikaapoi, which means something like “He who moves about,” a wanderer. This tribe originally lived along the west bank of Lake Erie but was pushed into Wisconsin by the Iroquois. As I understand it, the Kickapoo were in Wisconsin for about 60 years, approximately 1640-1700. During that time, this region, including today’s Vernon County, was part of their hunting grounds. They camped along the rivers and creeks, which were the highways of that time period.

Sometime after 1700, the Kickapoo were pushed south into Illinois and eventually, through loss of land to treaties and settlers, ended up on a reservation in Kansas. On the reservation, the Kickapoo endured hunger, loss of identity, and the loss of their children to boarding schools, just as so many other tribes did.

But today the tribe has its own schools, security services, and social services, and is working to re-establish its language. Smaller groups of Kickapoo have left Kansas over the years and moved farther south to Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico, and the four groups maintain ties to each other.

Many places in and around Vernon County are named for the Kickapoo. The name “Kickapoo” originally comes from a people, and the people survived and still exist. They want their story to be told. You can learn more from the Kansas tribe’s website, ktik-nsn.gov.

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