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Mapping Dejope: Bringing Indigenous History To Life


University of Wisconsin assistant professor Kasey Keeler is innovating what it means to learn Native American history in the Madison area. Keeler’s project, entitled Mapping Dejope: Indigenous Histories and Presence in Madison, strives to create a digital platform that brings history to life.

The assistant professor of civil society and community studies and American Indian studies collaborated with several other UW professors to gather the information necessary for the project, which she hopes to launch next Fall. 

Bringing Indigenous History To The Digital Age 

Keeler’s project takes an innovative and reflective approach to describe Native American history. Because Madison, Wisconsin, is rich in Indigenous history, Keeler turned to local tribe members for assistance.

That said, the project seeks to share the history of the Dejope community and their land. To obtain the most accurate information, Keeler and her team conducted interviews with local Ho-Chunk Nation members.

Then, after gathering and organizing the material, the team will create a digital app and a web-accessible version for the general public. 

The inspiration for Keeler’s Mapping Dejope project was instilled mere moments after her career started at the University of Wisconsin. Four years ago, Keeler began learning more about the history of the Ho-Chunk Nation, their land, and the community today.

Needless to say, the professor felt there was an urgent need to share this information with a larger audience. And, in today’s digital age, she wanted to create something that was accessible and engaging. 

The Purpose Of The Mapping Dejope Project 

One of the Mapping Dejope project’s central objectives is generating a living historical entity that can be continuously updated and added to as needed. That way, the amount of information only grows more accurate and in-depth as the digital app exists.

Also, Keeler is adamant about sharing the genuine parts of Native American history, especially the portions that typically remain hidden. Specifically, Mapping Dejope intends to address land dispossession and the forced removal of Native Americans in the Madison area.

By doing this, Keeler aspires to initiate conversations beyond previous wrongs and instead focus on righting those wrongs. Other discussions Keeler hopes to institute include the land grant history, obligations the school has to Native communities, and how UW can uplift Native Americans in the community.  

Mapping Dejope has the potential to serve as an effective and inventive way to discover Indigenous history in Madison.

“It is one thing for me to share this history, but it is more important for those connected to this land to have the opportunity to share about it. In this way, the project seeks to uplift the Native voices that have often been overlooked,” Keeler explains.  

Transforming Native American History 

Another goal of the Mapping Dejope project is to transform history into something digital. By doing this, Indigenous culture becomes intriguing and accessible to all those eager to learn. In the long run, the digital platform will open the door to more relationship-building and long-term learning.

Although Keeler and her team are only in the beginning stages, there’s confidence the digital mapping system will initiate a deeper appreciation for Indigenous history and culture. 

Given the historical significance Mapping Dejope carries, the project has received several federal and state grants. According to Keeler, the grant funds are to be used on the app development and compensation for Ho-Chunk Nation members who offer their stories.

Typically, Keeler reveals that “folks often expect Native community members to participate in different events without compensating them.” Because these tribal members are exchanging their knowledge and time, Keeler emphasizes that paying them “is so important in doing this kind of work.”

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