Small steps in Marathon County good enough for now

(Author’s note: Continuing my attempts to archive my past Portage County Gazette columns. This one is from May 24, 2017.)

 

Bridge on Plover River IAT segment, Marathon County

When it comes to protecting our public lands, it’s easy to see recent developments as one step forward and three or four steps back.

Efforts to strip protected status from national monuments and sell off or otherwise allow desecration of Wisconsin public lands by greedy businesses seem to fill the news recently.  These aren’t the best ways to start the summer outdoor season, but it doesn’t hurt to keep them in the back of our minds while we’re out having fun.

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Monona’s Edna Taylor Conservation Park brings mounds of benefits

The commitment to conservation and outdoor recreation by true Wisconsinites never fails to disappoint, as I was reminded during a business trip to Madison last week.

With a lunchtime meeting set up, I had planned a post-meal walk at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum before heading back to Point. A quick look at the map, however, showed me there was something much closer to the restaurant in Monona – in fact, three somethings in one.

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Setting the record straight on “Waupaca”

“Menominee Morning Song” by James F. Frechette, Jr. Photos by author; permissions courtesy of Mike Hoffman and UWSP Museum of Natural History

Seeing clearly often means going directly to the source, and when it comes to native Wisconsin terminology, there’s none better than one of our few remaining speakers of the Menominee language.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a hike on the Waupaca River segment of the Ice Age Trail and devoted two short paragraphs to the puzzle of why the Waupaca River is named “Tomorrow” on its upper half. In doing so, as I noted in a later column, I passed on some incorrect information regarding the meaning of the Menominee word “waupaca.”

The mistake did give me, however, a chance to visit with Mike Hoffman, a Menominee elder who is one of perhaps a dozen remaining fluent speakers of Menominee. We conversed over coffee in June to talk about the Waupaca, among other things.

Trying to get to that place  

The dual-named river is the result of a great deal of storytelling and misinformation. Incorrect or inaccurate interpretations of the name are published in multiple places, including the main web page of the Waupaca Historical Society (which notes that it is a Menominee word meaning “tomorrow” or “pale water”).

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