East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

Effigy Tree sculpture makes progress toward return

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on March 12, 2009

A hackberry tree that had been struck by lightning in Hudson Park was transformed into a sculpture in 1991 when neighborhood residents commissioned Native American artist Harry Whitehorse to work with the remaining trunk. But the wooden carving took a beating from the elements, and after one restoration in 1997, it was removed for preservation in 2007.

Ann Brickson of Lakeland Avenue recently emailed Effigy Tree Supporters this report:

Metal casting of the Effigy Tree is complete. Sculptor Harry Whitehorse will select a patina, which will be applied to finish the process. Committee members, along with Harry and some generous donors and consultants, are working on designing and constructing a cement footing and base of rough cut native Wisconsin stone at the original site in Hudson Park. The Madison Parks Division is committed to working with neighbors to improve the care and appearance of the Hudson Park mounds. The Ho-Chunk Nation will sponsor a re-dedication event on the afternoon of September 12, 2009. We will keep you posted as we move towards completing this project, and we look forward to celebrating with all of you on September 12.


The Effigy Tree Sculpture, prepared for patina application.

The Effigy Tree Sculpture, before removal for renovation

The Effigy Tree Sculpture, before removal for restoration.

The Effigy Tree Sculpture honors the Native American history in our neighborhood. Hudson Park, on the shore of Lake Monona, is the site of three effigy mounds representing a bear, a lynx, and a panther or water spirit. These are all that remains of an extensive cluster of mounds that once extended from the Yahara River to Olbrich Park and included giant birds, one with a wingspan of over 550 feet.

Effigy mounds were constructed between 700 and 1200 A.D. and are believed to be the creation of the ancient ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation. They are unique to the upper Midwest, with the vast majority of sites in Wisconsin and a significant number of these clustered around lakes in Madison. Dane County alone once had over 1000 mounds, 80 per cent of which have been destroyed. Not just burial sites, the mounds are ceremonial landscapes that recreate the world view of the builders and were constructed to maintain balance and harmony with the sacred character of the natural world. 

Thanks, Ann Brickson, for sending us this info.   -Sarah White

Photo credits: top; Vanguard Sculpture of Milwaukee. Bottom; Harry Whitehorse.


One Response to “Effigy Tree sculpture makes progress toward return”

  1. Sarah White said

    Here’s a link to the latest Effigy Tree coverage on Wisconsin Public Television. If you search their site for “Effigy Tree” you can watch previous videos of the original sculpture and the casting process.


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