Devil’s Lake Bird Mound Marker Centennial Commemoration
On Labor Day of 1916 members of the Sauk County Historical Society and the Wisconsin Archeological Society gathered at Bird Mound at the south shore of Devil’s Lake to unveil brass plaque to mark this spectacular effigy mound. According to newspaper articles of the day, some fifty people gathered to hear addresses from such speakers as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society Milo Quife and Charles E. Brown, Director of the Society’s Museum. The State Conservation Commission was also represented to accept the marker for the then new Devil’s Lake State Park. The Sauk County Historical Society’s long-time leader H. E. Cole, who had donated the marker, also spoke. Just days over a century later, on Sunday, September 11, 2016, the two organizations again gathered at the Bird Mound to note the centennial of the placement of the marker, to learn more about effigy mounds, and renew the commitment to their preservation.
The Devil’s Lake Bird Mound is one of some three to five thousand effigy mounds that were created by the Native People of what is now southern Wisconsin about one thousand years ago. These effigy mounds were created as burial sites, as cultural landmarks, and are sacred places. During the first half of the 1900s, many markers were placed at effigy and other burial mound sites as part of an effort to make the public aware of the importance of these places. The Devil’s Lake Bird Mound is a spectacular example of ancient artwork with wings that spread nearly 250 feet. Located in the states most visited park, this mound is very likely seen by more people than any other effigy mound.
The centennial program began with a performance by the Ho-Chunk Thundercloud Singers. This was followed by speakers from the Ho-Chunk Nation, the Sauk County Historical Society and the Wisconsin Archeological Society. Ken Lange spoke about his own interest in this and other effigy mounds. The program concluded with a visit from Baraboo’s pioneer antiquarian William H. Canfield (aka, Rob Nurre), or at least a fair semblance of him, who surveyed the Devil’s Lake Bird Mound in 1875. Exhibits were available from various organizations involved with effigy mound preservation.