In collaboration with the Ho-Chunk Nation, Riverside International Friendship Gardens will be creating a new Ho-Chunk Garden to be included in the Riverside International Friendship Gardens at Riverside Park.
On January 8, 2024, the Rotary Club of La Crosse Board of Directors voted to adopt the project under the sponsorship of the DEI Committee. Our club’s goal is to raise $10,000 towards the completion of the new garden.
This project aligns with the following Rotary Areas of Focus:
  • Promoting Peace: Rotary encourages conversations to foster understanding within and across cultures.
  • Growing Local Economies: We carry out service projects that enhance economic and community development
  • Protecting the Environment: Riverside International Friendship Gardens are a place of beauty and open to all
In 2019, Rotary Club of La Crosse - Downtown supported the development of the Cameroon Garden in the Riverside International Friendship Gardens in celebration of our centennial. Read more here.
The City Parks Department estimates that approximately 200,000+ people access Riverside Park annually. Think of the incredible impact this new garden will have on those visitors: conveying our community's respect for the Ho-Chunk Nation and providing education about their culture while providing another place of beauty to further enhance the downtown area.

It is our hope to have the garden in place so the sculptures can be dedicated on Ho-Chunk Day, which is November 29, 2024. 
Garden Design
The garden will be west of the existing Cameroon Garden and will have unrestricted views of the La Crosse, Black, and Mississippi Rivers.
To reflect their culture, Ho-Chunk representatives have indicated they would like the garden to include native plants, including healing plants.
They have also recommended that a sculpture depicting Betsy Thunder be included. Betsy Thunder was a native healer who in the 1860’s used her healing skills to help both native peoples and the newly arriving settlers. The Ho-Chunk representatives have expressed their desire to symbolize through this sculpture a sense of community, friendship, and healing. It has been proposing the sculpture of Betsy Thunder be made out of bronze in a kneeling pose on a native blanket.  
The Ho-Chunk, as well as other native peoples, would shape young trees in a particular way to indicate a direction or other information and when the trees matured, the “map” could be used for many years. Therefore, the new garden will also include a trail marker in the main Ho-Chunk Garden followed by three other trail marker trees that would be placed throughout the International Gardens marking the “Ho-Chunk Trail,” with the last such marker at the bridge that crosses the La Crosse River. These would also be crafted in bronze. Quaking aspens, cedar, and dogwood trees (trees that had historically been used to create trail markers) will be planted to create a beautiful living screen between the gardens.
The garden will include flagstone benches made from local stone.
The large pathways (wheelchair accessible) will be made of the same materials throughout the Garden, reflecting that we are all part of the same good earth and we all have a responsibility to protect and preserve it for future generations. Smaller pathways will be made from ground limestone.
There will also be educational signage to help the public learn more about Ho-Chunk culture.
Landscape design and concept planning has been donated by Coulee Region Ecoscapes, and consulting and construction documents have been donated by River Architects.
We believe there is beauty in diversity. In each garden one visits, one should find a reflection of a different culture, and experience beauty. Every culture has something to offer. Please join us in making this beautiful friendship garden a reality.

How Can I Support This Project?

Donate securely online at District 6250
Or mail a check:
Check made payable to “Rotary District 6250 Foundation, Inc.” and note Ho-Chunk Nation Garden in the check’s memo field and send to:
Rotary District 6250 Foundation
c/o Treasurer Brian Watson
4030 E Stone Ridge Dr
Milton, WI 53563
Donate securely online at
Or mail a check:
Note Ho-Chunk Nation Garden in the check’s memo field.
Riverside International Friendship Gardens, Inc.
PO Box 3473
La Crosse, WI 54602-3473
Service Volunteer Opportunities for ALL coming as well! 
Watch for more information here.