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Belle Rose Ragins: Don't expect Kohler to respect indigenous remains

Belle Rose Ragins: Don't expect Kohler to respect indigenous remains

Dear Editor: Thanks to a Wisconsin Watch investigation, the whole country now knows that indigenous human remains were unearthed where Kohler plans to build their controversial luxury golf course in Sheboygan. Ancestral remains were found in at least seven locations, and we won’t know if additional remains will be disturbed until the bulldozers begin razing the old-growth forest and wetlands. The Kohler property has at least four burial mounds and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Already, the discoveries are characterized as merely "a snag" in Kohler's plans. A Kohler spokesperson downplayed the findings as "a few fragments of human remains," while at the same time boasting that they will provide a public service by making the burial mounds accessible to the public. Kohler promises to treat these "cultural assets" with the "utmost respect."

But if this company’s past behavior is any guide, we can expect a filled display case outside the pro shop, while the burial mounds become a curiosity for affluent golfers to enjoy while waiting for their tee time.

How do we know this? Because Kohler similarly trivialized and commercialized Native American culture at neighboring Blackwolf Run, a luxury course that monetized the Ho-Chunk chief’s name. Hole 2, "Burial Mounds," mocks sacred tradition by presenting artificial burial mounds as challenging obstacles for wealthy golfers.

Kohler claims the new course offers "an ... opportunity for public education." But we already know the lesson: A company that claims to value diversity and social responsibility can engage in environmental racism for sport.

Belle Rose Ragins

Town of Wilson

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