Stories from the soul

Andi Cloud shares Ho-Chunk tradition in Madison

Andi Cloud, ’06 & ’12, is an artist and storyteller from the Ho-Chunk Nation. She recently served as Madison Public Library’s inaugural Storyteller in Residence. Photo by Ruthie Hauge, The Capital Times

Posted 3:08 p.m. Friday, July 29, 2022

To Andi Cloud, storytelling is more than a hobby, more than a way to communicate a series of events.

It is a way of life.

“I have found that, when I tell stories, there is a lot that is learned and inferred from them. And a bond between the teller and the told creates a relationship,” says Cloud, ’06 & ’12, artist and storyteller from the Ho-Chunk Nation. “We need more of that right now — we need more understanding and more love, and more relationships between all people, indigenous, nonindigenous. Everyone. Stories are the light; they are the olive branches.”

Cloud recently found a new way to share traditional Ho-Chunk stories. 

As the Madison Public Library’s inaugural Storyteller in Residence, Cloud was tasked last fall with designing and delivering programming to enhance appreciation for Ho-Chunk culture among Madison area residents of all ages.

One of her goals, she says, was to show that there is much more to indigenous people than what has been portrayed in films, books and mascot imagery.

“I feel it is my part in this world to create bridges to understand and appreciate Ho-Chunk culture,” Cloud explains. “Our stories are part of that journey and the bridgework.”

From October to December, to anyone who would listen, Cloud shared Ho-Chunk origin, clan, warrior and autobiographical stories.

She also organized interactive, hands-on learning opportunities, as well as a lecture series featuring Ho-Chunk tribal members.

The oral tradition is particularly important to Ho-Chunk and other indigenous people, Cloud says. It’s a way to pass on life lessons, connect with native ancestors and build understanding among non-indigenous communities.

I feel it is my part in this world to create bridges to understand and appreciate Ho-Chunk culture."

In those efforts, the two-month residency went even better than expected.

“I am extremely elated with how everything turned out and the support I had from the Madison Public Library and Ho-Chunk Gaming-Madison,” Cloud says. “The thing I most enjoyed about the program were the people I got to work with and the people I got to meet through the programming. The audience was people from all walks of life, young and old. The program, in its entirety, was a success.”

While the residency is over, Cloud isn’t finished sharing her culture. The Oneida resident sells beadwork and sewing projects at craft fairs and pow-wows throughout the Midwest.

She has written a children's book, “Migizii,” which she is working to publish. Soon, she plans to film and produce a documentary, “Maanape,” about Ho-Chunk veterans.

Cloud was embracing and sharing her culture at UWL too while earning a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in education-professional development.

She was a student senator and co-chair of the Native American Student Association.

She also built impactful relationships with her professors and within the Office of Multicultural Student Services.

“Everyone in that office, I love and cherish. If I didn't have them and the students I met through them, I don't think I'd be a bachelor’s and master’s degree alum,” Cloud says. “My experiences at UWL are probably my favorite part of my young adulthood. I found my second family.”