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Giving Back Profiles: Sauk Prairie Historical Society

Bison discovery on display

Explore the nature and culture of the lower Wisconsin Riverway

The Sauk Prairie Historical Society is spearheading a new initiative to showcase the natural and cultural history of the Sauk Prairie region of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway through a long-term interactive exhibit and educational program; opening to the public in May 2012.

The hallmark of the exhibit in the J.S. Tripp Memorial Museum is the partial skull of a 5-6,000 year-old Bison Occidentalis, now-named the Bradford Bison. The Bison is named for Joshua Bradford, who discovered it while walking the river shores during low water with his Big Brother.

Discovery of the Bradford Bison is remarkable, as it’s the easternmost finding of this ancient bison species, extending scientific knowledge of its range.

The exhibit will include hands-on activities, as well as a timeline highlighting key events that contoured the Sauk Prairie Riverway; spanning the time of the bison, through the arrival of the Sac (Sauk) Indians, and into modern day. A version of a Sauk Bark House complete with authentic replications of Sauk Indian-style clothing for young guests to try on, corn to grind, bear claw necklaces to "trade," as they discover what daily life as a Sauk Indian living along the banks of the Wisconsin River might have been like.

 Bradford Bison mural

Sketch for Bradford Bison mural by artist Michael Connors; final artwork to be displayed at the exhibit in the J.S. Tripp Memorial Museum

In addition to the exhibit, the Sauk Prairie Historical Society will offer a variety of educational events relevant to the Bison, including: programs for schools and community groups, virtual field trips, lectures from the Ho-Chunk nation, and much more! The Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society intends to provide an educational experience that fosters conversation and imagination.

The Alliant Energy Foundation’s community grants program contributes to educational efforts, as well as arts and culture, human needs, civic and environmental projects. Grants are awarded to initiatives and programs that address community needs and benefit a large number of people. That’s why the Alliant Energy Foundation is honored to support the Bradford Bison exhibit through a $5,000 community grant (awarded in 2011).


Joshua Bradford and Bob WeissWhat began in 2005 as a simple walk along the Wisconsin Riverbed, turned into the experience of a lifetime for then seven-year-old Joshua Bradford and his mentor Bob Weiss.

The river having recessed to the lowest it had been in years opened up a large swath of sand to explore. While Bob was picking up cast-off fishing lures, Joshua ran ahead. Suddenly, Bob heard Josh shout out, "Bob, come look! Is this a dinosaur bone?"