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Proposed bill could end long legal fight over effigy (UPDATE)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Proposed state legislation could end a long legal fight over Native American effigy mounds in Dane County.

The bill would force the Wisconsin Historical Society to allow the owners of a limestone quarry in the town of Blooming Grove to excavate a 3-acre plot in order to prove whether human remains are actually buried there.

The State Journal says Wingra Stone and Redi-Mix have been mining around the plot at its 57-acre quarry for more than two decades. But as mining has exhausted other parts its quarry, the company has challenged the existence of human remains at the site in an effort to prove it should be removed from the state’s registry of protected burial sites.

Removal from the state’s burial site catalog would allow the company to extract between $10 million and $15 million in limestone aggregate that lies beneath the mounds, said Wingra president Bob Shea.

The Ho-Chunk Nation says history suggests it’s a protected burial site. But, Wingra says there’s no proof of that.

In recent years, Wingra and the Ho-Chunk Nation have disputed the findings of multiple surveys that have used detection methods to glean information about what lies below the surface.

“Those anomalies are what’s up for debate — whether they are or aren’t remains,” said Collin Price, a spokesman for the Ho-Chunk Nation. “For us, our oral traditions and history tell us those are human remains.”

Both sides agree that a partial excavation of the site is the only way to make an absolute determination, but the Historical Society sided with the Ho-Chunk in its belief that excavating to make that determination runs contrary to the purpose of the burial preservation law.

While the matter is moving slowly in appeals court, Wingra is pursuing the legislative solution through bill sponsor, state Sen. Chris Kapenga.

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