Dark clouds filled the sky, but the energy and enthusiasm of Sam Schonasky outshined the raindrops that day.
He brought that drive to the Historic Indian Agency House grounds on Saturday, May 19, to accomplish what he had been planning for months: to organize the construction of a ciiporike.
The effort was part of his Eagle Scout project, a project required for him to earn the new Boy Scout ranking. When it all came together on Saturday, he was proud of his accomplishment, along with the pride of his friends and family.
Sam, 14, is the son of Danielle and Mike Schonasky of Endeavor, WI. His grandparents are Jonathan Whitebear and Sharon Whitebear.
“I like it. It’s really cool.” Sam said. “I wanted to spend the night in it, but it’s supposed to thunderstorm tonight.”
The building of the ciiporke was not the main test for him, however. It was more of a test to evaluate his leadership and organizational skills, part of the Eagle Scout evaluation process.
Jennifer Blau, director of the Historical Indian Agency House, thought the idea was perfect for the facility and that the ciiporike could remain on the grounds indefinitely for visitors to see.
At about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, the group of about 35 people gathered at the Historic Indian Agency House land, including Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Officer/ Cultural Recourse Division Manager Bill Quackenbush, who provided a substantial amount of guidance. Each of the participants took part in the construction.
Although the actual construction of the ciiporike was significant, the real test was the leadership Sam exhibited to get the job done. He needed to plan the event, recruit volunteers, arrange for materials to be present, be able to delegate duties, and plan to contingencies, such as failure or some sort.
It was completed around 1 p.m., with the volunteers famished and ready to eat lunch. Sam had to plan the lunch, too, in which he arranged for the help of his mother. He asked his mother to be in charge of the food and his aunt and grandmother jumped in to help. His gaga is the world’s best frybread maker, he said.
Before the meal began, Sam’s grandfather Jonathan Whitebear provided the prayer and some perspective on his project. He said he was born and raised in a ciiporike and he was honored that his grandson chose a project that was so integral and significant to the culture of the Ho-Chunk people.
Mike, Sam’s father, is proud of what he accomplished.
“It’s not easy to do – organize and lead people,” Mike said. “This is one of the more ambitious projects I’ve seen. I’ve heard of some that were rather wimpy – like painting a mural or planting flowers. This one was a major effort.”
With the ciiporke complete, Sam was pleased of the outcome.
“It’s cool to accomplish. It’s a great thing to put on my resume and it’ll help me down later in life, too,” Sam said.
His grandfather had told him quite a bit about living in a ciiporike, that there were all different kinds. Some were used for storage, some small ones were used for when a woman would give birth, and the ones used as houses came in all sizes. Often more ribs would be added to lengthen the structure and many families would live in the same one. Each family would have its own fire in the center of that family’s section.
He wants to be an Eagle Scout because he has been involved in the Scouts since he was very young.
“No one else in the family has ever been an Eagle Scout. My brother wanted to be, but he timed out, meaning he grew older than the limit for becoming an Eagle Scout,” Sam said.
He has two brothers, Christopher, 23, and Josh, 24.
The ciiporike project was just one of many requirements to be able to achieve Eagle Scout rank. Sam had to complete paperwork for the planning of the project and will now have to complete paperwork for analysis. Another requirement is for each Boy Scout applying for Eagle Scout status to have 23 merit badges, 13 of them required such as first aid, citizenship, swimming, camping, Family and emergency preparedness. He still has two required to finish before he can achieve the ranking.
Although he has earned 45 merit badges, he still needs two of the required badges, which are one in environmental science and another in physical fitness.
The ciiporike project was the major requirement for becoming an Eagle Scout.
Scoutmaster Justin O’Rourke was impressed with Sam’s project.
“It’s great. It’s one of the more unique projects I’ve seen. I’m glad he chose one that is so personal to him,” O’Rourke said. “Kids can come out here in the future and learn about this structure and learn about what is so important to him.”
With the guidance of Quackenbush, the construction of the ciiporike went without a hitch.
“Sam organized, recruited, delegated to others. He was so well organized, he was done before the construction started, other than paperwork,” Mike, his father, said.
“The only problem is nothing went wrong,” he said. “Failing is a better teaching experience than everything going right. The Scout Master looks for when things go wrong and what they do about it.”