Wisconsin’s tribes are asking for dual-language signage and more power over public education in their communities.
Chairman Chris McGeshick of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community gave the State of the Tribes address Thursday in Madison.
McGeshick emphasized the need for respecting government-to-government relationships between the tribes and the state, including the realm of education.
“For these reasons we want for each tribe to be able to open and charter schools directly with the state. This will enable each tribe to assume the role of educating their own tribal members.”
McGeshick said native language programs are crucial to cultural preservation.
He also condemned the persistence of school mascots based on racial stereotypes.
McGeshick said Wisconsin’s tribes are strong protectors of natural resources, calling tribal relationships with the state DNR strained but rewarding.
“We must establish a policy with the state pertaining to dual enforcement, and the co-management of natural resources that are adjacent to our reservations, as well as all public lands in the ceded territories.”
McGeschick also celebrated recent developments away from a proposed iron mine, crediting the Chippewa Federation and nontribal activists for putting pressure on mining company Gogebic Taconite.
Throughout his speech, McGeshick emphasized the need for more tribal input in state policy.
He said cooperative initiatives like a judicial education program would help bridge cultural differences and improve understanding of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
“With the courts and the tribes working together, you can actually increase resources that are available to participants in this system.”
McGeshick also said northern Wisconsin tribes needed to expand capacity for residential and substance abuse treatment programs.