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Tribes Use Speech To Call For Tougher CWD Regulations

Gary Besaw Delivers Annual State Of The Tribes Speech To Legislature

Gary Besaw
Gary Besaw addresses Wisconsin legislators at The State of the Tribes Tuesday. Marylee Williams/WPR

A Menominee Indian tribal member is asking the Wisconsin Legislature for tougher action to stop chronic wasting disease and to join the fight against the proposed Back-Forty Mine.

Gary Besaw delivered the annual State of the Tribes speech Tuesday to the Legislature. He thanked lawmakers for working on bills that would define protections for Indian burial mounds and legalize commercial hemp.

He then demanded legislators enact stronger protections to stop the spread of CWD, saying Gov. Scott Walker’s hands-off approach is jeopardizing treaty rights, tourism and hunting.

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He also implored legislators to work against a potential gold, zinc and other metals mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Menominee have sued to block the mine’s development.

Besaw also said Republican lawmakers’ decision to lift Wisconsin’s sulfide mining moratorium on sulfide mining defies common sense.

Besaw said tribal nations are not the enemy when it comes to the state’s environmental policies.

“Would you sit back if Lake Superior were threatened by some action again in Minnesota or in Ontario, Canada?” Besaw asked. “We’ve got to protect all the sides and all of our constituents.”

Besaw added that they’re trying to reduce environmental risk.

“It doesn’t mean stop it necessarily,” he said. “We want to reduce environmental risk to all of our waters for all of our babies. That should be a good thing.”

Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, delivered the address last year. She said she believes the State of the Tribes creates change.

“Is a one-time a year address what it should be?” Holsey said. “Probably not, but it gives us a platform, which prior to 14 years ago, we did not have.”

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 5:13 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 with additional reporting by WPR.