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First Lady Jill Biden visits Menominee Nation during 2-day stop in northeast Wisconsin

First Lady learns about tribe's sustainable forestry, agriculture efforts

Jill Biden smiles as she leans over to shake the hand of a small girl in a crowded gym of excited children.
First Lady Jill Biden shakes hands with a young student at Keshena Primary School during a visit Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

First Lady Jill Biden met with local leaders from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin Tuesday to learn how federal investments are making a difference in the community.

It was part of a two-day stop in northeast Wisconsin, and was the ninth visit she’s made to Indigenous communities across the country since 2021, according to the White House.

Biden toured the Menominee Tribal Enterprises’ Sawmill, the College of Menominee Nation and spoke at a Women’s Empowerment Summit and Training that was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She was joined on her visit by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. A member of the Pueblo of Laguna of New Mexico, Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.

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Students watch and cheer as Jill Biden waves a white flag with a seal on it.
First Lady Jill Biden waves the Menominee Nation Flag during a visit to Keshena Primary School on Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Jill Biden holds a sign that says
First Lady Jill Biden holds a sign given to her by a student at Keshena Primary School on Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

“Joe and I stand with you and all of Indian country as we build a brighter future together,” Biden said in her speech at the summit. “It’s been an honor to spend time with you today and see the incredible work you’re doing.”

Biden also made a few unexpected stops. She greeted children outside a local school and later visited a packed auditorium of elementary-age students, who cheered loudly when she waved the Menominee Nation’s flag.

During her tour of the sawmill, Biden learned about the Menominee’s sustainable forestry practices, and met with a sawmill manager and a pair of workers. The stop at the sawmill came after the tribe received nearly $1 million in federal funding this year from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to strengthen the local economy and promote sustainability, according to the White House.

“Today, I saw how the Menominee people and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to bring federal resources here, so that the tribe can continue to sustainably manage the forest using knowledge that was passed down from generation to generation, harvesting lumber while protecting the environment,” the First Lady said.

Jill Biden and Deb Haaland stand in front of wooden planks as a worker answers their questions.
First Lady Jill Biden, center, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, right, speak with a sawmill worker Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, at Menominee Tribal Enterprises in Neopit, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Deb Harland smiles as she shakes the hand of a woman in a line of other leaders.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland shakes hands with Menominee Tribe leadership Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Neopit, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Last November, Biden Administration officials visited the sawmill to announce that the tribe, and other Wisconsin communities, would be joining the Rural Partners Network, a federal program aimed at helping rural communities connect with federal resources and funding.

At the college, the First Lady learned about the Menominee’s approach to community education and sustainable development as she toured the Sustainable Development Institute’s Research Garden. In November, administration officials announced a $344,895 grant for the College of Menominee Nation.

In her remarks at the Women’s Empowerment Summit, Biden said she’s been impressed by the female leaders she’s met in tribal communities across the country who are leading change in their communities.

“I’ve met women and men who are weaving their heritage with their dreams, expanding connections through the reach of broadband, supporting revitalization of their native languages and fighting for clean water,” she said.

Haaland added that the Biden Administration has invested $40 billion in the country’s Indigenous communities since the president took office.

A crowd of students stand outside as black SUV's pass by.
Students wave as First Lady Jill Biden’s motorcade passes by Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR
Jill Biden and Deb Harland walk with other leaders through a garden. Pumpkins can be seen growing in a patch.
First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland tour the College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute’s Research Garden on Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

In July, the administration announced $120 million in federal funding would go toward helping tribes plan for environmental threats related to climate change. Officials say it’s one of the largest annual funding amounts made to tribal organizations in the history of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Climate Annual Awards Program.

“Long-overdue investments in Indian country are finally a reality,” Haaland said Tuesday. “These are investments in infrastructure, broadband internet, water access, clean energy and economic development initiatives that make our community stronger from the inside out.”

The day before the First Lady met with Menominee leaders, she attended a Monday Night Football watch party in Green Bay as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative to raise awareness for cancer screenings.

“While we may come from different places, and cheer for different teams — I was cheering on my Eagles last night — cancer touches us all,” Biden said Monday night in prepared remarks. “That’s true for my family, and I know, for far too many of yours as well. That’s why the President and I reignited the Biden Cancer Moonshot — our White House initiative to build a world where cancer is not a death sentence.”

This summer, the First Lady also made a stop in Madison, where she met with Black community leaders at Black Women’s Wellness in Madison and discussed losing her stepson, Beau Biden, to brain cancer, pledging ongoing White House support for local cancer prevention efforts.

Four men drum and sing outside as people watch.
First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland watch a Menominee cultural performance Tuesday Oct. 10, 2023, in Keshena, Wis. Angela Major/WPR