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Menominee Tribe Members Brave Winter Weather, Invoke History On March To Capitol

Marchers Hope To Meet With Walker On Quashed Casino

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR News

Members of the Menominee Nation were near Wautoma Monday morning, as they prepared to resume their march to Madison in hopes of a meeting with Gov. Scott Walker.

Some tribal members walked through subzero windchills over the weekend, and are inviting others to join the march as it gets closer to the state Capitol.

In some ways, the Menominee’s march started on Jan. 23, when Walker rejected a Menominee and Seminole casino in Kenosha by saying it would hurt state revenue payments from the Forest County Potawatomi casino in Milwaukee.

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“If you’re on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars, that’s something that even some of the supporters of a casino acknowledge is a pretty high hurdle,” Walker said last month.

The Walker administration again told the Menominee ‘no’ last week after the tribe offered to cover proposed state borrowing for a Milwaukee Bucks arena using tribal revenues from Kenosha.

So last Friday, several tribal members left Keshena on foot with plans to walk 155 miles to Madison, in hopes of meeting with Walker in person, before the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs formally closes the door on Walker being able to change his mind.

By midday Sunday, the marchers were walking on the shoulder of State Highway 22 nearing Wild Rose, about halfway to their goal of reaching Madison by Wednesday. Menominee tribal legislator Craig Corn was leading the way. Corn said after walking in Saturday’s extreme cold and high winds, Sunday’s near calm was a big plus.

“You know we had tough times, lot of good times. Spirits are up, a lot of tribal members are coming out and supporting this,” said Corn.

After just a few people walked on Saturday, about 30 made the trek Sunday, followed by two buses and other support vehicles. Menominee art teacher Janice Rabideaux said the effort to get Walker to change his mind is about boosting gaming revenues for the sake of the kids.

“There’s a chance we could build a new school for these children, they’re going to school in a very run-down building,” she said.

Menominee student Sharae Madosh is also the tribe’s Junior Miss. She said the casino would help other tribal members, too.

“(It would) bring lots of jobs so our people would be fed, have lots of coats for our elders, veterans,” said Madosh.

For some marchers, an additional motivation is the route. It’s largely the same one Menominee marchers took in 1971 when they went to see Democratic Gov. Pat Lucey about getting his help to get the tribe’s official status restored.

Basil Richmond said his grandparents were on that march, and so his participation now is partly to honor them.

“This walk, our journey, as in the journeys of life — there will be many other things that are more important than Scott Walker,” said Richmond.

As the marchers come out of central Wisconsin and get closer to Madison, tribal legislator Craig Corn is inviting non-tribal members to join the walk. He said the Kenosha casino doesn’t have to be their main motivation.

“Whoever believes in what we’re doing, whoever wants to stand up for what they’re doing, we welcome the support and the common cause to stand up for what you believe in,” Corn said.

Or as tribal member Tanner Uttecht put it: “The more the merrier, I guess.”

Walker’s office did not respond to an email regarding the Menominee marchers.