State Of The Tribes Speaker Calls For Increased Cooperation From State

Lawmakers Take Break From Right-To-Work Debate To Hear Speech

Gilman Halsted/WPR

A representative for Wisconsin’s 11 Native American tribes told lawmakers on Thursday that state government needs to do a better job of cooperating with sovereign tribal governments.

Chris McGeshick, chairman of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, was the speaker at this year’s State of the Tribes address. Speaking to both houses of the Legislature in the state Capitol, told legislators tribal governments are doing a better job than they are in protecting the state’s environmental resources. He promised continued tribal opposition to plans for an iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

“We as tribal nations are more effective guardians … Sometimes it’s us tribes they look to to help by exerting our sovereign powers and relying on the federal trust responsibilities,” said McGeshick.

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McGeshick urged lawmakers to give tribes more local control over schools that educate their children. He also called for repeal of law passed last session that makes it harder to force schools to stop using tribal mascots for school sports teams.

McGeshick also called for lawmakers to improve health care access on Indian reservations and for more continuity in communication between indigenous and American communities.

He delivered his speech amid an ongoing Assembly debate about a right-to-work bill. Audible from outside the building was an ongoing rally protesting right-to-work legislation as well as a booming band in the Capitol rotunda playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”