Menominee Tribal Members Begin Long March To Madison

Tribe Hopes Trek Will Influence Walker To Change Mind On Kenosha Casino

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Marchers had kicked off the march in Keshena on Friday. Patty Murray/WPR

Members of Wisconsin’s Menominee Nation are hoping shoe leather will influence Gov. Scott Walker to change his mind regarding a casino project proposal that he rejected in January.

Marchers set off on Friday morning on a 155-mile trek to the state Capitol in Madison. A few hundred tribal members kicked off the march outside the tribal headquarters in Keshena, complete with a drum group.

Most members cannot walk the entire trip to Madison, but a core group of five hopes to make it the whole way. That includes former tribal chair and current legislator Craig Corn. Corn said the idea is to get a meeting with Walker.

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“He’s never met with us face-to-face,” he said. “It’s always been through (Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch) or some other people. You know, with a $1.6 billion investment in Wisconsin, 10,000 jobs, wouldn’t you come to the table and meet with the tribe?”

The casino project at the heart of the issue would be 200 miles away from the reservation in Kenosha. Opponents see it as an expansion of gaming in Wisconsin. Another tribe, the Potawatomi, opposes it because it would bring competition to that tribe’s casino in Milwaukee.

The Menominee are working with Hard Rock International on the proposed Kenosha Casino.

Corn pointed out the Menominee have taken to the road before when the tribe was de-listed and wanted to be reinstated in 1971.

“The tribe walked to Madison and met with Governor Lucey,” he said. “Through that we got restored.”

Walking 155 miles in the dead of winter is not for the faint of heart. Wendy Warrington hopes to make it to the Shawano County line by the end of the day.

“For my kids, for my grandkids, for the future,” she said.

She said that motivation may warm her heart, but she’s taken practical precautions.

“My husband got my gear together,” she said. “I’m not a winter personhe is. So everything I have on belongs to him.”

Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw is going on the walk, and led the send-off this morning.

“A march to call attention to the misinformed and misguided decision handed to our people. A march to Madison to remind Governor Walker that we Menominee are a sovereign nation — the longest continual residents of this land we now call ‘Wisconsin.’ Weskohsek — that’s the real word for it, that’s our word,” he declared to the gathered crowd.

Besaw added that the Menominee “deserve to be treated on a nation-to-nation basis.”

Members on the walk will be backed up by buses and will make overnight stops.

“I’m going to walk as far as I can go,” said Mary Ninham, one of the walkers. “The governor needs to know that the Menominee owned almost most of Wisconsin and he’s living on Indian land down there.”

The march began on the main drag of Keshena. It is expected to end Wednesday morning at the Capitol.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has set a deadline of Feb. 19 — Thursday — for Walker to finalize his decision.