On Tuesday, March 14th, Chairman Robert Van Zile, Jr., the Tribal Council and Community Members traveled to Madison for the 19th Annual State of the Tribes Address that was held in the Wisconsin State Assembly Chambers.
Leon Valliere of Lac du Flambeau began with the prayer, and Veterans from Wisconsin’s Tribes carried flags for the presentation of colors.
Alexander Van Zile, Jr., led everyone in the chambers in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Chairman Van Zile welcomed legislators, Tribal Leaders, the Sokaogon Tribal Council, Governor Evers, other officials and audience members. He spoke about the Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations and the seven measures the Committee is forwarding as proposed bills.
He talked about treaty rights and the distinguished number of Natives who have served in our country’s military branches. He stated that the goal of the Address was to bring a greater awareness of the challenges that Tribal communities face, and the opportunities for the state and Tribal governments to work together to address these challenges.
Chairman Van Zile discussed health care, mental health services and the opioid epidemic. He addressed illegal gaming, and called for enforcement of the exclusive gaming compact the Tribes have with the state. He spoke of environmental issues, including calling for an environmental impact study and the closure of the Enbridge Line 5 oil and gas pipeline on the Bad River Reservation.
He noted that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community’s effort to stop the Crandon Mine, and offered words of caution to all who value clean water, clean air and clean land as the threat of mining efforts continue to increase.
He talked about the American Indian Studies, also known as Act 31, noting more education can be done. He suggested that the Legislature use Tribal gaming funds to assist schools who face economic hurdles in changing their prejudicial mascots.
He advocated for the increased need to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIWR) endemic, and suggested the state provide Tribal law enforcement personnel the opportunity to join the state retirement system to reduce the number of officers who leave for other positions with this benefit.
Chairman Van Zile spoke for almost an hour, and you may view the Address online.