A tribal leader criticized the passage of the Indian mascot law passed last year at the State of the Tribes address in the Legislature Thursday, a yearly address that updates lawmakers on Wisconsin tribes’ affairs and concerns.
Laurie Boivin, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin leader, criticized Republican lawmakers for approving a law that makes it more difficult to eliminate Indian mascots at schools.
“It was our hope that we would have been able to work with legislators of both parties on finding a balanced approach,” Boivin said to a standing ovation from Democrats who voted against the law. “I believe there was a fairly balanced compromise offered, but it failed to get serious consideration. Our children should not be subjected to inaccurate representations of their cultural identity.”
The Indian mascot law drew criticism from Democrats and the Wisconsin Indian Education Association when it passed last year.
Attorney Sam Hall, who represented the Mukwonago School District in its attempts of keeping its “Indians” mascot, said in a December statement the law “strikes the right balance in ensuring a fair process for review of long-standing nicknames and logos while also still maintaining Wisconsin’s pupil non-discrimination laws.”
Boivin barely mentioned her tribe’s proposed Kenosha casino, which the federal government signed off on but needs approval from Gov. Scott Walker to begin. Two of the state’s tribes oppose the building of the Kenosha casino.
Boivin instead spoke about tribal gaming in her larger theme of addressing poverty among the tribes.
“While Indian gaming has led a few tribes out of poverty, many of our nations continue to struggle with varying degrees of poverty,” Boivin said.
The speech itself is a result of Wisconsin executive order number 39, which was issued by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2004. It recognizes the unique status of the Indian tribes in the state and ensures them the right of existence, self-government and self-determination.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the annual tradition is helpful for lawmakers.
“The most important thing that were are doing today is to make sure that we respect the relationship that we have with the sovereign nations of Wisconsin, those first nations, and the state of Wisconsin,” Vos said. “We have done this for years now, and I think it’s an important tradition we all should respect.”