What is this, the 1800’s?

By Richie Plass
Special to News From Indian Country

Wisconsin’s new approach to addressing the culture, heritage, history and future of the State’s Native American population here in 2011 makes me think they all stopped reading and/or acknowledging us after the 1800’s.

Think about this; all of a sudden we have no existence in their eyes. SB250, passed in the State of Wisconsin in May of 2010 was landmark legislation not only in the State, but across the United States. Now the Republican control of our State is braced to eliminate us. Or, as was done to our Nation, the Menominee, back in the 1960’s, to, “Terminate” us, our cultures and more importantly our actual existence as a living culture.

The Republicans say SB250 gives too much power to individuals of this great State for a process of challenge. That challenge, of course, is using my name, image and culture as a school name, mascot or logo.

I was raised Menominee Indian. Not far from here in Green Bay there are a lot of people who were raised, “Mishicot Indians”. Do these Republicans know the legal difference between a Menominee Indian and a Mishicot Indian? I do.

According to the United States Federal government, in order to be considered, “Indian” in America, we need to be able to show documentation proving we are of a bloodline of any particular Tribe. Once that is done, we are issued a number on a card. I carry my card with me every day because that is what the Law dictates.

I have met several, “Mishicot Indians”, asked them to show me their cards, but I haven’t seen one yet. But our new Republican leadership, trying to repeal SB250 are telling me, as a Menominee Indian, I may never be able to question or file a complaint on anyone else who identifies their communities and/or schools as, “Indian”.

Many of us in the State of Wisconsin have been fighting for over forty years for legislation that would give us a sense of being able to teach our children that, “The system works”. SB250 did just that.

Native Americans in Wisconsin account for less than 2% of the total population. There were no Native Americans in the State Legislature when SB250 was passed. We had great and honorable support across the State, and as they say in the media, “Across the aisle” in getting this Bill passed. Plus, Jeff Ryan and his students from Prescott High School, none of whom are Native American, took on this cause and helped educate or State’s leadership on the importance and significance of this Bill.

Now, after last year’s election, the Republicans are saying everyone’s work, lives, education and honor don’t count.

I, for one, will not stand for it.

Treaties, the Termination Policy, removal, out-right killing and sending or forefathers and mothers to government schools didn’t work. Here in the 21st century retaining, educating and supporting our children and elders is key to our culture.

Listening to our Fathers, Mothers, Uncles, Aunties and Grandparents who were sent to government schools, who were removed from their and our homelands to urban settings teach us one valuable lesson that is in no history book; we are a living culture.

We are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. SB250 gave us all the process to make our voices heard. Now the Republicans want to silence us, again.

I for one will not stand for it.

I just looked at my calendar. It reads, “February 13, 2011” as I write this. What amazes me is that the new Republican leadership has not gone past 1800.

How can I say this? I’ve read some of the history books in America. I’ve seen far too many schools in Wisconsin using my name and image as their name, mascot or logo. I do not look like that. I do not dress like that. I do not act like that. And I, for one, will not stand for that.

Richie Plass, Director of Education,
Changing Winds Advocacy Center
Curator, “Bittersweet Winds”
Traveling exhibit on N.A. Imagery
Enrolled member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin
and also of Stockbridge/Munsee/Oneida bloodline
Green Bay, Wisconsin