Wisconsin's Gard is back, and for more of the same

by Lew Boyd

John Gard is back for a “rematch” with Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District Congressman Steve Kagen next year by trying to make it appear like an Ali-Frazier “Thrilla in Manila” rematch, a rematch Gard says he can win.

Gard will need more than hype to unseat the popular Kagan. Dr. Kagen’s been scoring big points with his votes in Congress, and I suspect Dr. Kagen will give Gard a good spanking this next “round” in 2008.

In the past, Gard has engaged in attacks to enhance his elect-ability, especially racist attacks. Native people have been among those first attacked by Gard.

In numerous radio and television appearances, Gard has made comments, ranging from dubious and misleading to racist, about the Wisconsin Native community. Blaming Wisconsin’s Native communities in the past for the state’s bad business, political and fiscal climate, it’s likely Gard will make the same attacks toward Native people in 2008.

A former State of Wisconsin Department of Commerce employee overheard Gard, speaking with supporters in 2001, say “Indians are stealing the Whiteman’s money” in an effort to stir up racial hatred toward Native people.

Gard, further trying to stir up white hatred toward Native people, went on to describe how Native people were violating state and federal laws in the process, and has frequently said “tribes’ were exercising sovereignty illegally.”

At a St. Norbert’s College speaking engagement, I personally heard Gard complain that “strangely enough, the state and federal government is doing nothing to stop (Native people).”

In addition, Gard has used the racist term “Injun Communities” in referring to tribal communities.

Gard’s personal feelings toward race are hard to distinguish from his political, and it’s hard for Gard to differentiate between the two. An inability to differentiate between the two is a sign that someone is a racist.

As a graduate of Shawano Senior High School in 1966, I witnessed Gard’s brand of racism on several occasions. When white residents forced a confrontation with neighboring Native people, the confrontation became racially based. The hurling of racial epithets was usually the first to occur, followed by physical violence. I’m sure most white residents of Shawano County will admit today that racist attitudes were a primary factor in those confrontations with “Indians.”

People of color have witnessed the re-emergence of this brand of racism more and more under right-wing governments, especially the Bush Administration. Tribal officials should not tolerate this kind of racism, and we can not tolerate any refusals by tribal officials to confront Gard’s racism.