Ho-Chunk President Jon Greendeer delivers the annual State of the Tribes address to full legislature in the Assembly chamber. He talks briefly about the controversial mining issue. Greendeer says Native Americans are the original stewards of the land. “Good caretakers of the land will never find the level of contamination or threat to their sovereign authority worth compromising.”
Regardless of the outcome, Greendeer says he’s optimistic that there are ways to preserve the state’s environment while creating much needed job opportunities. The governor and some lawmakers are hopeful the legislature can pass a bill to streamline the permitting process. Pewaukee Republican Senator Rich Zipperer, chairman of the Senate’s judiciary and commerce committee, announced plans to meet on Monday to discuss the issue. The Senate last week voted down mining legislation and just hours later Gogebic Taconite announced the company would take its business elsewhere.
Greendeer also talks about healthcare, obesity, and low life expectancy among Natives. He says the Western diet has had a negative effect on his people. “With one of the most staggering statistics on obesity and diabetes, it’s no coincidence that westernization and a transition from a simple staple diet to now a high fat and high sugar and very convenient diet has had its effects on our youth and on our elders.”
He doesn’t want to police everyone’s dinner table, but he believes in community support. In 2008 at nearly 370 pounds, Greendeer joined the lifestyle balance program with the Ho-Chunk Nation and learned about food and exercise. He lost 140 pounds and improved his overall health.
Greendeer says it’s important for the state to support returning and veteran Indian soldiers. He says communities must be ready to meet their needs. “To have support in healthcare, in housing, education, and career development and preparation.” He says despite the stereotype, “We are tax-paying citizens” and tribes are “deeply affected by the effects of the recession.”
Greendeer stresses Native Americans do not have a sense of entitlement; his people are strong and motivated. Tribes are independent sovereign nations, he says, “not special interest groups.” He says they are “political, cultural, and family” communities. He asks lawmakers to keep education “as a priority for all.”
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:10