Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Annual State of the Tribes Address

The State of the Tribes Address was given by John Johnson, Sr., President of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, to Wisconsin legislators on Tuesday. President Johnson spoke of his goal to “create a greater understanding of Native people, culture and traditions.”

Throughout the Address, President Johnson highlighted many important issues, including racial inequity. “It’s imperative the Supreme Court continues to research racial disparities in the legal system. We appreciate the work done in the recent report that found Native men are 34% more likely to end up in prison than their white counterparts when facing similar charges. I am hopeful this and other efforts lead to a fair and equitable system of justice.”

President Johnson introduced the Tribal Leaders in attendance, including Robert Van Zile, Jr., Shannon Holsey, Mike Wiggins, Jr., Gunnar Peters, Marlon White Eagle, Ned Daniels, Jr., Lorraine Gouge, and Bryan Bainbridge, CEO of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.

He thanked Tribal employees for their efforts this past year. He shared the story of Old Abe, noting that the commitment of Native Americans to serving in the military is unmatched.

Pivoting to calls for action, President Johnson addressed several mischaracterizations of Native Americans, including casino revenues and treaty rights. He also spoke of Native Americans’ commitment to the environment, noting that, “forever chemicals within the water supply, chronic wasting disease, mercury and other contaminants in our fish supply, rising temperatures heating our waterways leading to algae blooms choking fish populations and other aquatic life, and reducing wolf populations to dangerously low population levels and eliminating their contribution to wildlife sustainability, threaten our prosperity and our futures.”

“We value clean land, air and water. We ask all levels of state government to balance economic development and environmental protection. According to our teachings, Lac du Flambeau and many other Tribes make decisions with seven generations in mind. We ask how our decisions today impact those who will come hundreds of years from now. We respectfully ask every level of state government to do the same.”

Addressing present cultural needs and their origins, President Johnson talked about cancel culture and shared the story of genocide at Sandy Lake. He stressed the need for mental health services and the elimination of racism. “We also need cultural responsiveness and equity initiatives at every level of the state government to root out and address systemic racism.”

He discussed the refusal by some school districts to retire race-based mascots; he complimented the bipartisan effort in the passage of Senate Bill 69, relating to incorporating the Holocaust and other genocides into the state model social studies standards and requiring instruction on these topics. “We are grateful for the effects of those who will see the value in all human beings and fight for all to be respectfully represented in our schools and other organizations.”

President Johnson concluded his speech by saying, “I appreciate your time and look forward to working with you to create a better future for all of us who reside in Wisconsin. Chi Miigwech.”

Thunderous applause resounded throughout the Wisconsin Assembly Floor as those in attendance rose to their feet. You may view the State of the Tribes Address here.