Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Bringing Indigenous Perspective to UW-Madison

Omar Poler wants to change the way we think about our home. For Poler, that means helping students and teachers understand how native cultures have been subjugated and learning to see the world differently.

Photo by Amber Arnold, State Journal

A member of the Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Poler, 42, grew up in La Crosse before moving to Madison in 2002. He studied history at Madison Area Technical College and later at UW-Madison, focusing on the history of the Mole Lake community.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in library science and spent most of the past decade as an outreach specialist for the UW-Madison Information School, supporting tribal librarians, archivists and museum curators across the state.
That work earned him the 2019 leadership award from the Association for Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums.
“He balances his knowledge of indigenous ways with goals of academia while remaining true to cultural preservation values that culture keepers have shared with him,” said Janice M. Rice, a Ho-Chunk nation elder and emerita librarian at UW-Madison.
Poler also helped develop the Our Shared Future Heritage Marker, a plaque recognizing that the university occupies ancestral Ho-Chunk land that the nation was forced to cede in an 1832 treaty.
The marker, which recognizes the sovereignty of the Ho-Chunk and 11 other First Nations of Wisconsin, was dedicated last summer as the first step in a multi-year effort to highlight the history of the first people to make their home on the Isthmus.