Holsey aims for honest education about history, suffrage and opioid addiction in state of the tribes address


Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians President Shannon Holsey took aim at proposals to curb the teaching of racism in America’s history and make it harder to vote during the annual State of the Nation address. tribes in the Wisconsin State Legislature.

In the nearly hour-long speech, Holsey also touched on the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid addiction, Native American mascots in interscholastic sports and other issues.

“The treatment of Native Americans in American history is really not easy to say, it’s not easy to hear, and it’s even harder to recognize,” she said. “…but there must be a willingness to teach a balanced account of United States history that incorporates an accurate, comprehensive, and relevant curriculum and Native American history and culture. A bill proposed by Wisconsin would ban a curriculum that brings greater depth to understanding the long-distorted history of indigenous culture, lest it hurt students’ feelings. Therefore, it is our view and response as tribal nations that what is perhaps needed is not critical theory (but) more critical thinking.

Last fall, the Legislative Assembly passed a bill, vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers, that critics say would limit how schools and teachers can discuss racism in America’s past.

Holsey also addressed ongoing efforts to reduce early voting, mail-in voting and other accommodations, which suffrage advocates say would disproportionately affect voting in marginalized communities.

“The abolition of the right to vote is intended to be neutral. However, in many cases it undermines the fundamental right to participate in our democracy,” she said, noting that Indigenous peoples did not even have citizenship or the right to vote in US elections until 1924. “The loss of the right to vote is the loss of voice in the democratic process. We should all do more to ensure that all Americans, including Native Americans, can exercise this right easily without undue hardship. »

Halsey opened the speech by acknowledging the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Indigenous communities are no longer content to wait for others to make decisions for us,” she said. “Those days are over and as tribes are leading and advancing more movement during the pandemic to protect not only our communities, but the communities around us, I think there were lessons to be learned from the responses of tribes to the pandemic. … Many (American) deaths were unnecessary due to politicization and failure to take seriously the worst global public health crisis in over a century. But the tribal nations chose a different path early on. Tribal leaders had a clear understanding of what was happening and were in a desperate race to protect our communities because we have historical experience with epidemics and deadly pathogens. …In our small tribal communities, the loss of a citizen is too high a price and losing a single elder is like…. a burning library.

Holsey echoed a major theme from last year’s state of the tribes address, when Lake Superior Chippewa Flambeau Lake Band President John D. Johnson focused on addiction to opioids in Aboriginal communities. Holsey hinted at a proposed treatment center that would be shared among Indigenous nations.

“We also need to address the challenges that require us to look deeper and face the dangers of addiction,” Holsey said. “One such initiative aligns with the Governor’s commitment to address existing opioid addiction and build on the aggressive steps you have already taken to address the opioid crisis in Wisconsin. is something that the 11 tribes (federally recognized) have prioritized as important – the construction of a culture centered adolescent wellness treatment center.And we are so close and we hope that through your partnership, we will bring this indispensable resource to the healing of our young people.

Holsey also addressed ongoing efforts to eliminate the use of Native American mascots in high school sports.

“For too long, Indigenous peoples have been victims of discrimination, disrespect, violence, oppressive use of words and images. And as long as we can be abused in this very public way, Indigenous people will continue to be abused constantly and our collective and individual rights will be in jeopardy,” she said. “To do nothing to change these hurtful practices and allow their continuation in any context is an complicit perpetuation of derogatory, sectarian and harmful practices. And this is nothing less than literal violence against Native Americans, words and pictures matter.

More than 30 high schools in Wisconsin use Native American names or images in their sports team mascots. The Wisconsin School Boards Association has rejected a measure calling for the practice to end in 2020.

“They say if you’re not hungry for justice, fairness, inclusion and inclusion, maybe it’s because you’re too full of privilege. And quite honestly, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving,” Holsey said to wrap up the speech.

A Native leader has given the state of the tribes address every year since 2005. This was the second time Holsey gave the address; she previously gave the address in 2017.


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