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University of Wisconsin-Madison

Since 1892 l

Action Project Issue, February 2018


The staff members of The Daily Cardinal would like to acknowledge that our office, as well as the university as a whole, exist on Ho-Chunk Nation land.

welcome 2


Action Project Issue, February 2018

It’s past time to honor Native culture at UW By Madeline Heim and Andrew Bahl MANAGEMENT TEAM

We want to begin by asking you to consider what it means for this university to exist on Native land. Beyond the effigy mounds near Picnic Point, beyond the fire circle outside Dejope Hall, beyond former basketball star Bronson Koenig’s trip to Standing Rock, how often do you consider our campus’ relation-

ship with the people who historically called the Isthmus home? This was the question that guided our first Action Project Issue of the year. For those unfamiliar with the endeavor, these issues are special, themed projects that dive deeper into topics our daily news coverage doesn’t explore in as much depth. Even though our paper’s staff is largely white, we tried to incorporate as many Native voices as

possible to ensure this issue conveys the richness, nuance and resilience of the Native experience at this university and throughout the state. We want to acknowledge that these voices which may have previously been drowned out or pushed aside in campus conversations should, in fact, take center stage. We also believed that the full depth of this experience is far more

than could be conveyed in a print edition of The Daily Cardinal. That’s why, for the first time, we have dedicated an entire website to telling these valuable stories. Go to for even more articles, as well as videos, photos and graphics exploring the Native experience in Wisconsin. The title of this issue is Still Here. Despite the ignorance and even outright racism of many students, we

believe this project demonstrates that Native culture is alive and vibrant both on this campus and throughout the state. We hope this issue will serve to educate and remind us all that the original residents of this land would expect more from us than a few plaques or a single day dedicated to indigenous people — that we have a responsibility to put their stories, histories and culture at the heart of what we do on campus.

The Daily Cardinal would like to recognize

The Evjue Foundation, Inc. (the charitable arm of The Capital Times)

for providing the funds to make the Action Project possible.


Action Project Issue, February 2018



Next generation renews push to learn Native languages


Rand Valentine teaches the Ojibwe language to students at UW-Madison. By Lawrence Andrea CAMPUS NEWS EDITOR

Jon Greendeer was “raised on the idea” that the Ho-Chunk language would become extinct. Now — fewer than 50 years later — only 65 fluent speakers remain in a tribe of just under 8,000. According to Greendeer, head of the heritage preservation depart-

ment for the Ho-Chunk tribe, the majority of fluent speakers are elderly. And fewer than a handful of these tribe members live in Madison. “We will lose our last firstlanguage speaker in our lifetime who can speak this kind of older way,” Greendeer said. Despite this decrease in language proficiency among tribes

like the Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe, there has been a renewed interest in language learning among younger generations. Ho-Chunk’s division of language — which Greendeer oversees — has been making an effort to teach students through various different outlets including online materials and activities with elders. Greendeer said elders are key in the language learning effort. Although there are few Native speakers in the Madison area, some of these members have put their skills to use by teaching language classes. Cecil Garvin, a Ho-Chunk elder, teaches Ho-Chunk classes twice a week at the American Indian Student Cultural Center on N. Brooks Street. Although this class is not affiliated with the university, five to 10 UW-Madison students show up each week. Before taking Ho-Chunk classes, Kendra Greendeer, a PhD student at UW-Madison and Ho-Chunk member, had trouble communicating with family members. She said she would only be able to pick out a few words and would usually respond with a nod and a smile. After two semesters of Ho-Chunk, Kendra can put together sentences. “It has already helped me a lot,” she said. “I am actually understanding more of what people are talking about and I’m able to get more than just one single word out of the sentence.” Kendra said Ho-Chunk

should “definitely” be offered at UW-Madison. She said if the university offered the course, not only would more people take it, but it would re-establish the Ho-Chunk presence in Madison, something she says the university has not been good at acknowledging. UW-Madison currently offers only one North American Native language — Ojibwe.

“Madison will always have philosophy and math because there will always be a teacher for those courses. We just don’t have that luxury.” Jon Greendeer heritage preservation dept. Ho-Chunk Nation

Valentine, who lived with an isolated Ojibwe tribe in Canada during the 1980s, teaches four different levels of Ojibwe in twoyear cycles — with one semester dedicated to each level. Although there are just three students currently enrolled in the class — which is in the final semester of the two-year cycle — Valentine said teaching these Native languages is important because they preserve the heritage of “people who have been here for a very long time.” While these Native languages have long been oral, first-nation

communities have recently put a greater emphasis on writing as a way to preserve their language. Valentine said having a written language will allow it to be studied in a more in-depth manner than simply hearing the language. Grace Armstrong, a UW-Madison junior and member of the Red Cliff band of the Ojibwe tribe, is currently in her final semester of Ojibwe. Armstrong said the “endangered” state of the Ojibwe language motivated her to take the class. According to Armstrong, the course allowed her to not only better connect with certain cultural traditions, but also communicate with her fluent uncle and cousins, who are fluent in the language. Valentine said he does not anticipate the university will add more native language classes anytime soon. He said these languages should “ideally” be taught by Native tribal speakers and elders. Given the few number of these people, he said, it would be difficult to establish a curriculum within university requirements. Jon Greendeer agreed. According to Greendeer, in order to have a course, a Native speaker would have to be present. Since these Native tribes’ populations are so old, the speakers will not be alive long enough to establish a long-term class. “Madison will always have philosophy and math because there will always be a teacher for those courses,” he said. “We just don’t have that luxury.”

Wisconsin tribe fights back as opioid crisis worsens in Native communities By Will Husted SENIOR STAFF WRITER

The opioid crisis across the United States is no secret. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016. Many counties around the country, as well as over two-thirds of those in Wisconsin, have taken legal action in an attempt to mediate this issue. However, issues combating this problem are not isolated to county governments. The St. Croix Chippewa Indian Tribe in Northwest Wisconsin has felt the impact of the epidemic in many facets of their society. The community joined other local governments across the state and nation in suing drug manufacturers, arguing they have exacerbated the impact of the epidemic. Last year, in a tribe of around 1,000 people, six died of opioid overdoses. This means a member of the St. Croix tribe is roughly 150 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the average American. In 2018, one tribe member has passed away due to overdose. The problem started popping up about 10 years ago, according to Jeff Cormell, general council for the St. Croix tribe. “This problem has been going on for quite some time,” Cormell added. Opioids are often prescribed at the hands of a tribal doctor.

But Cormell noted these doctors “saw the growing trend” of opioid abuses and were careful to prescribe them. Once their prescription ends, many patients have already developed a dependency and seek further access to opioids. This opens up a “derivative market,” as Cormell describes, and users get the drugs illegally in the form of heroin. The tribe receives federal

funding from the Indian Health Services to operate their clinics and medical offices. However, the St. Croix tribe does not have pharmacies on its land that would give out the opioids due to health and security reasons. St. Croix’s central argument against opioid manufacturers and distributors is that the companies knew about the addictive properties of the drugs being

manufactured and were aware of the damages they caused, but continued to create and distribute them in order to increase their profit margins. A unique element of the St. Croix case is that they are suing both distributors and manufacturers of opioids, like Walgreens and CVS, rather than just manufacturers, like many counties in Wisconsin. Cormell noted that in the dis-


As effects of the opioid crisis deepen, the St. Croix Chippewa Indian Tribe is suing the drug distributors.

tribution process, it is the pharmacies that are responsible for controlling the amount of opioids put out into the public. “Part of our complaint is that these are profit-making decision processes,” Cormell said. “Walgreens was looking the other way for profit-driven reasons.” Mike DeAngelis, the senior director of corporate communications at CVS, said the allegations have “no merit,” and “CVS Health is committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices, including complying with all federal and state laws governing the dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions.” Where the trial will be held for the case is another matter of concern for the tribe. Under public law 280, the state of Wisconsin has direct jurisdiction over tribes’ cases rather than tribal courts. That being said, the St. Croix case is being taken to federal court at their discretion due to the number of defendants, the first hearing of which will be held in March For many in the tribe, however, the lawsuit means more than litigation for damages: It’s about justice as well. “[The crisis] seems to be hitting hardest in Indian country,” Cormell said. “This is the tribe’s one chance to fight back. This is more important than the cash damages. This is a message.”

4 • Action Project Issue, February 2018

Native Americans want you to know they’re more than a history unit By Max Bayer CITY NEWS EDITOR

Paul Rykken has a classroom perspective unlike almost anyone else. The social studies teacher has been a faculty member at Black River Falls High School since 1990, one year after Wisconsin wrote into law Act 31— three statutes that made it a requirement for state public schools to infuse Native American history into K-12 social studies curriculums. But the student makeup of BRFHS is unique. In the 2016-2017 school year, nearly 20 percent of BRFHS was Native American compared to 1.2 percent of the entire state public school system. For Rykken, that raises the stakes. “What we’ve attempted to do here is make our curriculum more inclusive,” he said. “Fundamentally, the idea is to aim this at the non-Native audience for educational purposes but also so that the Native audience is seeing themselves within the curriculum.” Due to his career longevity and experience, Rykken has had the opportunity to see how Act 31 is implemented across the state. To his dismay, the story is different. “I often run into situations where schools haven’t done much at all,” he said. The reason, says Rykken, is because often when schools don’t have a Native American population like BRHS, they don’t dive deep into an in-depth curriculum. Rykken says that’s unfortunate. “Act 31 was really aimed at educating the non-Native audience of Wisconsin,” he said. Rachel Byington, former Title VII First Nations Instructional Resource Teacher at Madison Metropolitan School District and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said even at MMSD these problems existed. “I’ve heard some very unpleasant things,” said Byington, who added that as an aspiring teacher herself, she knows the pressure educators are under day-in and day-out. However, she feels “there’s a lot of need for improvement.” According to Byington, one of the main issues is that teachers teach native history as if Native Americans are extinct. She recounted one time she presented to a group of elementary students. “You could tell that the kids had not

learned that Native people still are here, that we have, depending on how you look at it 11 or 12 tribes in Wisconsin, that there [are] tribal people all over the United States, all over the world,” Byington said. The troubles Rykken and Byington have found are commonplace in Wisconsin as the small native population statewide means that many school districts aren’t going as in-depth as Black River Falls.

“My goal was to get the kids together to learn about their identity, who they are and build their native identity and also meet other kids like them ... Sometimes you’re fairly invisible in a big school and sometimes it can be a bit hard to find other native students.”

Rachel Byington Choctaw Nation former Title VII First nations Insructional Resource Teacher

These struggles exist even in the state capital, where MMSD had a total of 80 American Indian students enrolled in the 2016-2017 school year, according to Department of Public Instruction data. Since 2009, the total of enrolled American Indian students throughout the state has fallen by more than 23 percent. But that trend is even more pronounced in MMSD where, over that same period, the population has fallen by 60 percent. However, state officials consider this as an inaccurate portrayal of district makeup, noting in 2010, students, who self-report their race, could begin to list themselves as mul-

tiple races or pacific islander. “If you look at the number of students in the two or more races category, and apply some pretty simple math to the black student population and the American Indian student population, you can see that these kids are not disappearing, they’re reporting differently,” said Tom McCarthy, communications director for the DPI. Byington says the data is hard to monitor because of self-reporting. “It’s really hard when you’re looking at that data, to really get a sense of what’s happening with American Indian students,” she said, noting it’s not her job to tell people who their ancestors are. Nehomah Thundercloud, director of education for the Ho-Chunk Nation, agreed that the additional categories and self-reporting could play a role but also noted the decline could be attributed to American Indian families withdrawing their students from the public school district. “The cause for this scenario is usually from many experiences with discrimination or harassment from other students and in some cases, teachers and administration,” she said. Thundercloud’s speculation highlights a sense of isolation and exclusion felt by many American Indian students, especially when teachers begin to work First Nations’ history into their curriculum. She added many curriculums include a historical narrative of Native Americans that isn’t always correct. “[Ho-Chunk Nation’s] goal is to share with schools that Act 31 is not just our history but our current events, and future endeavors,” she wrote. “Our teachings that have been around for centuries are still relevant to our culture and actions of today.” Byington said these curriculums are a result of unpreparedness in how to actually teach native history. “A lot of teachers aren’t being adequately prepared during their college time when they’re going to school to become a teacher,” she said. As a result, often times Native American history is categorized as a unit, a term that Byington says is offensive in and of itself. “How does that feel for a native student?” She asked. “If native students are feeling bad about what they’re learning about native people, what does that do to them as an individual?” One of the statutes associated with Act 31 outlines that a teacher can’t receive certification unless they’ve received, “instruction in the study of minority group relations, including instruction in the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands located in this state.” “There’s a...problem [in] that [Act 31] doesn’t exactly say what receiving instruction should look like,” said Byington, who added the lack of specific instruction can cause teachers to be unprepared in creating helpful lesson plans. However some educators, like Rykken, have taken matters into their own hands.

Beginning in the late 1990s, Rykken along with a number of other colleagues began to restructure their social studies curriculum so that American Indian history was “infused” into the the general history topics students took between 8-12 grade. Instead of American Indian history being a “unit” kids learn at one time, information is interwoven into the entire curriculum. “For example, in a required U.S. history course, which our kids might take at grade nine, we bring the Native American perspective into that course when it is natural and where it fits,” says Rykken. Black River Falls School District is one Thundercloud says the Ho-Chunk Nation has had great success with. Another way schools combat isolation is through Title VII (soon to be Title VI) , a federal program that works to provide school support and extracurricular activities to Native American students. To qualify, students must either be registered with a tribe or have a first or second ancestor that was registered. Byington ran Title VII programming at MMSD for years before leaving last year to pursue her PhD. Some of the work she did included leading the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and creating Unity, a program that focused more on spoken word and language arts activities. She also would work with teachers who wanted assistance or for her to present a specific aspect of American Indian culture. “My goal was to get the kids together to learn about their identity, who they are and build their native identity and also meet other kids like them,” she said. “Sometimes you’re fairly invisible in a big school and sometimes it can be a bit hard to find other native students.” Another program that Byington and other Title VII coordinators incorporate is a native language class. In the most recent budget, the DPI had requested an additional $402,000 in grant funding for a statewide tribal revitalization program, however that request was denied by Gov. Scott Walker. McCarthy said regardless, the department will keep asking. Moving forward, Rykken says that a generation of high schoolers taking classes under Act 31, there is still more work to be done for the non-native audience to be aware and educated on the American Indian history around them. “It is moving forward, it just doesn’t ever seem to be moving fast enough,” he said. Byington emphasized that as teachers and facilitators work towards progress, learning how to teach a native course is vital. “You shouldn’t just learn the history, you should actually learn how to connect it to other things,” she said. Rykken, who has been doing just that since the late 90’s, says each step his school has made has been a plus for the native students. “Kids have to feel a sense of empowerment within the school.” he said.



Wunk Sheek takes on university’s previous role to help Native students find a community said. “To take steps back from that — I think that speaks to the direction that this country is going in. The climate on this campus is uncomfortable, honestly. I think that it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people because we don’t understand each other, and I think the liaisons were kind of a step to us having a sense of community and having validation from people that look and sound and act like us.” Without Wunk Sheek, Ludwig said he had a good chance of going all four years at the university without ever running into another Native American student. As the only Native in his entire dorm freshman year, Ludwig said at first he didn’t take much notice of the way the university treats Native students. “I kind of got whitewashed in that sort of sense,” Ludwig said. “I didn’t really have an option to find other Native students and I obviously didn’t know about Wunk Sheek at that time so I didn’t really see it and a lot of the times when you’re faced with something, you need someone else with you to understand what’s going on.” GRAPHIC BY SAMANTHA NESOVANOVIC

Despite efforts to increase campus diversity, activists argue the university has fallen short. Wunk Sheek, a Native American group on campus, has acted as a community for Native students, and also tries to serve as a liason between UW and the Native community. By Maggie Chandler COLLEGE NEWS EDITOR

With so few Native American students on campus, forming connections with other Native students is key for living on a majority white campus. But imagine if being a part of that community is contingent on whether or not student leaders are able to find you. Wunk Sheek, a Native American community on campus, has had to do just that. In fall 2017, the university eliminated Nichole Boyd’s position as a liaison to the Native community. But according to Mary Carr Lee, spokesperson for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement, the position is just vacant as the university reevaluates its function and accessibility to Native American students. “The support mechanism for students of color in general are not applicable to Native students, given how small the community is on campus. We are working on a more tailored approach founded on an intimate understanding of the tribal and culture needs of Native students when they arrive on campus,” Carr Lee said.

Still, student leaders said they have had to go out of their way to recruit other Native American students and let them know about Wunk Sheek. As of fall 2017, Carr Lee said there were 100 UW-Madison students who only identified as American Indian. About 450 students identified as overall American Indian. Although the organization has grown in size, Collin Ludwig, Wunk Sheek’s copresident of Fiscal Relations and a part of the Red Cliff Ojibwe tribe, said that between recruitment and seeking funding through the Student Services Finance Committee, the work he and other leaders have had to do is stressful. “It was kind of hard to do it all ourselves this year,” Ludwig said. “This is sort of a transition year.” Mariah Skenandore, Wunk Sheek’s copresident of External Affairs and a part of the Oneida Nation, interned for Boyd. In that role, Skenandore was heavily involved with powwow planning, something that is useful now that there is no longer a liaison and she is a part of Wunk Sheek leadership. “Now that [Boyd is] not around, Wunk Sheek kind of carries that weight on our shoulders because everything that people

would otherwise go to her for — if they ever needed to talk to a Native person at the university — they are now reaching out to Wunk Sheek because we’re the main Native representation and the main resource for Native folks outside of the UW community,” Skenandore said. But even before Boyd’s position was eliminated, many Native students didn’t know about the liaison and still had a hard time finding one another. Skenandore said this problem is because the university does a poor job of telling Native American students where to go. “I hear a lot about the people that are in Wunk Sheek [because] of these random ways that they found us. They just came across something or someone in one of their classes,” Skenandore said. “The university should be doing a better job of putting us in those places of community and allowing us access to those spaces and making sure that marginalized students know that there’s a place for them here, because I don’t think that we know that.” Still, Boyd was especially helpful for recruitment. Before her position was cut, the majority of Wunk Sheek members — including Ludwig — were referred to the group from the liaison. For Skenandore, while the liaisons weren’t perfect, it was better than having no one at all. “There are definitely better things that can be done, but that’s a start,” Skenandore

“The university should be doing a better job of putting us in those places of community and allowing us access to those spaces and making sure that marginalized students know that there’s a place for them here, because I don’t think that we know that.”

Mariah Skenandore Oneida Nation Wunk Sheek co-president of External Affairs

The same is true for Skenandore. If not for having Roberta Hill, professor of English and American Indian Studies and a part of the Oneida tribe, as an instructor her first semester on campus, she wouldn’t have found Wunk Sheek. “Having Roberta Hill as my first professor — she was also Oneida — for me that was like, ‘Oh my God! My first professor here is Oneida!’” Skenandore said. “It almost gave me this expectation that I was going to be seeing more of my representation here, which I kind of had to learn the hard way wasn’t the case.” Lawrence Andrea contributed to this report.

News 6


Action Project Issue, February 2018

An independent student newspaper, serving the University of Wisconsin-Madison community since 1892 Volume 127, Issue 31

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News and Editorial Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Madeline Heim Andrew Bahl News Team News Manager Nina Bertelsen Campus Editor Lawrence Andrea College Editor Maggie Chandler City Editor Max Bayer State Editor Andy Goldstein Associate News Editor Luisa de Vogel Features Editor Sammy Gibbons Opinion Editors Madison Schultz • Jake Price Editorial Board Chair Jack Kelly Arts Editors Allison Garfield • Brandon Arbuckle Sports Editors Ethan Levy • Ben Pickman Gameday Editors Bremen Keasey • Ben Blanchard Almanac Editors Savannah McHugh • Patrick Hoeppner Photo Editors Cameron Lane-Flehinger Brandon Moe Graphics Editors Jade Sheng • Camille Paskind Multimedia Editor Jessica Rieselbach • Hannah Schwarz Science Editor Maggie Liu Life & Style Editor Megan Otto Copy Chiefs Sam Nesovanovic • Haley Sirota Justine Spore • Erin Jordan Copy Editors Dana Brandt Social Media Manager Ella Johnson Engagement Editor Jenna Mytton Special Pages Amileah Sutliff • Yi Wu

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Editorial Board Madeline Heim • Jack Kelly Ben Pickman • Madison Schultz Amileah Sutliff • Samantha Wilcox Andrew Bahl

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Culture of hyper-sexualization leads to high rates of sexual assault for Native women By Luisa de Vogel THE DAILY CARDINAL

Nearly half of all undergraduate Native American women on the UW-Madison campus have experienced sexual assault, according to a 2015 campus survey on the issue. For Sam Johnson, UHS Violence Prevention Manager, this statistic is startling but not surprising. “Perpetrators of sexual violence, particularly repeat offenders, strategically pick and choose who their victims are going to be,” Johnson said. “And one of the things they look for is, ‘How well connected is this person to the community socially? How likely are they to be believed if they were to report this to the police?’” The UW-Madison campus is home to few Native American students, only 100 students selfidentified as Native American on their application, and about 400 identified as Native American and something else. But while Native students have formed communities of support on campus, they still face erasure and isolation on such a large campus, according to Mariah Skenandore, outreach director and co-president of Wunk Sheek, one of UW-Madison’s Native American student groups. Emily Nelis, a recent UW-Madison graduate in social work and resident of the Bad River reservation, has studied the impact and cause of sexual violence against the Native community. “I don’t think anybody would really truly understand why it’s such a high number for Native women specifically,” Nelis said. “I think it stems from the idea that violence against Native women goes without … consequence for these non-Native perpetrators.” Because of policies surrounding tribal sovereignty, when nonNatives commit crimes — including sexual assault — on reservations, the state government is not permitted to intervene. But the tribal government does not have jurisdiction to press charges against non-Natives either. Instead, the federal government is responsible for intervening, but according to Skenandore, there is rarely redress brought against these perpetrators. Ninety-six percent of sexual violence against Native women is perpetrated by non-Native men. For Johnson, this statistic is part of the “best evidence” prevention experts have about the victimization of Native women. “Within social groups it’s typically people that are in the same demographic perpetrating crimes because we live as communities and as people we tend to live in segregation based on racial and ethnic lines,” Johnson said. Intergenerational trauma and colonial violence are often overlooked in discussions about the high rates of sexual violence

against Native women, according to Nelis. But they also have a huge effect on why Native communities are victimized. “The effects of intergenerational trauma have both psychological and physical effects on Native people and if you look through a timeline of, say, federal Indian policy … [violence] is pretty prevalent in a lot of that history,” Nelis said. Sexual violence and trauma were a common part of many of children’s experiences in federally run Indian boarding schools. Native American children were sent to these schools in an effort to assimilate them into colonial culture and were then prohib-

safe here, Skenandore said. Walking down State Street, she often receives unwarranted and racist attention from men, asking “what are you?” It’s a question Skenandore says stems from their desire to categorize and exoticize non-white women. Then, she says, when men find out she’s Native, they take the exotiziation to a different level. “If I were to try to educate them in that situation or reject them fully, there’s no saying that they won’t become violent, so for my own safety I have to feed into what they’re saying, at least a little bit,” Skenandore said. “I can’t talk away from that situation … and in doing so those men think what


Nearly half of Native women at UW have experienced sexual assault. ited from speaking their Native languages and participating in cultural traditions. This historical violence against Native children is still not well understood today but plays a role in the continuous sexualization of Native women, according to Skenandore. Many Americans grew up watching the Disney movie “Pocahontas,” but few know the true story of her life, Skenandore said. In real life, Pocahontas was a 14-year-old rape victim who was taken from her family. “Disney’s version of “Pocahontas” is the most problematic thing I’ve ever seen,” Skenandore said. “For people to turn it into some sort of love story or something is really disgusting and I think in doing so people sexualize Pocahontas and then they sexualize Native women.” This hyper-sexualization translates to the everyday experiences of Native women on the UW-Madison campus today, according to Skenandore. “Native women are expected to fit in this sexual box, in a headdress and with dream catchers everywhere,” Skenandore said. “It really stems from appropriation, honestly, because people appropriate our culture and sexualize themselves while wearing things that traditionally indigenous people would wear.” While the UW-Madison campus sits on Ho-Chunk land, indigenous students can’t always feel

they are doing is okay, but there’s no way for me to express that.” This education is a large part of what Johnson does as a violence prevention manager with UHS. “One of our prevention strategies is men’s engagement … certainly not all people who perpetrate sexual assault or sexual harassment are men, but about 95 percent of perpetrators are,”Johnson said. Following the climate survey results, the UHS team worked to educate themselves on how to specifically support the Native women on UW’s campus. Through trainings with the former UW-Madison American Indian Campus and Community Liaison and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, the team worked to understand the experiences of Native women on campus, as well as learn about Native culture. “You’re not ready to talk about this intersection of this issue before you even know the 101 information about history and culture,” Johnson said. In the year following the release of the campus climate survey, Johnson said, she made an effort to participate in cultural events in the Native community and inform students about the resources available through UHS. “Even though there are 43,000 students and 63 native students, our job is to prevent violence before first-time incidents,” Johnson said. “Being

connected with communities who are most at risk is part of preventing violence. In the months following the survey release, the university also planned a healing circle for Native American survivors of both sexual violence and racism at the Dejope fire circle. A Ho-Chunk elder facilitated the ceremony, but the event was interrupted by two white students yelling stereotypical Native American “war-cries.” “Everybody in our circle was really shocked, but the elder he just kept going, you know he didn’t pay it any attention,” Nelis said. “It was shameful, it really was … we were angry, we were sad.” While the perpetrators of the incident were forced to apologize and punished for their actions, both Skenandore and Nelis don’t feel the university has done enough to support Native American women on campus. Nelis wishes the university did more to incorporate Native cultural practices when addressing issues of sexual violence against native women. These practices include sweat lodges and other traditional healing ceremonies. For Skenandore, the limited spaces meant to support women on the UW campus focus primarily on the experiences of white women and leave out Native voices — which is problematic on a campus that lies on Ho-Chunk land. “[The administration] doesn’t help us at all. We don’t have any real guidance or resources and I think that when I do reach out it really depends on who I am reaching out to whether or not they are responsive or receptive,” Skenandore said. “I think the things that they do for their women, they do for white women.” Meredith McGlone, UW-Madison’s director of communications, stated that the university is continuously working to ensure the voices of all students are heard. “After the 2015 AAU survey highlighted the special needs of certain groups of students, including Native women, we responded with additional efforts targeted to those groups,” McGlone said in a statement. Despite the marginalization of Native women, Skenandore is grateful for the opportunity to study at UW-Madison and hopes to use her privilege to elevate the voices of others who may not feel heard. “We focus too much on our oppression and not enough on our privilege and we sit here feeling sorry for ourselves … yes I’m a woman, but I’m able bodied, I’m light-skinned, I live in an apartment right now, I’m going to school, I’m privileged in all these ways,” Skenandore said. “We need to advocate for folks who don’t have a voice.”


Action Project Issue, February 2018



Men’s Basketball

‘Rezpect the game’: Basketball a unifying force for Native American communities gatherings they attended together. People would flock to speak with them and pose for pictures, ask questions and thank them for their impact in the community. In mid-December, when Koenig, now a member of the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA G-League, returned home to play the Wisconsin Herd, he gave out more than 30 tickets to friends and family. All around the stands, Native pride resonated throughout Menominee Nation Arena.


Last fall, when Bronson Koenig arrived at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota and exited the trailer that he and his brother Miles had driven 14 hours in, it was nearly midnight. But as he got out of the vehicle in the dead of night, a man from behind was still able to recognize the then-Wisconsin Badger guard. “Hey, is that Bronson Koenig?,” the man called out. Everywhere Koenig went during his weekend trip he was recognized. A casual clinic on a dirt basketball court with a leaning hoop and a crooked rim turned into a 50-person training session. His indoor clinic featured a gym filled to capacity with every basket in use. The former Wisconsin guard describes his trip to Standing Rock last fall as an “eye-opening” experience. It was the moment Koenig says he truly realized the impact he was having — not just in the Native American community in Wisconsin, but throughout North America. But the link between the sport and Native American culture extends far beyond Koenig. While Native American basketball role models are few and far between, the sport does have a unique significance in many Native communities.

“It would have been extremely nice to have Native American role models to grow up to.” Bronson Koenig former Wisconsin guard Grand Rapids Drive guard

Koenig did not grow up on a reservation. Instead he was raised by a German father and Ho-Chunk mother in La Crosse, Wis. But on many reservations, Native Americans play basketball, often in a distinct style. “Rez ball,” according to the New York Times, makes Mike D’Antoni’s seven-seconds-or-

“All you need is a hoop and a ball...So socioeconomically, virtually anybody can play the game.” Don Stanley professor of Life Sciences Communiication UW-Madison PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEXANDRA HOOTNICK/THE PLAYERS TRIBUNE

Bronson Koenig didn’t grow up with many Native American role models, but he’s becoming one on and off the court. less system look like a slowdown offense. The frantic pace, constant defensive pressure and run-and-gun style helps create a brand of basketball that is rarely replicated. The Native American Basketball Invitational holds annual rez ball tournaments in the Southwest United States and troves of Native “rezballers” attend such games and tournaments looking to see the unique basketball style on display. But on a more granular level, Don Stanley, a professor in UW’s Department of Life Sciences Communication and a member of the Oneida Nation, has seen the universality of the sport make a major difference first hand as he has traveled to various reservations and worked with children. Years ago on a trip to the Bad River Reservation, Stanley recalls using basketball as the means to engage the group he was trying to get to know. “All you need is a hoop and a ball,” Stanley said. “You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need fancy fields. You don’t need anything. So,

socioeconomically, virtually anybody can play the game.” Stanley adds that the lack of exercise and improper care for the body and mind can often be problematic for Native American youth, and contends that basketball can make a major difference on inspiring healthy habits. Stanley first met Koenig on one of Koenig’s first days as a freshman. They talked about Native American heritage and history. They went to drum circles and Pow Wows together. And the duo still talks every few weeks about virtually everything — except basketball. Stanley has seen Koenig develop as a basketball player and, more importantly to Stanley, as a role model. But he admits that he thinks as Koenig’s career progresses, he should continue to emphasize the importance of dieting correctly and exercising frequently, two pitfalls on many Native American reservations. Will Decorah, a former teammate of Koenig’s at UW and a fellow Native American, adds that Native Americans are often not seen as the most athletic group of people, but having prominent

basketball players like Koenig and Shoni Schimmel are already starting to inspire the next generation of Native American athletes. “It would have been extremely nice to have Native American role models to grow up to,” Koenig told the Daily Cardinal. “But I’m just really proud that I can be that person for a ton of Native American kids.” Even while Native American participation on the collegiate level remains low — in 2015-’16, the lone year that Decorah and Koenig shared the court together, there were only ten American Indian/Alaskan Natives in Division I men’s basketball according to the NCAA — having just a few Native American role models can make a difference. Koenig constantly hears from Native Americans from all over North American on social media providing words of encouragement. Decorah, a two-year manager at Wisconsin and an active player for one season, also received a flood of support when he was still with the program. The two became local celebrities at many of the Native American

Fans held up signs of encouragement and gave Koenig and teammate Derek Willis, a member of the Northern Araphao Tribe, t-shirts with the “Rezpect My Game” across the chest. “It’s nice to have all that support from the Native community,” Koenig told reporters after the game. “At any games we go to, there’s usually a Native tribe there or people who are Native American. And it’s something that younger kids can look up to,” Willis added. And, while Koenig and Decorah didn’t grow up on reservations, they both understand more about how Native Americans live today and about their cultural heritage and continue to see basketball as a means to connect with people. From rez ball, to Koenig and Stanley uniting individuals at clinics and workshops, the sport clearly has a role in Native American communities, no matter if the basket is leaning or straight and the court is made of parquet wood or merely a patch of uneven dirt. As Stanley says, “It really just brings people together.”

Number of Student-Athletes

Men’s Basketball Demographic Data at NCAA Division I Universities in 2015-’16 3000

In 2015-’16, Bronson Koenig and Will Decorah were two of the only 21 American Indian/Alaskan Native men’s basketball players in NCAA Division I athletics.



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Race and Ethnicity

American Indian




Action Project Issue, February 2018

Wunk Sheek drum circle tells the stories of UW’s Native students


Wunk Sheek Drum Circle meets every Monday night to learn their traditional songs. The group gives UW’s Native American students a community to share their experiences. By Allison Garfield THE DAILY CARDINAL

Every Monday evening, the Wunk Sheek student organization holds a drum circle to pass on Native American traditions and stories. The drum holds significant cultural importance to the group, especially since it was returned after being confiscated by the university for over a year. If you haven’t heard of Wunk Sheek, you’re not alone — many native students don’t even know about the organization and those that do may have a hard time finding it. Wunk Sheek is an organization for Native American students on the UW-Madison campus and serves members of the community interested in indigenous issues, culture and history. The group is open to everyone, not just Native Americans. Since it was established in the 1960s, its main purpose is to be a home for native students on campus and provide a community. They host events, workshops and dialogues, bringing in people to speak and holding conversations with one another. They make crafts, including moccasins and beadings. They frequently teach each other new skills and share their tribes’ traditions. Today, there are approximately 25 members. The drum circle is much more exclusive, however. Averaging five men, group members gather around one big drum that sits at the center of the room once a week for an hour. Other people have been recruited to sing and to play the hand drums. Though it is mainly men around the drum circle, women can hand-drum and sing. At powwows, they even dance around the drum. Collin Ludwig, co-president of Fiscal Relations for Wunk Sheek and a senior at UW-Madison, and Michael Gilpin, freshman general body member of Wunk Sheek, sat down with me to discuss the importance of the drum circle and organization. Allison: What is the significance of the Wunk Sheek organization to you? Collin: To me, personally, it’s a family. It’s a place where I can be with other native students and people I can relate to. I didn’t

know about Wunk Sheek until the end of my sophomore year — that’s when I got my first email about Wunk Sheek. I didn’t know there was a student organization for natives until the end of my freshman year but I didn’t know how to go about finding Wunk Sheek. I looked for it and still couldn’t find it. I think it took me so long to find it because, in general, the university doesn’t advertise minority groups as much as other groups. Now, it’s the place where I can go to be with family. Michael: I’m a first-year so I’m new here, but it’s nice having Wunk Sheek here as a safe spot. It’s a community to belong to. It’s where I go to see other Native Americans and talk about the things that have happened in our lives, like on reservations. It’s nice to come here on a majority white campus and see other Native Americans in a group, together. Allison: What is the cultural importance of the drum circle? Why do members participate? Collin: It’s part of us culturally. It tells stories — that’s what drum circle is. You sit around, you drum, you sing a little bit and you talk and tell stories and pass along history. Eventually, once we get good and learn songs, we want to go to Pow Wows and to other gigs. Michael: Drumming, in general, is like passing on tradition. The songs get passed on from generation to generation. Each song can carry a story or significance and each song is different. I was also told that drumming could be a source of healing. The drum in the drum circle will always be there in your life. When things are going bad, the drum will always be there for you — it’s like a way of life. Allison: What are the powwows like? Michael: They’re essentially a big party, a big celebration. Collin: I like to see it as the Super Bowl meeting Comic-Con. The Comic-Con part of it is vendors selling items like beading, beads and art. The Super Bowl part is the competition powwow, which we always look forward to. There’s dancing: Women compete to see who is the best

and there’s prize money. There’s usually two per tribe per year. Wunk Sheek’s powwow is intertribal because we’re not all in one tribe here in the group. Also, some tribes have sobriety powwow on New Year’s to prevent people from going out to drink. Allison: How long does it take someone to learn the drums/a song? Is there music you read or is it improvised? Michael: It’s usually your whole life. You’re learning new things everyday, it’s like the language. It’s just like being a normal white person — something new happens everyday and that’s communicated through drum. I grew up in a Pow Wow family so I have been doing it my whole life. Collin: I didn’t grow up on a reservation, so I started when I joined Wunk Sheek. When I was two, my mom and I moved off the reservation with my dad because he’s white. We moved to a white town. I wasn’t really that connected to [the reservation]. I spent half my childhood there with my cousins and grandparents, though. I wasn’t traditional, but I was there.

Allison: You told me that the university took away the drum. Do you mind if I asked what happened? Collin: There was a faculty member who worked on Bascom; they were part of the diversity office. We had a Wunk Sheek Singers Group and they went out to gigs and powwows and made money. The faculty member and the university said that drum is made with taxpayer money, student money and that we can’t go out to gigs and make money from it. So they took the drum and they took the money too. They’ve had it ever since. We just got it back in November, before Thanksgiving. They took it a year or two ago. Allison: Is there anything else you want to add? Collin: I think most students don’t know about our group because we’re so small of a population on campus and in general. The university says they’re all about diversity but they don’t advertise or promote minority groups. Michael: I agree. We’re pretty underrepresented on campus out of all the minority groups. Whenever I talk to someone,

they’re pretty shocked to hear I’m Native American. Collin: There are two things that go through their mind: First of all, they’re like, “Holy sh*t, a native! That’s weird.” The second thing is then they’ll ask all the stereotypical questions. Michael: “Oh my god, you wear normal clothes?” Collin: “Wow, you own a sweater? Wow, you wear jeans? A hat?!” Michael: “I’ve heard all of those before.” Collin: I like that the media is talking to us now because they usually only come talk to us when things are bad or something has gone wrong. They never reach out to us just to showcase our groups. When something bad happens, suddenly everyone is like, “Hey, hey! We need to talk to them!” Michael: The only time I see native coverage is when the media go out to reservations just to see how terrible the quality of living is there. They do a twominute documentary and then they’re done. Colin: The media never goes out and actually asks how we are doing. That’s the bigger issue.


Buck Martin, a Stockbridge-Munsee elder, teaches Wunk Sheek members traditional powwow songs.

Action Project Issue, February 2018  
Action Project Issue, February 2018