STEVENS POINT, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents for the first time welcomed leaders from the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council to its meeting Friday at UW-Stevens Point.
“This is a historic day for UW-Stevens Point and the entire UW System,” said Andy Gokee, director of the Native American Center at UW-Stevens Point. Gokee, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, delivered an opening invocation, performed a welcome song for chiefs, and presented ceremonial gifts of tobacco to the visiting tribal leaders.
“We are honored and thankful to be here to begin this partnership with tribal communities,” said Cristina Danforth, chairwoman of the Oneida Tribe and a UW-Green Bay graduate. “We have a saying: you can feed a person but you can also teach them to grow food and fish and be self-sustaining. Education is key to that, to teach people to sustain themselves.”
The meeting was intended to launch efforts to develop a stronger educational partnership between the UW System and the tribal nations of Wisconsin, and to improve Native American student success by promoting more enrollment, retention, and graduation.
Regent President Michael J. Falbo noted the Board’s honor in welcoming the Council leaders, and shared the UW Regents’ interest in building “a strong and productive partnership between us, one that will improve the outlook for Native American students, faculty, and their communities, and benefit all of us.”
“We have shared relationships and shared concerns,” said Danforth, adding that student support – educational, financial, and social – are vital to ensuring greater retention and graduation rates among Native American students.
“Part of your mission statement is to be responsive to groups that have been underserved. Well, that’s us,” said Chairman Mic Isham, of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. “We’re on the same team.”
Regent Ed Manydeeds, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and UW System President Ray Cross had attended a Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council meeting in July.
“This collaboration has to happen for the success of our students. We should all be working together,” Manydeeds said.
President Cross told the leaders, “You’ve enlightened us with your counsel and your wisdom and you’ve challenged us to work harder to serve you, Wisconsin’s sovereign people. I hope this is just the beginning, the first step.”
Other tribal leaders at the meeting included: Executive Director Michael Allen, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (also representing Chairman Tom Maulson, Lac du Flambeau Band of Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin, and Chairman Harold Frank, Forrest County Potawatomi Community), Chairwoman Laurie Boivin, Menominee Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin; President Jon Greendeer, Ho-Chunk Nation; Chairman Chris McGeshick, Sokaogon Chippewa Community; and Greg Miller, on behalf of President Wallace Miller, Stockbridge-Munsee Community. Dr. Verna Fowler, president of the College of Menominee Nation, also attended.
The Regents also recognized Dorothy “Dot” Davids, the first Native American graduate of UW-Stevens Point, with a UW System Certificate of Meritorious Achievement for her outstanding service as a life-long educator, advocate, and leader. Davids, who earned her education degree at what was then-called Central State Teachers College in 1945, went on to work 20 years at UW-Extension.
Davids passed away one week ago at the age of 91. Family members accepted the award on her behalf.