Friday, March 02, 2007

You go girl!!!!

MADISON — Tribal chairwoman Patricia DePerry urged state lawmakers to uphold tribal sovereignty during an address Thursday that was as much her personal story as an overview of Wisconsin tribal issues.

In the third annual State of the Tribes address, DePerry, chairwoman of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, told members of the state Assembly that a misunderstanding of tribal sovereignty has led to conflicts between state game wardens and tribal members.

Tribal sovereignty is "a decree ordered by the United States government when treaties were signed," said DePerry. "It's not up for negotiation; it is not up for discussion. It is the law."

DePerry, the first female to serve as chairwoman of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, also was critical of state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Hassett for failing to consult with tribes on issues important to both the agency and tribes.

She called for meaningful dialogue between state government and tribes.

The chairwoman told legislators of her impoverished upbringing as the eldest of nine children born to alcoholic parents. In the Catholic school she attended, she said, she was physically abused until the seventh grade, when she told her nun schoolteacher that the abuse had to stop.

"The moral to this story is we need to be protectors of each other, of those that cannot, for whatever reason, stand up for themselves," she said, adding that tribes have come a long way since then.

DePerry said tribes today have much to be hopeful about, but that many problems still exist, such as poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse.

The annual tribal address was started by former Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, and has been continued by current Assembly Speaker Michael Huebsch, R-West Salem.

Huebsch said he agrees with DePerry that lawmakers should be educated about treaty rights, and that he advocates holding a workshop on sovereignty for the Legislature.

"The chairwoman was correct in that it really isn't up for debate. Sovereignty is in place and it exists," Huebsch said.
Karen Lincoln Michel writes for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

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