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Oneida Chairman calls for more financial support during State of the Tribes Address

Oneida Nation Chairman, Tehassi Hill addresses the Wisconsin government about ways to form better communication and relations to benefit both parties during the annual State of the Tribes Address

Image By: Screenshot courtesy of Wisconsin Public Television

Oneida Nation Chairman, Tehassi Hill delivered the annual State of the Tribes Address where he aimed to strengthen the relationship between the tribal and state governments Tuesday at the Capitol.

Hill, as a representative for the 11 Wisconsin Native Tribe governments, opened the speech by discussing the important economic contributions they provide for the state, like hunting and gambling, which amount to over 53 million dollars. 

However, he then spoke about the disparities between the environment, education and prominent opioid epidemic issues within his community, highlighting paralleling issues the entire state faces. 

Despite Gov. Tony Evers’ declaration of 2019 as the “Year of Clean Drinking Water,” Hill emphasized damaging water conditions within tribal lands. He called out the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to change its definition of water, which would narrow its water protections across the country. 

“The impacts of the proposed narrowing of the protection could be devastating to Wisconsin waters and tribal rights,” Hill said pointing to the effect the change would have on both communities. “Our existence as we know it relies upon our action.” 

Despite the common ground found in environmental efforts, Hill finds a major cultural divide between the communities. He believes this can begin to be mitigated through the termination of stereotypes and images portrayed within school mascots, logos and nicknames. 

Hill was disappointed that 31 public schools in Wisconsin still used these tactics for their mascots and requested legislation to permanently block this. 

“Indians are people, not mascots,” the Chairman said.

However, Hill thanked the State Tribal Relations committee for their education proposals, which included the continuation and strengthening of Native American history courses in public K-12 education. One of the proposals would add to the existing course by requiring classes to also focus on the thriving Native culture of today.

Hill addressed the cause of substance abuse disparities within his community –– where the rate is 8 to 9 times higher than the state’s general population –– due to underfunded health care systems. 

He then thanked the government for their contribution from the budget to the development of an inpatient adolescent treatment facility, which will help patients recover from the affects of the opioid epidemic while incorporating cultural traditions. 

Other issues the Chairman asked the government to provide further support on included housing insecurity, domestic abuse and the Indian Child Welfare Act –– noting that Native Indian women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than the general population. 

“I call on this team to continue doing what it does best, building bridges that bring us together,” Hill said in an effort to form solidarity. 

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