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Sunday, December 03, 2023

12 Badgers recognized in Madison365’s annual Wisconsin’s Most Influential Native American Leaders of 2023

The nonprofit news publication chose 12 former and current students and employees of UW-Madison, to make up their list of influential leaders for this year.

Twelve University of Wisconsin-Madison community members were recognized on March 24 in Madison365’s “Wisconsin’s 33 Most Influential Native American Leaders for 2023.”

Madison365 is a nonprofit news publication that conducts annual lists of influential leaders from different racial and ethnic groups. The publication has been compiling the lists for over eight years and introduced the Native American leader list in 2020, according to Henry Sanders, the CEO and publisher of Madison365.

“We want to show people succeeding,” Robert Chappell, executive editor of Madison365, said. “Part of the reason we do these is to inspire young people to aspire to be something they want to live.”

These recognitions initially started with Black leaders in 2015. Once the outlet established authentic relationships with people from other racial and ethnic communities, the lists began to expand, according to Chappell. A greater number of connections through past lists motivated a chain reaction where the outlet could connect with more people.

“When you get a list of people who are really invested in the communities — they are working hard to serve those communities — it becomes pretty clear who should get the recognition pretty quickly,” Chappell told The Daily Cardinal.

Madison365 wants students of color to be inspired by those they see achieving great things, according to Chappell. Sanders described how he wants kids in Wisconsin to have role models to look up to and also learn about those in the community.

“It is an honor to be recognized among so many talented individuals,” Carla Vigue said, one of this year's winners. 

Vigue is a member of the Oneida Nation and the director of tribal relations at UW-Madison, according to Madison365.

“Of course, I can think of many, many more people who work very hard for Indian Country, including those leaders who helped me along in my education and career,” said Vigue. “I am very proud to be a Badger who works with the tribes and the Native community to create opportunity for all.”

Another leader recognized was Dr. Carolee Dodge Francis, a member of the Oneida Nation and the first Native American woman to chair a department at UW-Madison. Dodge Francis chairs the Civil Society and Community Studies within the School of Human Ecology. 

“I have always been focused on being a mentor to students, even right after graduating from high school,” Dodge Francis told the Cardinal.

She explained how she got her calling for mentoring when she was a camp counselor at a Johnson-O’Malley summer camp after high school. This led to all of her professional and academic positions having a strong mentoring component, she said.

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“Mentoring brings me such joy. Just recently, a Native American student I mentored from 11th grade contacted me and let me know that she had two strong offers from prominent medical schools,” Dodge Francis said. “This news always brightens my day, I can only imagine how the parents feel — probably doing the happy dance.”

The Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s Annual Awards conference will be hosted in Madison from April 20-21, according to Dodge Francis. The next annual lists from Madison365 feature Asian American leaders in June and Latino leaders in September. 

Read more about the winners of 2023 below. 

The 12 leaders recognized:

Carla Vigue

Vigue is a member of the Oneida Nation and the director of tribal relations at UW-Madison. Vigue was previously director of communication, events and community engagement for the National Council of Urban Indian Health in Washington D.C. She served as communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs for more than a decade. There, she implemented a statewide strategy for engaging tribal veterans. 

Josie G. Lee

Lee is the director of the Ho-Chunk Nation Museum and Cultural Center. She has 10 years of experience as an independent curator, artist and museum consultant. The Field Museum, La Crosse County Historical Society and Overture Center for the Arts have featured Lee’s work. 

Nicole Soulier 

Soulier is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa from the Bad River Indian Reservation. She is the director of college access and experience programs at Madison College.

Kip Ritchie

Ritchie is the chief operations officer of the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation. He has also served as president of Greenfire Management Service since 2014. 

Richard Monette:

Monette is a professor of law and has served as director of the Great Indian Law Center at UW-Madison since 1992. From 2000-03, he took leave to serve as CEO and chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. In the late 1980s, Monette worked as a staff attorney with the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He served as president of the National Native American Bar Association and sat on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s Indigenous People’s Subcommittee. Monette also served as Chief Judge for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Special Judge for the Trial Court of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Special Judge for the Ho-Chunk Nation. 

Melissa Metoxen

Metoxen is the assistant director of the Native American Center for Health Professionals at UW-Madison and has been working there since 2013. She is a member of the Oneida Nation and is from the Oneida and Green Bay area. 

Annie Jones, Ph.D.

Jones is a professor and organization and development and Tribal Nations specialist with UW-Madison’s Division of Extension. She is an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation and an affiliate faculty member with the Department of American Indian Studies and Community and Environmental Sociology. Having worked for the Division of Extension for almost 25 years, she served in a variety of capacities including associate dean, community development educator based in Kenosha and special assistant to the dean for strategic direction. Jones also co-leads UW-Madison’s UW-Native Nations effort and specializes in community-based and participatory action research.

Martina Gast

Gast is a member of the Red Rock Indian Band, an Ojibwe First Nation. She is the founder of Pipestone Law and specializes in tribal employment law. She served as an in-house employment attorney for the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Wisconsin. There, she was responsible for coordinating all human resources matters, and employment involving the tribe and its entities. 

Tim Annis

Annis is originally from Sheboygan and went on to work with UW-Madison’s Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE) program. This program helps first-generation, low-income students achieve their college aspirations. Now, he's a global brand manager for all of SC Johnson’s disinfection products. 

Amanda White Eagle

White Eagle is the senior counsel to the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice. She assumed this role in 2019 after serving four years as the Ho-Chunk Nation’s attorney general. White Eagle has 15 years of experience in trial law, previously serving as a judicial officer, interim chief justice and associate judge, as well as the tribe’s attorney general and executive director for the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice. White Eagle has also served as tribal court judge or justice to tribal governments across the United States, including the Wampanoag Judiciary, Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals and Santee Sioux Nation Judiciary.

Carolee Dodge Francis, Ph.D.

Dodge Francis is a member of the Oneida Nation and the first Native American woman to chair a department at UW-Madison. She is the chair of the Civil Society and Community Studies Department at the School of Human Ecology. She has been a principal investigator for several National Institutes of Health-funded grants and a member of a global evaluation committee that focuses on ensuring policies and evaluation practices for Indigenous people are based on equity, fairness and justice. 

Denise Blackdeer Wagner

Blackdeer Wagner is the board chair and cofounder at Greywolf Partners. This is a commercial real estate firm with offices in Cottage Grove and Milwaukee. The Indigenous Business Group recognized the firm in 2022 as Business of the Year.

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