Loading
Search
NEWS STORIES

"Our people are hurting": Challenges on Menominee Reservation explain tribe's push for Kenosha casinoSubmitted: 07/21/2014

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


KESHENA - Most things on the Menominee Indian Reservation seem to have a waiting list.

The tribal daycare center?

Waiting list.

"We could help more parents if we had the staffing ability," says Department of Early Childhood Services Director Penny Escalante. "Right now, we don't have that staffing ability, so we have 90 people on the waiting list."

The tribal clinic?

Too much waiting, not enough care.

"It would sure be nice to have more resources to work with," says Jerry Waukau, the Tribal Health Administrator.

"We just are one of the poorest of the poor," Laurie Boivin puts it bluntly.

She's the Menominee Tribal Chairwoman.

"We are the oldest indigenous tribe to what is now the state of Wisconsin," Boivin says proudly.

The tribe has been in what's now Wisconsin for around 12,000 years.

But the Menominee have struggled since Congress took action to "terminate", or end the special relationship with, the tribe in 1954.

They got federal recognition back 19 years later, but it has never been the same.

"We have people that we turn away every day that we simply don't have enough money to service," Boivin regrets.

Menominee County has the highest poverty in the state, the worst health, and nearly the worst unemployment.

The tribe's reservation makes up the entire county.

If the tribe simply had a way to make more money, members say, it could alleviate those problems and give members a more stable life.

"We need help. This type of money coming in will help in those ways and a myriad of other ways," says Gary Besaw.

Besaw's talking about the huge amount of revenue the tribe could get from a proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha.

"With Kenosha, we see this as a godsend as far as employment, jobs, and the boost to the economy," says Besaw, the Menominee Kenosha Gaming Authority Chairman.

The decision of whether that casino will be allowed rests with one person - the Governor.

Governor Walker asked for, and got, an extension until February 19, 2015, to make that decision.

The Forest County Potawatomi strongly oppose the plan.

As part of their opposition, they fear it could hurt the success of their Milwaukee hotel and casino.

But the Menominee feel their concerns are just as pressing.

"We have 145-family waiting list, which doesn't move a whole lot," says Shane Dixon Sr., the Tribal Housing Acting Director.

That waiting list theme is true for housing, too.

"People need immediate housing, and we just don't have it. (We're forced to tell them), we're sorry, we can't help you at this minute," Dixon says.

More money could also help the Menominee improve their worst-in-the-state health ranking.

"We can't give you all of the stuff you want," Waukau says of the care his clinic can give. "We'll give you life-threatening stuff, we'll give you maybe some testing, but it's not everything."

The majority of money for tribal programs now comes from the tribe's small-to-medium-size casino on their reservation in Keshena.

"We don't generate enough income, because we're a rural casino, to meet the tribal needs," says Jim Reiter, the General Manager of the Menominee Casino Resort.

The Menominee are in a tough spot.

It's a tough spot leaders at places like the daycare center, tribal housing, and the clinic think Kenosha casino money could help solve.

"Yes, at the end of the day, it comes down to funding," Boivin says.

"We need the casino," Besaw adds.

"Our people are hurting here," Waukau says. "I think our job as leaders is to take away the hurt."

The Menominee people hope the Governor will side with them.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com





 IN OTHER NEWS

MOLE LAKE - When you drive through Mole Lake, you'll notice a lot of solar panels.

It's part of a project tribal leaders have worked on for more than a year, and they hope it will save the community a lot in energy costs.

Tribal leaders applied and received a couple million dollars in grants from the U.S. Energy Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department. Then they started working with a Pewaukee-based company called SunVest Solar, Inc., and started installing the panels on homes and businesses in 
September.

Now, they are almost done.

According to SunVest Solar, this is the largest per capital solar array installation in the Midwest. Tribal Administrator Jeff Ackley, Jr., says 50 homes and 17 businesses have solar panels.

"Most of the state of Wisconsin has less than one percent of its generation coming from solar and now you have a community where almost 50 percent of the homes get their power from the sun," said Adam Gusse, head of operations at SunVest Solar, Inc.

"I thought it would put us on the map," Ackley said.

Project leaders think the panels can produce up to 85 percent of power in homes and between 20 and 60 percent for businesses.

"It will be significant savings all around for the community," Ackley said. "From rough crunchings of numbers we're looking at probably saving between $60,000 and $80,000 per year on energy usage."

The first batch of panels turned on in November, and some people say they've already seen the savings.

"Some are seeing up to $100 in savings just after that first month," Gusse said. "So they'll see much more per month savings as they go on."

Gusse said the panels don't produce as much power in the winter as they will in the summer, but residents still save money.

Tribal leaders can apply for more grants to put panels on more homes. 

+ Read More

MINOCQUA - A Green Bay man died in a snowmobile crash in Minocqua Tuesday night.

The Minocqua Police Department says the crash happened at 7:13 p.m. on Lower Kaubashine Road near the intersection of Camp Nine Road and Cedar Falls Drive.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - It seemed like Rhinelander could finally start looking for a new city administrator. But the City Council will now consider another option, one that could potentially create a longer wait to fill an important job.

+ Read More

Play Video

TOMAHAWK - Fishermen who like the Grandmother Flowage near Tomahawk needed to find a new place to fish this past fall.

The Packaging Corporation of America lowered the water level 14 feet to repair the dam there.

PCA owns the dam that controls the flowage.

The DNR recommended emptying the flowage a quarter inch per hour, which comes to about six inches per day.

+ Read More

Play Video

THREE LAKES - Students in Three Lakes now have a new option for winter recess. This year the Three Lakes Park District donated an ice skating rink to the Three Lakes Elementary School. The Three Lakes Fire Department and other members of the community joined in to put the rink together.

+ Read More

RHINELANDER - Many Northwoods hunters think the DNR's baiting and feeding ban doesn't work as intended. Some actually think it's hurting the deer herd.

At the beginning of 2016, the DNR banned baiting and feeding in Oneida, Vilas, and Forest counties.

That's because a deer was found with chronic wasting disease in Three Lakes. Now, hunters and the DNR want to find a way to stop the spread.

+ Read More

Play Video

EAGLE RIVER - Take salvaged metal and wood, hand it to one Eagle River artist, and watch his imagination come to life.

+ Read More
+ More General News
Search: 





Click Here