Tribal president calls for greater cooperation with Legislature

Tribal president calls for greater cooperation with Legislature

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – More cooperation between tribal and state government leaders could help address health care concerns and improve economic development, the president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians told the state Legislature on Feb. 26.

Robert Chicks gave the State of the Tribes speech before a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly, as well as representatives of Wisconsin’s 11 American Indian tribes.

Calling for more than ”ceremonial regard for one another’s role in government,” Chicks urged the Legislature to pass a joint resolution recognizing tribal governments. Such a move, which would not confer any new rights or create a new law, would help bolster greater cooperation between the tribes and state government, Chicks said.

”This is something meaningful, not just symbolic,” he said. ”It does pave the way for more productive discussions and meetings in the future and it should have been done a long time ago.”

Chicks also called for renewed attention to economic development on American Indian land, which he said would help address health care problems.

”We need to create a stronger, healthier, economic partnership,” he said. ”What works best for all of us is when we do it together. Making Wisconsin strong is our business too.”

Chicks, who is also president of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, called for the tribes to be included in discussions about the Great Lakes Compact. A list of the tribes’ concerns about the compact was going to be delivered soon to Speaker of the Assembly Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, he said.

Huebsch has expressed concern over the compact, which was designed to prevent thirsty regions from tapping the Great Lakes. The pact, signed by governors in eight Great Lakes states in 2005, needs approval from all eight legislatures and Congress to take effect.

It has not yet been approved in Wisconsin.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.