WOLF

Wenona Wolf: "Throughout history, there’s a never-ending trail of abuse of Native Americans, and we need to understand that history if we’re going to undo some of those wrongs."

For the fifth year, Cap Times reporters asked several Madisonians to share their "bright ideas" for the new year. We will publish the 2018 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.

I grew up on the St. Croix Chippewa Reservation in northwest Wisconsin and am an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. I want to see Native Americans be part of conversations, ideas and solutions. As a city, we need to celebrate and honor Native people, as well as work to improve the living conditions of Natives here in the state.

We’ve spent a lot of time as a city talking about disparities among different racial groups, but many times those conversations don’t address Native peoples. It’s frustrating and hurtful, because I’ve seen firsthand a lot of the struggles within the Native American community. In my work at Kids Forward, I've seen data showing that living conditions are below what they should be.

A key piece in achieving equity is understanding why Native people face such disparities in the first place. Throughout history, there’s a never-ending trail of abuse of Native Americans, and we need to understand that history if we’re going to undo some of those wrongs. Our community and state were built on stolen indigenous land and everyone who currently lives here benefits from that.

I want to challenge government, nonprofit and community leaders to rethink how they’re going about their work and whether they’re engaging Native American communities along the way. As Native people, we know what is best for us, but we need to be listened to, we need to be included and we need allies.