GCA ousted, President Cleveland remains, with decisions at General Council

By Ken Luchterhand

Twelve resolutions were positioned for action for the General Council, with the first and last resolution, like bookends, bringing forward the most contentious issues.
General Council was held on Saturday, September 17, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, with Gerald Cleveland voted to the chairperson position.
The first resolution, presented by Michelle DeCora, called for the dissolving of the General Council Agency (GCA) and the last asked for the removal of Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland, which was presented by Jeremy Rockman.
The first resolution passed by a 1,068 vote. The last resolution failed 405 in favor and 1,386 against.
Other resolutions were an approval of the GCA budget, an increase in per cap payments, a provision that says all General Council resolutions go into law if the Legislature doesn’t act on it with a year, a change in the Constitution that included protecting the rights of nature, providing homes to elders first, a program to provide alternative energy to elder homes, decreasing the age to be considered elders and elite elders, rescind last year’s resolution to protect the earth, provide children their trust fund when they turn 18, and provide health insurance to all tribal members.
DeCora said she submitted the resolution based on the lack of output provided by the GCA. She said all she could find on the organization’s web site were meeting minutes and agendas. She cited the number of times the GCA members stayed in out-of-town hotels and claimed mileage, yet she could not find any reports of what they had accomplished. She objected with the $1.4 million budget.
GCA Advocate Joy Thompson took the podium and explained that the person who normally posts items on the web site is gone and that person has not been replaced. She said she posts much of the information with the Hocak Worak and with the legislative aides. Also, of the $1.4 million budget, $700,000 is to pay for the annual General Council meeting, she said.
Parr Decorah of the GCA said the budget for GCA is voted upon by the General Council every year and last year the budget was voted down. The agency is in the Constitution and no one will get paid for the General Council meeting if the resolution is approved and GCA is dissolved.
“It is not GCA’s money. It is the people’s money,” Chairman Cleveland said to a loud cheer. “They need to finish the duties of today. They get paid to the end of the day.”
“It’s not the General Council Agency’s budget, but the General Council’s budget,” Thompson said.
“It’s the legislative body that needs to be questioned,” said Hazel Guerrero. “If we get rid of anyone, get rid of the legislative body. There are 156 General Council resolutions that haven’t been acted upon.”
After the resolution to dissolve the GCA was passed, a question arose about the next resolution, the passing of the GCA budget, if the resolution was passed to dissolve the GCA.
“We approved the agenda, which includes the GCA budget,” said Francis Decorah. “We have to move forward.”
The budget was approved by a vote of 876-680.
The other contentious issue was the removal of President Wilfrid Cleveland by means of a resolution introduced by Jeremy Rockman.
Rockman stated that Cleveland is a felon and that no information is available that he has ever been pardoned of that felony.
“During his first tenure, I voted for Willy, not knowing of his felony,” said Cecelia Krause, who seconded the resolution. “The trust is gone. The background check was not done by the Election Board as it should have been done. We do not need service from this type of person.”
Michelle Greendeer Rave spoke in defense of Cleveland, saying that Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox first wrote a letter that Cleveland was a felon, then later recanted his information and said that he had made a mistake and that the original charges had been dropped down to a misdemeanor.
“The deal is done. The D.A. made a mistake,” Greendeer Rave said.
Wendy Huling, attorney for the Election Board, stated that a background check was performed on Cleveland and it came back that he hadn’t been convicted of a felony.
“Willy had not been convicted,” she said. “He never was a felon.”
Cleveland took the podium and told the story of how had assaulted a policeman decades ago, but the charges had been dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor and that he had served his time for the violation.
Cleveland spoke for more than the usual allotted time, causing some audience members to jeer about the overage.
“This is a serious situation – a removal of a president, which is very serious” said Chairperson Cleveland. “He needs to be able to defend himself and we should allow a couple extra minutes.”
A vote was taken, with the majority voting down the resolution.
In other business, Hazel Guerrero introduced a resolution to increase per capita payments, but was not specific to the amount of increase.
Krause said the amount of increase should be carefully considered because a substantial increase may result in many people not qualifying for certain assistance programs.
Patrick Day said that if he were to receive a raise, it is possible he would lose his Medicaid, which he needs because of his medical costs.
“I’m worried. I wouldn’t know where to go. My monthly bill would be skyrocketing,” Day said. “(Insurance) premiums would be very high. Vote no to the increase.”
When the resolution passed, Chairman Cleveland said, “Enjoy your one dollar increase,” which was met with laughter.
A resolution to automatically make into law any General Council resolutions that are not acted upon by Legislature came up for discussion.
“There are resolutions from 2003 that have not yet been acted upon,” said Roberta Decorah.
The resolution easily passed, with a vote of 1,226-376.
William Greendeer spoke on behalf of a resolution for the Ho-Chunk Nation to protect the rights of nature.
“We need environmental laws adequate to protect nature – from sand mines and pipelines,” Greendeer said. “We all stand together for the people of Standing Rock. We need to be doing this in Wisconsin as well.”
“We are a sovereign nation,” said Cari Fay. “We need to stand together to save Mother Earth.”
The resolution passed with a vote of 1,587-107. While the vote was being taken, a banner was displayed for photographs that read, “The Ho-Chunk Nation supports Water is Life.”
Joyce Warner introduced a resolution that would ensure housing for elite elders. The wording states that elite elders (age 70 +) would get homes within one year of approval of the resolution and no new homes would be provided until all the elite elders on the waiting list are provided homes.
The resolution passed 1,183-356.
The next resolution also addressed elder housing, this time providing alternative energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to elders in their homes. This would decrease their monthly overhead costs. The resolution passed 1,372-231.
Guerrero presented a resolution to lower the age of an elder from 60 to 50 and an elite elder from 70 to 60. That resolution failed with a vote of 630-1,112.
David Snowball introduced a resolution to rescind a passed resolution from last year, one that protects the rights of nature. He said he heard, following the approval last year, the resolution was authored by a non-Ho-Chunk. He said he didn’t appreciate someone coming in and telling us how to behave and to respect nature.
“Have a Ho-Chunk write a new resolution,” he said.
“We are all one people – black, white, brown – it doesn’t matter where it came from,” said Cari Fay. “I’m for Mother Nature. Are you?”
The resolution was defeated 624-782.
Guerrero provided a resolution that would lower the children’s trust funds to 18, regardless of high school diploma.
“They don’t deserve it unless they get a diploma,” said Alicia Seifert. “They don’t deserve the money unless they get a diploma. Unless they act like an adult, they will be treated like a child.”
“I can’t believe you brought this to General Council,” said Greendeer Rave. “You can’t even spell on the resolution.” The name on the resolution had several mistakes.
The resolution failed 245-1,586.
Bonnie K. Smith introduced a resolution to provide health insurance to all tribal members who need it.
“There are members who don’t have it and it can be very costly for the people who need it,” Smith said.
“This will be very costly for the Nation,” said Roberta Decorah. “Health care costs are very high and there’s a way to pay bills through Contract Health.”
Susan Slowey said that she got cut off from Contract Health because she didn’t apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Once she did, Contract Health paid for all her premiums.
The resolution was defeated 797-930.