General Council examines nature rights, housing, trust fund, Christmas bonus

By Ken Luchterhand

Eight resolutions were introduced to be voted upon at the 2018 General Council session at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay.
However, only six of the eight resolutions were voted upon. The first resolution was said to be a matter for the courts to decide and the last resolution was discarded because the primary person who introduced the resolution was removed from the building by Bear Clan security.
A quorum of 1,217 was reached at 11:35 a.m., therefore allowing the meeting to begin. Three people were nominated for chairman: Matt Mann, Gerald Cleveland, and Wilfrid Cleveland. Mann received the most votes, therefore elected as chairman for the meeting.
Rose Walker made a motion for all resolutions introduced to be acted upon before meeting adjournment with a second by Stella Whitewing, which passed.
The first resolution was introduced by Andrea Storm, seconded by Betty White, was to remove Mary Ellen (Blackdeer) Anwash from the Ho-Chunk enrollment.
White said the matter had gone to court and Anwash was ordered to submit a DNA sample within 60 days, which she has not done.
Enrollment Division Executive Manager Rita Gardner said that a similar resolution about the matter was introduced at General Council, and then was taken to trial court, the matter is in court.
Mann consulted attorneys present at the meeting and stated that the courts will decide the matter. No action was taken due to the Ho-Chunk Nation Constitution Article 2, Section 5, and Constitutional Amendment XVI, which states that any removal must be done by the Judiciary branch.
The second resolution under consideration was to reaffirm a resolution presented at the 2016 General Council meeting to use alternative energy sources for elder housing. The resolution was introduced by Joseph Keller and seconded by Gary Funmaker.
Keller stated that no response or action had been made on the previous similar resolution by Executive and Legislative branches of the government. Solar panels were suggested to be placed on elder housing, in one example.
The resolution passed by 84.39 percent (1,114 votes) with 15.61 percent (206 votes) opposed.
The next resolution, introduced by William Greendeer, was to establish a Rights of Nature to Exist laws in the Ho-Chunk Constitution. It was seconded by Lori Funmaker.
“I don’t understand why the State of Wisconsin allows corporations to come in to take from the land and not even consult the tribes,” Greendeer said.
The words on the resolution read:
“Ecosystems, natural communities, and species within the Ho-Chunk Nation territory possess inherent, fundamental, and inalienable rights to naturally exist, flourish, regenerate and evolve such as the right to maintain, recover, and preserve their life cycles, structures and functions, rights to a healthy climate system free from human-caused global warming emissions, rights to the defense, protection, and enforcement of their rights and other such rights.”
Libby Fairchild said that a Secretarial Election was required to get such language in the Constitution and such an election was held last spring, however, not enough votes were returned, nullifying the election
JoAnn Jones said she was in support of the resolution. She referred to the Pechanga tribe who had trees cut down for power lines without anyone informing the tribal members.
“Those are Mother Earth’s gifts to us,” Jones said.
Gloria Visintin reiterated that a Secretarial Election was held on that subject and not even 30 percent of the votes were returned.
“Why bring it up again? How much does it cost? What do you want here? Do you want fences around each of the trees?” Visintin asked.
“This is not about money. It’s about trying to save the Earth. It never was about money,” Greendeer said.
Mann compared the idea to the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO), which allowed the Nation to put strict requirements on the hiring of natives.
“We were only allowed to do that because we had a law that allowed us to do it. If we don’t have a law, they are just going to come and do what they want,” Mann said.
Several other tribal members offered support for the resolution. Rose Walker reminded the members that there had to be a Secretarial Election to amend or change the Constitution.
The resolution passed with a vote of 89.6 percent (1,198 votes) in favor, 10.40 percent (139 votes) against.
Jon Warner presented a resolution to adopt different parameters for receiving access for the Minor Trust Fund. It was seconded by Joyce Warner.
Warner said the present requirements does not allow someone to access the fund by obtaining a General Education Degree (GED) instead of a high school diploma. He said that young adults who don’t graduate will not pursue other opportunities.
“I believe a high school diploma is important, but those people who do not graduate will wait until they are 25 to get their money because they have no alternative solutions,” Warner said. “The goal is to complete or add programming or training to help our kids other than sitting around until they are 25.”
Warner changed the requirement to add:
“Now, therefore, be it resolved a member that receives a GED and obtains an Associates Degree or a two-year certificate program or completed an accredited apprenticeship in a skilled trade or two years active duty in the military is now eligible to obtain disbursement.”
Kim Waukau said the wording should drop the part of having a G.E.D. and thinks they should have a high school diploma.
Francis Decorah said that a majority of people have high school diplomas and a GED is not the same.
The Minor Trust Access resolution did not pass, with 47.85 percent (656 votes) in favor and 52.15 percent (715 votes) against.
Hazel Guerrero introduced the next resolution, seconded by Andrea Storm, proposing for the elimination of costs for copies of administrative documents. At present, the Treasury charges $5 a page for copies and $50 for per cap advancements.
“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the General Council hereby will no longer charge tribal members for Treasury copies, per cap advancement, ID cards or charges related to enrollment requests with the exception of paternity charges,” the resolution stated.
The resolution failed by a vote of 36.22 percent (514 votes) in favor, 63.78 percent (905 votes) against.
Greg Bird introduced a resolution to amend the Ho-Chunk Housing Code. Bird requested reverting to the previous code that was enacted on May 19, 2004. Myron Cloud seconded the resolution.
Specifically, Bird wanted to allow homeowners to be able to sell their homes and be able to stay in the housing program. At present, the regulations state that a homeowner can’t sell the house without permission while a mortgage is active on the property.
“If you sell the home, you will be removed from the program and the money from the sale remains in escrow for up to 180 days,” Bird said.
Francis Decorah, director of the HOP program, said that if you sell your home, the money goes back into the program. However, if you get a mortgage form an outside source, the owner could sell anytime, pay off the mortgage and use the remainder on the next house.
“You can outgrow a house. Families get larger and they get smaller,” he said. “You should be able to change homes as your family changes.”
The Housing Act resolution passed with a 70.86 percent (868 votes) approval, while 29.14 percent (357 votes) voted against the resolution.
The most contentious resolution was a proposal to set Christmas bonuses at $500 for children 17 and under, $1,000 for an adult, and $1,500 for anyone with an elder status.
Hazel Guerrero offered the resolution, seconded by Andrea Storm, and the debate became heated. Crystal Carriage questioned the practice of giving bonuses to employees along with tribal members, therefore getting two bonuses.
Morningstar Straight asked why not more money is given to tribal members.
Roberta Decorah said that everyone should remember what everyone is getting in programs, such as health, dental, vision, housing and food benefits.
“There are pages of employment opportunities for you to make some money,” said Tina Brown. Many people responded with cheers.
There was a heated confrontation between Guerrero and an elder, with Mann calling for Bear Clan to remove Guerrero from the premises.
A vote was taken on the Christmas bonus resolution, with it passing by a vote of 51.69 percent (751 votes) for and 48.31 percent (702) against.
The remaining resolution, General Council Meeting Procedures, was not discussed or voted upon because Guerrero, who introduced the resolution, had been removed from the proceedings.
The proposed General Council Meeting Procedures resolution stated that resolutions would be presented to the Office of General Council 30 days before the annual meeting, that a Hocak Worak special edition would be printed with the resolutions, hard copies of the resolutions available at the meeting, a table set up at the General Council meeting to answer questions, the annual meeting would be live-streamed, and 30 minutes would be allotted to present the resolutions, answer question, and vote.
Andrea Storm, who originally seconded the resolution, did not step forward to present the resolution, therefore it was not acted upon.
A vote was taken for adjournment, which carried with a vote of 92.29 percent (1,209 votes) for and 7.71 percent (101 votes) against. The meeting was declared adjourned at 3:40 p.m.