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State of the tribes address: Breakdown in communication with state leaders

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The Wisconsin state Capitol Building in Madison is seen in this undated photo.
The Wisconsin state Capitol Building in Madison is seen in this undated photo.

MADISON (WSAU)   A Chippewa tribal leader urged Wisconsin lawmakers yesterday to solve what he called a “breakdown in communication” between Indians and state leaders. In the annual State-of-the-Tribes address to the Legislature, Lac Courte Oreilles chairman Gordon Thayer laid out the tribes’ differences with the state over mining, hunting, and spear-fishing. That prompted Assembly Republican Pro Tem Bill Kramer of Waukesha to walk out, saying he was not being any more disrespectful to Thayer than the speech was to him. Kramer said Thayer called for collaboration while quote, “continually telling us everything we did wrong.”

Indians and the state have clashed the past couple years over the proposed Lake Superior mine, wolf hunting, night hunting for Chippewa, and tribal spear-fishing. Thayer took the D-N-R, lawmakers, and Governor Scott Walker to task, saying, quote, “We can’t be dismissed as a sub-group of people in Wisconsin.”

He said the D-N-R made it sound like the Chippewas’ spear-fishing goals would make walleye extinct. D-N-R Secretary Cathy Stepp later denied that the spearing would endanger the walleye population. But she said lower quotas for sport anglers would hurt tourism – and she hoped to discuss the state’s goals with the tribes.

Thayer also said Wisconsin’s 11 tribes stand behind the Bad River band’s effort to kill the proposed mine upstream from its reservation. Thayer said quote, “The beauty of our state isn’t just about job creation.”

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