U.S. Senate challenger from Wisconsin speaks out on tribal relations, farm bill and environment at Oneida Forum

Mandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and Democratic challenger to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, answered questions posed by the Oneida Nation during a virtual forum Thursday night.

Barnes is also the current Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin.

Johnson did not respond to the invitation of the Oneida Nation, said Barbara Webster, director of public relations for Oneida. The short forum was broadcast on Facebook Live.

A law school at Marquette University survey conducted in early October found Johnson had the support of 52% of likely voters, while Barnes had 46%. The margin of error was 4.8 percentage points.

Webster said at the forum that the tribe sent three questions to Johnson and Barnes. The first question asked how the candidates would assume responsibility for government-to-government relations with the tribes.

In his remarks, Barnes highlighted his record as the state’s lieutenant governor, including his membership in the Task Force on Missing and Murdered Native Women of Wisconsin. Additionally, he referenced Governor Tony Evers statement the second Monday in October to be Indigenous Peoples Day in Wisconsin.

Barnes said he visited all 11 federally recognized tribes in the state.

Casey Brown, public relations manager for the Ho-Chunk Nation, said Indigenous News Online that Barnes attended a Ho-Chunk powwow and spoke at a tribe-hosted 5K as part of an MMIW event.

Barnes said he would be “a senator who truly supports and respects tribal sovereignty. One who is proud to celebrate the history and power of the Native American community here, and one who respects the relationship between climate change and conservation. of our land.”

The second tribe question asked candidates to explain how they perceived their role in keeping the tribes included in the Farm Bill.

“I can promise you that I will fight for a farm bill that empowers local communities, especially our eleven federally recognized tribes, distributes locally grown produce, helps grow economies, and also supports families,” he said. Barnes points out.

The latest question from the Oneida Nation said the tribe has worked closely with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Webster said congressional support for the program was essential and asked, “Can you help us protect and preserve Mother Earth?”

“I will also support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative so that we can fully fund projects to improve the quality of our air, our water and also reduce the impact of climate change on earth,” Barnes said. .

Barnes said he would advocate and vote to confirm judicial nominees “in the executive branch and courts with experience in federal Indian law who respect tribal sovereignty.”

He also expressed Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) support “to help protect the best interests of Indigenous children to keep them connected to their families and communities.” The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case challenging ICWA on November 9.

Mandela BrownMandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and Democratic challenger to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, answered questions from the Oneida Nation during a virtual forum Thursday night. (Picture: Facebook Live)

In recent years, Johnson has expressed support in letters for a partnership to advance Indigenous education pathways and a request for a trust land royalty by the Ho-Chunk Nation, according to his website.

webster said Indigenous News Online that she didn’t know “that Ron Johnson did much in or around Oneida”, so she couldn’t say what the senator’s relationship with the tribe was like.

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“It’s unfortunate because it’s like, well, you don’t even know what any of the contestants are going to say,” Brown said. “So it’s almost like, well, I like this guy by default. That’s not how it should be.”

What are the stakes for the Oneida Nation in this election

At the forum, Oneida President Tehassi Hill highlighted the impact of the vote for the Oneida people.

“Your vote impacts how our community receives local, state and federal aid,” Hill said. “Your vote can impact our funding for health care, housing, education, law enforcement, cultural and environmental preservation and protection, veterans, human services elderly, behavioral health support and much more.”

In a recent example, the Oneida Nation received nearly $650,000 in grant funding under the American Rescue Plan, which was intended to help the tribe transition to renewable energy.

Webster said intergovernmental partnerships will allow tribes to better administer funds in programs that “change and improve the quality of life in our communities,” but “we still have a long way to go.”

“And now that we’ve made as much progress as we have, we can’t afford not to keep moving forward,” Webster said. “So we need government officials, we need people in Congress, we need people in the Senate who are going to value those relationships and who are going to respect the tribes and their sovereignty.”

On Monday, October 24 and Tuesday, October 25, Four Directions, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the Tribes of Wisconsin will be organize a forum on the midterm elections for local and national candidates. Monday, Levi Rickert, Native News online editor and publisher, will participate in a panel discussion that will include Barnes.

Sen. Ron Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Oneida Nation questions from the candidates before press time.

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About the Author

Andrew Kennard
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Reporting intern

Andrew Kennard is a freelance writer for Native News Online. Kennard, a junior at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, interned with Native News Online for two summers. He’s also done freelance reporting for the Iowa Capital Dispatch and the Wisconsin Examiner, and he’s a beats editor for the Times-Delphic, Drake’s student newspaper.

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