Menominee leader criticizes Wis. school mascot lawTodd Richmond, Associated Press · February 13, 2014 at 8:01 pmMADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Menominee Nation’s new chairwoman gently criticized Wisconsin’s new school mascot law in an address before legislators Thursday, saying the changes will damage native children.The new law makes it harder to strip public schools of American Indian nicknames, mascots and logos. The law’s negative effects on American Indians’ collective culture will be “considerable,” Laurie Boivin told lawmakers in the annual State of the Tribes address.“Our children should not be subjected to inaccurate representations of their cultural identity,” Boivin said to a standing ovation from tribal leaders, Democratic legislators and her supporters in the gallery.The speech comes as the Menominee are trying to persuade Republican Gov. Scott Walker to approve the tribe’s plans for an off-reservation casino in Kenosha. Former Menominee Chairman Craig Corn was slated to give the address, but the tribe announced on Monday that Boivin had won an election to replace him.Boivin struck a far more cordial tone than last year’s speaker, Lac Courte Oreilles then-Chairman Gordon Thayer. Thayer criticized Republican lawmakers and state officials over new mining regulations and spreading what he called misinformation about the Chippewa’s spearfishing quotas. Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, walked out.Tensions remain high between the tribes and the state. The Chippewa are still angry over the mining changes, saying they open the door to a large iron mine that could pollute the Bad River tribe’s reservation. The Chippewa also are battling the state in federal court to establish a tribal night deer hunt in northern Wisconsin despite the Department of Natural Resources’ stance that it’s too dangerous. And Walker has said all the tribes must OK the Kenosha casino before he’ll approve it. The Forest County Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk Nation oppose the project. With the casino in the balance, Boivin had to tread lightly.Things got off to an awkward start. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, mistakenly introduced Boivin as Linda before quickly correcting himself, and a number of Republican senators chose not to attend, leaving empty seats lining the aisle on the Republican side of the chamber.But Boivin got a standing ovation from lawmakers and the gallery as she stepped to the microphone. She stressed that the state and the tribes need to keep working together to help tribal members out of poverty and combat drug abuse and gangs.She acknowledged “public clashes with the state on a number of high-profile natural resource issues” but didn’t mention anything specific. She also didn’t mention the Kenosha casino, saying only that tribal gambling compacts supply the state with beneficial revenue.She politely told legislators, however, that she would be remiss if she didn’t speak about the mascot law and its impact on the tribes, especially native children. Spectators in the gallery cheered and gave her another standing ovation.Walker signed a GOP bill in December that undid a 2010 state law on school mascots. That law required Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction to hold a hearing on a school’s race-based nickname if it received even one complaint and decide whether the nickname had to go.Republicans drew up the new law after the Mukwonago Area School District refused to abide by a DPI order to drop its “Indians” nickname. The new provisions trigger a review only if people submit a petition with signatures equal to 10 percent of the school district’s student population. They must prove the nickname is discriminatory at a hearing. The Department of Administration, which is under the governor’s control, decides whether to drop the name.Boivin said discrimination victims don’t need to submit a petition to prove it occurred. And she said allowing mascots to remain damages tribal members’ perception of their own culture.But she still called on the state and tribes to find a mutual solution.“Let’s educate the children of all Wisconsin school districts on all aspects that distinguish our nations … as partners, our nations and the state can use this opportunity to create a strong alliance and commitment to education and celebration of our distinct backgrounds.”Kramer sat through the full speech, saying afterward it wasn’t nearly as confrontational as the other seven speeches he’s heard. Vos issued a statement saying he was pleased Boivin remained positive.Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, one of the Republican senators who did attend, said afterward the entire nation is struggling with American Indian sports logos and called it a “complex issue.” He said Wisconsin’s old law was unworkable but he doesn’t know if the new one “will be the silver bullet forever.”He said legislative and tribal leaders met Wednesday ahead of the speech. Since the Senate wasn’t in session on Thursday, he said, many senators weren’t around to attend the address. Nearly half a dozen Senate committees held hearings in the state Capitol during the day, however. Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Dan Romportl, responded to a message seeking further explanation with an email that said “various senators were not in town because the senate was not in session.”Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.