The Ho-Chunk Nation held a swearing-in ceremony at its casino in Baraboo earlier this month, on July 5, to administer the oath of office to recently-elected members of its government.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said tribal member Martin Little Wolf Jr. “It’s a good day for celebration.”
Taking the oath were eight legislators and a Supreme Court associate justice who won this spring’s election. Each will serve four years in office.
The list of legislators included tribal members Karena Thundercloud (District 1, Seat 1); Hinu Smith (District 1, Seat 3); Kristin WhiteEagle (District 2, Seat 2); Carly Lincoln (District 2, Seat 3); Lawrence Walker Jr (District 3, Seat 2); Kathyleen Whiterabbit (District 5, Seat 1); Robert Two Bears (District 5, Seat 3); and Matt Mullen (District 5, Seat 4). Reelected to the associate justice position was tribal member Tricia Zunker.
“I’m really thankful,” Little Wolf said in response to the results. “We’re looking forward to good things.”
Prior to introductions, Little Wolf offered a prayer in which he acknowledged all the new members of his Nation’s government. He asked the people of his tribe to lend them their support.
“I’m asking you to bless these new legislators,” Little Wolf said. “We have them on a pedestal, and we’re going to look up to them.”
He then thanked the legislators who would be leaving office. He praised the hard work that they put in and all their dedication to the tribe during four years of service.
“I’d like to offer a prayer for them,” Little Wolf said, “for doing a superb job for the Ho-Chunk Nation.”
Next to speak was Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland. Before saying anything about the new administration, he too thanked those who were coming to the end of their term.
“I’d like to say a word of thanks to our legislators and what they’ve done the last four years,” Cleveland said, “each one of you.”
The president provided a brief history of the tribe and discussed events that led to its current political structure. He said the beginning of his Nation’s government can be traced back several centuries.
“This isn’t anything new,” Cleveland said. “There’s a lot of history within our government.”
He stressed the importance of choosing good leaders, and ones who will act in the best interest of their people. He said that doing so is vital to the success of governing bodies, especially in a tribal government.
“If you want a good tribal government,” Cleveland said, “you need to decide who will best be able to represent you.”
Election Board Chairperson Myrna Little Wolf stepped onto the stage next. She expressed her thanks to tribal members in attendance, as well as all those on the Election Board.
“I’d like to thank each one of you for coming,” Little Wolf said, “and the Election Board for all their hard work.”
She then called upon each of the legislators, to whom she administered the official oath of office. They pledged to uphold the Nation’s constitution, advance its welfare, and to serve with honor and dignity.
District 1 legislators taking part in the ceremony were Hinu (Helgesen) Smith and Karena Thundercloud, the former Director of Administration. Thundercloud said a word of thanks to the outgoing legislators.
“I want to thank them for the success that they’ve shown the last four years,” Thundercloud said, “and I hope that I can follow in their footsteps.”
District 2 legislators to get sworn in were Carly Lincoln and Kristin WhiteEagle, who once served as the Executive Manager of HCG-Wisconsin Dells. WhiteEagle promised to do all in her power in order to help the tribe.
“I’m going to strive to make good decisions,” WhiteEagle said, “and focus on accountability for the Nation.”
Representing the people of District 3 was Lawrence Walker Jr, who has previously served in the Nation’s legislature. He said he feels privileged to get the chance to do so again.
“I’m honored for the opportunity to serve the people again,” Walker said. “I just want to represent everyone, regardless of their age.”
District 5 legislators who took the oath were Robert Two Bears, Matt Mullen and Kathyleen Whiterabbit. The swearing-in was the fifth one for Whiterabbit, who emphasized what the ceremony meant.
“Today you see before you a semblance of a representative government,” Whiterabbit said. “That’s a great thing to acknowledge.”
Supreme Court Associate Justice Tricia Zunker was administered the oath that day as well. According to Ho-Chunk Code, she should serve until the summer of 2021, alongside all the other government officials who were sworn into office.