In our new weekly feature 12 Rounds, leaders will answer 12 questions — some light, some heavy — from our Publisher and CEO Henry Sanders to help the community understand them, what they do, and why. Today: Ho-Chunk Nation President Marlon WhiteEagle.
Marlon WhiteEagle is president of the Ho-Chunk Nation, an office he won in June 2019. Prior to his election, he was editor of the Nation’s newspaper, Hocak Worak, where he earned national awards for his photography, reporting, and editorials. After being elected, he said he plans to increase transparency and accountability within the Nation. He has initiated YouTube video messages to share information with tribal members. He also hosts the podcast “Ho-Chunk Voice.” President WhiteEagle is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a Liberal Arts degree from MiraCosta College.
What advice would you give someone who is a person of color not from Wisconsin who is thinking about moving to Wisconsin?
First, I’d welcome them to God’s Country. It’s the ancestral and current homeland to the Ho-Chunk people.
The advice I’d give is to enjoy the natural sites of Wisconsin. There are many State Parks to visit with a direct connection to the Ho-Chunk and other Wisconsin native nations.
Name three songs that accurately reflect how you’re feeling.
“Horsefly” by the Dirty Heads, “Opie Taylor” by Yelawolf, and “We Are the People” by Empire of the Sun.
If you could go back in time to any point of life to tell yourself something, what age would you go back to and what would you tell yourself?
I’d go back to when I was 18 years old in the Marine Corps. I was asked to join Force Recon in Marine Combat Training and passed on the invite. I’d tell myself to go give a try. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you do it.
What did you learn about yourself in 2020?
To keep it simple. One day at a time. Don’t think about things too much. It’ll all work out in the end.
At this point of your life do you feel you have found your purpose? If so, how did you figure out your purpose?
Yes, my purpose is all purpose. Being true to yourself and following your interests helps. We should all keep learning and apply what we do learn to our daily lives. Go all in when it comes to living our lives.
There is a lot of division around the issues of race in politics. What can we do to lessen those divisions?
We can have more empathy and compassion for one another. There are no right and wrong sides, just different perspectives. There’s a lot of division in general for mankind.
Race is always a tough issue to tackle, but having empathy and compassion will get us talking about it. That’s a start.
Did any of your experience as a Marine help you in your leadership now as the Ho Chunk president?
A lot of the experiences I’ve had as a Marine stay with me and help me being the leader of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Many Ho-Chunks served in the U.S. military, specifically the Marine Corps.
It seems there’s a similarity of a close-knit culture that’s based on discipline. Similarly, there’s also a conduct of code in both of these cultures.
One example is saying the Marines have: “A Marine is on duty, he has no friends.” That speaks to the loosening of rules that govern our conduct. Part of that relates to leading and keeping the rules in the front of your mind, knowing them, and ensuring the adherence to them.
That’s integrity and honesty.
How do you balance being a father and husband with your work life?
As hard as it is, I leave work at work. Sometimes it seeps into the evening, but you have to monitor yourself on that practice.
I feel I’ve done a good job of keeping my official capacity separate from my personal life. It’s more about appropriateness and less about giving the “110 percent.”
Tom Brady or Joe Montana?
How does your faith impact your life?
Greatly. I used to hear my elders say, “we live on prayers.” I didn’t fully comprehend that until what seemed like a series of fast-acting prayers. When you have that feeling of being blessed, you quickly recognize it.
I’ve spent years saying prayers and living to realize them. Now I’m hooked on them and sharing them with others. Prayer changes things; don’t doubt your prayers.
You were the editor for the Hocak Worak newspaper, the official newspaper of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Do you miss journalism? If so why?
Some of my journalism friends ask how it feels going from being an editor to being president. I say now it’s like I’m a super editor, because I get to work on, develop, and push out the story of the Ho-Chunk Nation. So I don’t miss journalism that much.
I do continue my podcast the Ho-Chunk Voice: Discussions with Marlon WhiteEagle where I get to interview guests on topics of Ho-Chunk interests.
I also write a Letter from the President where I publish the direction of the Nation in the Hocak Worak. So that also keeps my writing skills somewhat tuned up.
What one trait or habit would your wife want to change about you?
Probably my diet, in terms of eating out too much. I really don’t like cooking or cleaning, so I tend to eliminate or lessen those occurrences by eating out.
She’s pointed that out to me a couple times. Mainly, my trips to Kwik Trip for snacks and take-out lunch. The family budget shows this to be true.
So I’m aware of this, but now it’s letting it sink in and changing that behavior.