Wisconsin’s 33 Most Influential Native American Leaders for 2023, Part 5


    This is the fourth of a five-part series. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here and part four is here.

    Jeff Crawford is attorney general of the Forest County Potawatomi, which also makes him corporation counsel for the tribe’s business ventures, including the massive Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee. He’s one of the longest-serving tribal officials in Wisconsin, having taken the post in 1997. After growing up in Milwaukee, he was the first in his family to graduate high school and the first member of his tribe to graduate law school. After earning his law degree, he did legal work in the Twin Cities working for Fortune 500 companies like General Mills. He was recognized as one of the top corporate counselors in Milwaukee in 2012.

    Matt Kuntsman is general manager of Oneida Engineering Solutions, a tribe-owned engineering firm specializing in transportation engineering design and construction, municipal engineering, surveying, and natural resources services. Before taking the lead at OES in 2017, he spent more than 20 years working for the Nation as business development manager at Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises since 2009 and as a project manager for the tribal government since graduating from UW-Stout in 1994.

    Dr. Carolee Dodge Francis is Chair of the Civil Society and Community Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin School of Human Ecology. A member of the Oneida Nation, she is the first Native American woman to chair a department at UW-Madison. As a researcher, Dr. Dodge Francis has been a principal investigator for several NIH-funded grants. She is a member of a global evaluation committee EvalIndigenous, which focuses on ensuring that policies and evaluation practices for Indigenous peoples are based on equity, fairness, and justice. Prior to joining UW–Madison in 2019, Dr. Dodge Francis was an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the School of Public Health. Before her higher education career, she held a number of public health, health promotion, and health educator roles in Native communities. In the 1980s, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, she served as the founding Executive Director of the Minnesota American Indian AIDS Task Force (now called Indigenous Peoples Task Force), which led to a role as a public health external evaluator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within tribal communities. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota in 2005.

    Tom Maulson is senior adviser to communications and PR firm Torchlight Consulting. He spent 12 years as President of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. He was an important figure in the Band’s efforts to enforce fishing rights guaranteed by treaty – rights that were threatened and led to contentious debate and even violence against Indigenous people in the 1980s and 1990s. 

    Denise Blackdeer Wagner is cofounder and board chair at Greywolf Partners, a commercial real estate firm with offices in Cottage Grove and Milwaukee and a branch in Appleton. The firm was recognized in 2022 by the Indigenous Business Group as Business of the Year. Denise holds a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    James Crawford is chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi, sworn in earlier this year after six years as secretary of the tribe’s executive council. Twenty years ago he was the founding chairman of the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation and later CEO of the Potawatomi Community Development Corporation. He has worked to diversify the tribe’s economic development efforts. He studies business administration at York College.

    Jezelle Shawanokasic, also known as J25, is a rapper, producer and songwriter of the Chickasaw Nation who grew up participating in many sports while performing in her high school marching band, where she was the only female in the drumline. Between 2012 and 2013 she released two mixtape projects entitled “Paper Route” and “Hussle Society.” In 2020 she released her first full album “Under Gray Skies” and launched HGM Music Group, a production company and record label based in Appleton.

    Who’d we miss? Email us at [email protected] to let us know who should be on the list next year!