Home Wisconsin Wisconsin’s 39 Most Influential Native American Leaders, Part 5

Wisconsin’s 39 Most Influential Native American Leaders, Part 5


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

Elena Terry is the Executive Chef/Founder of Wild Bearies, an educational, community outreach nonprofit that strives to bring ancestral foods to communities in a nurturing and nourishing way. After having been a traditional foods cook, and worked in the restaurant industry for over a decade, Elena shifted her focus several years ago to community building as she merged her passions and focused on educating through indigenous foods. Elena is the Food and Culinary Program Coordinator for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance as well as in partnerships with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative and UW Horticulture Department.

William Nąąwącekǧize Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Deer Clan Tribal Member, serves as the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) and Cultural Resources Division Manager for the Ho-Chunk Nation. As the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Historian, Mr. Quackenbush has presented extensively on Ho-Chunk history and culture. In his role as the Ho-Chunk Nation THPO, Mr. Quackenbush consults regularly with the management team at Effigy Mounds National Monument.

Michael LaRonge is Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Forest County Potawatomi Community. He graduated from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in archaeology in 1996 and obtained his Master’s degree in Industrial Archaeology from Michigan Technological University in 2001. He has worked for the Wisconsin Historical Society, a few private cultural resource firms, and the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Dr. Mark Powless is Our Ways Director at Indian Community School in Franklin, where his role is to ensure that Native culture is interwoven into all facets of the school’s programming. A member of the Oneida Nation, he has served the Native community as a psychological clinician, supervisor and consultant working closely with local community service providers in addition to VA programs and staff. In addition to his clinical experience, I am a lecturer at the University level and work with schools and community organizations on training and education programs throughout the state. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology at Marquette University and is a licensed clinical psychologist in the State of Wisconsin. He is a member of Marquette University’s Council on Native American Affairs and a long-standing member of numerous psychology associations and societies.

Dr. Angela Fernandez is an Assistant Professor at the UW-Madison School of Nursing, and member of the campus Native American Environment, Health, and Community faculty cluster. A member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, her research program is built on over two decades of combined national and international social work and public health research, practice, teaching, and service experience with Indigenous, Latinx, and other marginalized communities in inpatient and outpatient health care settings, academic settings, non-profit organizations, and the Peace Corps. As a clinician, she has worked with interprofessional teams in inpatient and outpatient care, and holds clinical social work licenses in the states of Wisconsin and Washington. As an instructor, she has taught courses on historical trauma and healing and critical social theories. As a prevention scientist, she examines the role of cultural practices and nature contact as protective factors in the prevention of chronic and co-occurring diseases (e.g. mental health, substance abuse, diabetes) among Indigenous peoples.

Jim Thunder is one of the few remaining native speakers of the Potawatomi language, and has dedicated years to preserving and revitalizing the language. He has created an online course that covers language basics with sound clips and in 2018 published “Wete Yathmownen, Real Stories: Potawatomi Oral History,” a collection of stories compiled and written by Thunder and his wife Mary Jane.

Dr. J P Leary (Cherokee/Delaware) serves as an Associate Professor in First Nations Studies, History, and Humanities, as a member of the graduate faculty in the Professional Program in Education, and as a faculty affiliate with the Education Center for First Nations Studies. He regularly teaches a variety of courses including Introduction to FNS: The Tribal World, American Indians in Film, Mohican Ethnohistory, First Nations and Education Policy, and the FNS Seminar. His primary research interests relate to curriculum policy, the history of education, and the representation and self-representation of Native people in education and popular culture. Dr. Leary is also the faculty advisor for Intertribal Student Council.

Wayne Valliere is an Ojibwe language and culture teacher at the Lac du Flambeau Public School, and  one of only a handful of Native birch bark canoe builders today in the United States. Valliere has a vast artistic repertoire: beadwork, quillwork, regalia, drums, basketry, pipes, lodges, weaponry, hunting tools, and more. He is a respected singer and storyteller, but is best known as a birch bark canoe builder, a craft he learned alongside his brother Leon.  He was recognized for this work in 2015 with the Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award from the First Peoples Fund, and a 2017 Mentor Artist Fellowship from Native Arts & Cultures Foundation. 

Jo Anne House is Chief Counsel for the Oneida Nation. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1993 and went on to earn a PhD from Walden University in public policy and administration with a focus on deliberative democracy within Tribal governments with a goal of developing tool that can be used by Tribal governments to improve information, discussion and decision making at membership meetings.


Who’d we miss? Email us at [email protected] to let us know about the Native American leaders doing good work in your community.