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Wisconsin’s 38 Most Influential Native Americans, Part 2

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This is the second of a five-part series. Introduction and Part 1 are available here.

David O’Connor has been the Education Consultant for American Indian Studies Program at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction since 2012. O’Connor is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. As the Education Consultant, O’Connor supports school districts’ efforts to provide history on the culture and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin’s Tribal Nations and communities. He also provides training opportunities and workshops throughout Wisconsin on American Indian education. O’Connor is also the grant director for the Network for Native American Student Achievement.

Garland McGeshick is chairman of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, a position he earned in 2018 by narrowly defeating incumbent Chris McGeshick in tribal elections. As chairman he represents about 1,500 community members. The community operates Mole Lake Casino and Lodge just south of Crandon, Wisconsin.

Louis Taylor is currently the Tribal Chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe, representing just over 7,000 members. The Lac Courtre Oreilles reservation, recognized in an 1854 treaty, has a population just over 3,000. Taylor was elected in 2017 after more than 10 years of previous service on the governing board. The band operates several business enterprises, including LCO Casino Lodge, Gindstone Creek Casino, a cranberry marsh, a construction development company, The Landing resort and more.

Gail Nahwahquaw is the Director of the Wisconsin Department of Health Tribal Affairs Office. Nahwahquaw, who is a member of the Menominee Nation, works with her team to administer health services to tribes and educate employees within the Department of Health Services about different tribal communities to ensure the services are culturally appropriate. The office works in partnership with Wisconsin’s 11 federally recognized tribes, the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council and the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center to aid tribal communities.

Paul DeMain is the editor and CEO of Indian Country Communications. He is a member of the Oneida nation, of Ojibwe decentand lives in Madison. Indian Country Communications is a Native-owned reservation-based business that produces IndianCountryTV and publishes News From Indian Country, according to its website. DeMain has been the Indian Country Communications CEO since 1986. From 1982-86, DeMain was the Indian Affairs Policy Advisor under Governor Anthony Earl, becoming the first Native American to be appointed as a policy adviser in Wisconsin Governor’s office. 

Craig Anderson, a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, is the executive director and founding member of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. He is also a founding member of the First American Capital Corp. which is the business financial arm of the AICCW. It offers a strong support system for Native American entrepreneurs in Wisconsin.   For nearly 20 years, Anderson has assisted hundreds of small businesses in mentoring, consulting and lending, according to the AICCW website. 

Arvina Martin is the first Native American woman to be elected to the Madison City Council, representing District 11 as alder. She assumed office on April 18, 2017, and then won re-election in 2019. Previously, Martin was a policy analyst and statewide tribal liaison for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. She has also served as a voter protection fellow, American Indian outreach coordinator, and communications intern for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the chief communications officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature, the campaign manager for Ellen for Assembly, the Native vote director for Organizing for America-Wisconsin, and an admissions advisor for the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Born and raised in Madison, Arvina has dedicated her career to improving her community.

Tricia Zunker is a Justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, president of the Wausau Board of Education and the Democratic nominee to represent Northern Wisconsin in the United States Congress. She is founding director of Central Wisconsin Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee and successfully led the effort to have the City of Wausau and Marathon County recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the first Monday in October. In addition, she teaches and serves as Dean of Faculty at California School of Law. She also teaches in the Legal Studies department at University of Maryland and in the Criminal Justice department at Colorado State University-Global Campus. and on the Board of Directors for the ACLU of Wisconsin, including serving on the Executive Committee. She is also a member of Wisconsin Tribal Judges Association, National American Indian Court Judges Association, National Native American Bar Association, Wisconsin Indian Education Association and the State Bar of California.