Even though the Native American population of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is small—just 0.9 percent according to the 2010 Census—a group of Native women have chosen to form a support system to strengthen the Native community.
“I had women mentors (who) helped me grow and become successful, so I think we need to do that for our girls,” Richanda Kaquatosh told the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.
The news service reports that Kaquatosh grew up on the Menominee Indian reservation in northeastern Wisconsin but moved to Milwaukee when she was 10.
Those mentors she mentioned along with her mother, who she called “strong,” helped support her in getting a bachelor’s at Alverno College and a master’s at Cardinal Stritch University, both in Milwaukee.
She is now the coordinator of Milwaukee Public Schools’ First Nation Studies program, which provides Native students with classroom assistance, tutoring, an after school reading program, and more. The program also provides teachers with assistance on lesson planning and has information on First Nations resources available.
Kaquatosh is organizing the First Nations Women’s Professional Leadership Group to help Native women and to strengthen the community.
The group’s focus is working with young and adult women because “there are a lot of unhealthy behaviors … going on out there that we can address,” she told the news service.
“All of us have this capacity within us, which really binds us together, to see that our young Native women need leadership support, ” Jacqueline Schram, governmental and community affairs associate with Marquette University, told the news service.
Schram, Ojibway from Sagkeeng First Nations, is one of five women Kaquatosh has chosen as the core of the leadership group.
There is also Judy Dordel, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin Inc., executive director of the Indian Summer Festival; Kaye Garcia, a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and executive director of the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation; and Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell, professor of educational psychology at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The group hopes to someday establish a scholarship for young women. They also want to bring Native communities together and raise awareness of Native American history by working with colleges.
“I don’t think we should put any limits on what we do and what we plan and just keep moving forward,” Dordel told the news service.