First Steps:  Explore Essential Understandings

Explore:  Nations

There is great diversity in the cultures, languages, histories, and governmental structures of the 11 American Indian nations and 1 non-federally recognized nation of Wisconsin. There is no singular “American Indian.”

Explore:  Tribal Sovereignty

American Indian nations possess inherent sovereignty. Tribal sovereignty is the basis for self-government and the ongoing government-to-government relationship that federally recognized tribes have with the federal government of the United States. Tribal governments are separate and independent from local, state, and federal governments, and similarly, their sovereignty is not absolute.

Explore:  People

There is great diversity among individual American Indians, as with any other population. Unique legal standards regarding tribal citizenship and levels of engagement with traditional ways are key factors shaping contemporary American Indian identity. As many contemporary American Indian families are also intertribal, multiracial, and/or multicultural, there is no singular “American Indian” identity.

Explore:  Culture

American Indian cultures remain vital and dynamic. Despite significant losses
due to the ongoing impact of assimilation colonialism, traditional teachings continue to inform how individuals live their lives and how nations govern themselves and serve their people. Wisconsin hosts six Native languages in three language families — Algonquian (Menominee, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Munsee); Siouan (Ho-Chunk); and Iroquoian (Oneida).

Explore:  History

American Indian history ranges from oral traditions representing teachings that may be thousands of years old to contemporary accounts that also incorporate documentary sources. Oral histories continue to inform contemporary understandings and are afforded great respect in the tribal world. American Indian history is an integral part of Wisconsin and United States history.

Explore:  Wisconsin State Statutes

These first steps identify the essential resources for addressing each of the five Essential Understandings.  Additional support is available from American Indian Curriculum Services. Please contact Aaron Bird Bear at 608/262-8427 or


Click for help to get started Click for Lesson Ideas & Resources

12 American ​Indian Nations
of Wisconsin



​Act 31 Across WIsconsin

  • The state of Wisconsin was charged with creating a curriculum for grades 4-12 on American Indian treaty rights. It included a mandate for school programming to give students an understanding of different value systems, cultures, and human relations. 
  • Schools are required to teach American Indian studies at least 3 times throughout a student’s K-12 career and must maintain instructional materials which appropriately reflect diverse cultures.


Act 31 on the UW Campus

Each teacher seeking a license from the state must have instruction in American Indian history, culture and tribal sovereignty, ​meeting the requirement of Act 31 is more than an obligation for certification; it represents our university’s commitment to serve our diverse communities and the American Indian tribes and bands who reside within its borders.


News and Media Resources

The following links are to media resources, television, and radio that covers news and entertainment for and about American Indian nations and tribal communities across Wisconsin, the United States, and Canada.