Earlier this spring Madison365.com put the spotlight on “Wisconsin’s 38 Most Influential Native Americans,” a report that showcased several alumni of UW-Madison’s School of Education.
This is the first list of its kind for Madison365.com, which over the previous five years has recognized Wisconsin’s most influential Black and Latino leaders. “This list represents something that’s never been done,” explains Madison365.com, which is now shining “a statewide spotlight on the dedicated leaders of Wisconsin’s indigenous communities. The people we highlight … are elected leaders, business leaders, community leaders, doing difficult, important work, often in the face of discrimination and literally generations of oppression.
Among those who studied with the School of Education receiving this special recognition are:
• Aaron Bird Bear (master’s degree, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, 2010) — Reports Madison365.com: “Aaron Bird Bear, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Diné nations, is the first tribal relations director at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His role is to foster relationships between the 12 First Nations of Wisconsin and the university. Before accepting this position, Bird Bear has been a strong First Nation activist on the campus since 2000. In 2003 Bird Bear developed the popular First Nations Cultural Landscape tour at UW-Madison, where thousands of visitors learn about 11 architectural earthwork mound sites and at least 25 human habitation sites dating back 12,000 years. He currently co-leads a group that creates heritage markers on and around Bascom Hill; the ‘Our Shared Future’ markers honor and recognizes the land as the ancestral home of the Ho-Chunk nation.”
• Rebecca Comfort (bachelor’s degree, Art Department, 2014) — Reports Madison365.com: “Rebecca Comfort is the American Indian Nations Liaison with the Wisconsin Historical Society, where she develops, strengthens, and maintains relationships with the 12 American Indian nations of Wisconsin, including tribal councils and other elected representatives. A member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Comfort also develops ongoing relationships with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs), tribal libraries, museums, and education offices and leads and serves on internal Wisconsin Historical Society teams that work directly with relationships and projects involving American Indian nations.”
• Laura Laitinen-Warren (educational specialist certification, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, 2007) — Reports Madison365.com: “Laura Laitinen-Warren is a Senior Policy Adviser for the Chairman’s Office of the Oneida Nation. In this role, she provides the Tribal Chair with governmental policy advice and recommendations on matters relating to Oneida Tribal government affairs. Laitinen-Warren has over 25 years of experience working in Indian Country in a variety of leadership positions in Oneida Casino’s gaming industry as well as human resources. She was also invited to participate and moderate the Women of Excellence panel for 2019’s Wisconsin Leadership Summit. Laitinen-Warren has a bachelor’s degree in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and an educational specialist certification from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is completing her dissertation exploring the identity formation and lived experiences of multiracial leaders.”
• David O’Connor (master’s degree, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, 2013) — Reports Madison365.com: “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.”
Make sure and learn about all of this year’s honorees by visiting this Madison365.com web page.