Jill Biden highlights support for Indigenous communities during Wisconsin visit

First lady Jill Biden visited Wisconsin on Oct. 10-11 and toured the Menominee Nation, including a sustainable logging business and college there that have been the recipients of federal investments since President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Biden has stressed the importance of Native American communities as part of his Investing in America agenda.

The tribe’s roots in the region date back over 10,000 years, and the current seat of the tribal government is located in the village of Keshena, Wisconsin, 45 miles south of Green Bay.

In a speech at the College of Menominee Nation on Oct. 10, Jill Biden stressed the commitment President Biden has made to Native American tribes and noted that his administration has made the largest federal investment in Indian Country in U.S. history.

“He’s honoring the nation-to-nation relationship – making sure all parts of his administration are consulting with tribes. And he’s begun an unprecedented collaboration with Tribal Nations to manage the lands, waters, and natural wonders that are important to you, because you know best what you need,” Biden said.

She was accompanied on the trip by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in a president’s Cabinet. President Biden nominated Haaland for the position in 2021.

Jill Biden visited Menominee Tribal Enterprises in Neopit, a supplier of sustainable wood harvested from the Menominee Forest that has been in operation for over 150 years. The company is owned and operated by the tribe and its members.

In her prepared remarks, Biden said, “Today, I saw how the Menominee people and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to bring federal resources here, so the tribe can continue sustainably managing the forest using knowledge passed down from generation to generation – harvesting lumber while protecting the environment.”

In September 2022, the Department of Commerce awarded a $5 million grant to Menominee Tribal Enterprises. The grant was earmarked for constructing a new building at the company’s facilities and to replace equipment at their sawmill. The grant was projected to generate $2 million in private investment, create 50 jobs, and retain 10 jobs in the area. Funds came from the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The Treasury Department announced on June 26 this year that the Menominee tribe would receive up to $2 million to be used for investment in small businesses. The funds came from the 2021 American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law. A total of 39 tribal governments received $73 million in funding from the State Small Business Credit Initiative. The initiative was reauthorized and expanded by the Rescue Plan after it was first formed in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

The Commerce Department also awarded the Menominee tribe $500,000 in June to deploy high-speed internet service in the region. Funds for the project came from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which both became law in 2021.

The Menominee tribe also received funding for projects from the congressional appropriations bill that Biden signed in December 2022. Funds were approved for the construction of a new tribal clinic, and for office building upgrades at the College of Menominee Nation.

The White House held a Tribal Nations Summit in November 2022, and Biden explained his administration’s actions on Native American issues in remarks delivered at the Department of the Interior.

“We’ll support tribal economies and keep fighting for better tribal healthcare, child care, education, housing, public safety, and so much more,” he said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.