DPI Superintendent and governor-elect Dr. Tony Evers and Red Cliff Chairman Richard "Rick" Peterson hold signed MOU documents on Monday in Red Cliff.

CONTACT: Richard "Rick" Peterson, Chairman
PHONE: (715) 779-3700
EMAIL: communications@redcliff-nsn.gov
DATE: Monday, December 3, 2018

Red Cliff Band, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, sign historic Memorandum Of Understanding on education
DPI Superintendent and governor-elect Dr. Tony Evers visits Bad River, Red Cliff Monday, signing second and third tribal nation education agreements.

RED CLIFF, WI - The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians signed a historic Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) on Monday with the state of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) at the tribe's Legendary Waters Resort Casino Event Center. DPI Superintendent and Governor-elect Dr. Tony Evers and Red Cliff Tribal Chairman Richard "Rick" Peterson signed the MOU in a special ceremony attended by Red Cliff community members, representatives from the state of Wisconsin and Red Cliff tribal council.

"This is an incredibly important day for the Red Cliff Band, our tribal members and our children in that we are not only expanding our influence over their education in the public realm but also strengthening our tribal sovereignty," said Red Cliff Chairman Peterson. "Many of our youth are at a crossroads, with many struggling with issues related to their identity as Indian people. This agreement helps to lay the foundation which will help infuse their culture, language and traditional knowledge into their everyday learning environment, helping to build confidence and drawing from the things that are familiar to them," added Peterson.

The MOU provides the framework for a collaborative effort between the tribe and DPI in improving educational programs and services affecting Red Cliff tribal members and calls for the establishment of a common understanding regarding the roles, responsibilities and procedures that facilitate best practices between the two.

"I want to assure people that this Memorandum Of Understanding is very important to me as it relates to the education world but should be symbolic of us here today, that my commitment to not only Red Cliff but also the other ten tribes in the state of Wisconsin is significant and important to me," said Evers. "I have always believed that the sovereign nation status of our Native people is good for all of us," continued Evers, who noted he appeared in dual capacities as DPI Superintendent and as governor-elect.

Evers has long been an ally to the tribal nations within Wisconsin, appearing regularly at various Wisconsin Indian Education Association functions, where he's worked with tribes on improving education and repeatedly promised to rid the state's high schools of offensive Indian team names, mascots and logos.

"This is important for the state of Wisconsin to recognize the value of sovereignty," said Evers at the Monday MOU signing. "We are co-equals and have to develop these memorandum of understandings so that we know the responsibilities each party has," continued Evers.

When asked why he's been an ally to Indian tribes in his role has state superintendent, Evers said that he felt it important to have good working relations with the tribes in ensuring Native students in Wisconsin succeed like any other segment.

"The eleven tribal nations where here long before my ancestors were and we share ownership in this state," said Evers. "We're all about consensus - which means both sides will have to agree. We want to have common ground to advance education for our school aged members of Red Cliff."

The ceremony began with an invocation in the Ojibwe language by Red Cliff Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Marvin Defoe, Jr.

Bayfield School Superintendent and Red Cliff Tribal Member Jeff Gordon, who attended the ceremony Monday, said the MOU provides increased avenues through which Native curriculum can be integrated into core education curriculum and provides opportunities for new and dynamic projects within the school.

"This gives us some room to move forward in working collaboratively with the tribe and school district in a good way," said Gordon. "This is going to provide us with the ability to go to our staff and to say, 'look, this is important. This is governor-elect Tony Evers, he's on board.' Now we can start implementing more Act 31 (First Nations Studies) curriculum. We can start blending in more, not just from the perspective of Native American language and culture but all subject areas," Gordon added.

Red Cliff Vice Chairman Nathan Gordon said that while it took some time to finalize the agreement, it was well worth the wait.

"This effort spans across a couple of years and two tribal administrations," said Vice Chairman Gordon. "This shows our commitment to our students and our future generations through an ongoing effort and multiple people. The goal of this MOU from my perspective, will be to reinvigorate our culture within the walls of our public education institutions and instill a sense of identity in our school children," he added.

Red Cliff becomes the third tribe in the state to sign such an MOU with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction behind Lac du Flambeau last May and Bad River, where Evers visited earlier on Monday to finalize an agreement of their own.

"We are working with each of the tribes to get these agreements done," said Evers of the other eight federally recognized tribal nations. "It has taken time to get these accomplished and it's just a matter of time before they're all signed," added Evers, who said if he doesn't get them done, his successor will.

When asked if he had an idea who the next state superintendent of public instruction would be, Evers remarked, "It'll be somebody who has the same belief system I do."

Above: Red Cliff Tribal Council from left to right - Carolyn Gouge, Secretary Laura Gordon, Nick DePerry, Vice Chairman Nathan Gordon, Treasurer Johanna Wilson and Dan Duffy.
Bayfield School Superintendent Jeff Gordon and Dr. Tony Evers.
Red Cliff Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Marvin Defoe, Jr. and Dr. Tony Evers.
Red Cliff Tribal Administrator Don Rosin talks with Dr. Tony Evers as Ever's assistant Scott Jones looks on.
Bayfield School representatives with Chairman Peterson and Dr. Evers.
Dr. Evers and Chairman Peterson at signing.
Click the image above for video of MOU signing on the tribe's YouTube Page.