Guest Commentary

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Ho-Chunk’s tribal newspaper, Hocak Worak, in reaction to coverage the Wisconsin State Journal wrote about funds received by Ho Chunk tribal citizens upon reaching their 18th birthday. Used with permission. All rights apply.

By Collin Price and Arvina Martin

The recent two-part series for the Wisconsin State Journal by Reporter Dan Simmons regarding the Nation’s Children’s Trust Funds has provoked many reactions amongst tribal members. The issue has been, and continues to be a hot issue throughout the tribal membership. No matter where you go, or who you talk to about 18 money you’re sure to find differing opinions on what needs to be done or what should remain the same.

The article ‘Hitting the Jackpot: Ho-Chunk mulling changes to 18 money’ in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ)l written by Dan Simmons has set off a firestorm of anger throughout our tribal membership.

The comments posted online and the phone calls have flooded the offices of tribal leadership since the 1st article went to print. We will not attempt to defend the article but what we will do is take a stand for our Nation and our People.

Back in 2006, Dan Simmons wrote an article titled ‘18 Money a Jackpot or a Curse for Ho-Chunk’ and this was the launch point for his recent article. Fast forward 8 years, and the Nation’s per-capita distribution model appears to be not working like it once did.

Internally, the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislature has been seeking input from our tribal membership to look for alternative ways of 18 money distribution. This issue has sparked interest and was covered in the WSJ article.

During a livechat with Dan Simmons and the WSJ staff a participant asked them why this story was newsworthy. Here is the response:

“First, the tribe is a major employer and economic player in Wisconsin. Second, there’s human drama. Third, there’s tension: the Ho-Chunk Nation is proposing changes to when the payouts occur. Those elements make for a good story. Plus, how many readers have heard about this before?- Mark Pitsch”

The Nation did not pitch the article to the media. The Nation did not leak any financial data. All of the financial data used in the article was already available online to the general public and had citations for the sources used. The Nation did not view the article prior to publication or have any say in the final submission.

With that said, the article does not accurately represent the Nation’s youth and our People.

We know there are some glaring inaccuracies within the recent articles. We know that there is no established $200,000 distribution. There are a lot of factors that go into the final distribution including when someone was enrolled and if some of that was used for educational purposes prior to the final pay out.

We may not all agree on the proposed changes of the per-cap ordinance ,or how the young adults spend their distribution money. But just like so many issues that our Nation faces, this is OUR issue. We live it, we see it and we’re part of the issue every single day. We have been the recipient of 18 money and so have our loved ones. That is why this issue remains OUR issue and not for public consumption.

Putting this issue into the mainstream public is one thing ,but putting it out there and leaving the reader with the impression that we are inept Natives who are irresponsible with money is wrong. The impression left perpetuates stereotypes that we spend everyday trying to dismantle.

The work of our ancestors, and their struggles have paved the way for what we have today. From our family structure, to the government processes, and the successful businesses that operate throughout Wisconsin, this is who we are.

Glossed over were the examples of responsible spending, responsible saving and helping each other out when times get rough. We’re taught to help each other, and there are countless examples our tribal members of doing just that. Whether it’s in the family setting, work setting, or the community setting we’re always trying to help one another out. The partnerships we have with our communities are working because we see the importance of supporting one another, and being that good neighbor. Sadly, this isn’t what moves the needle when the media is looking to get readers to their websites and people picking up the newspapers. These sensationalized stories make Facebook pages explode with shares and comments. The story has spurred more controversy and has tribal members attacking one another and making false accusations.

It’s the sensationalized stories of irresponsible little Indian kids that gets people talking. It’s the stories that breathe more life into racism. The general public read the articles and say “See, I knew it. They get free money and buy booze, drugs and fast cars. ”

The horror stories of irresponsible spending is not a Ho-Chunk issue. It’s a people issue. It’s easy to scour the internet or flip on the TV and find hundreds of examples of people spending their money irresponsibly. ESPN (30 for 30-Broke) documented the stories of athletes who came into millions of dollars only to spend it quickly on lavish cars and jewelry and be left with nothing to show for it a few short years later. The stories are similar with lottery winners, athletes, actors,  and trust fund kids. Don’t let the media convince us that this is a unique problem that only the Ho-Chunk 18 year olds face. The issue is greater than our People and we know this.

The per cap issue is ours and the internal discussions to see it work better for our young adults will continue to take center stage within tribal politics.

Regardless of which camp you’re in, It’s safe to assume that we as tribal members, parents and government officials all want to make the best decision for our young adults. Some of us parents have been in the shoes of our new high school graduates and have had the opportunity to experience a lump sum of money that was previously never afforded to us. And because of that we don’t want people to make the same mistakes. These mistakes are the ones that the media tends to gravitate to.

This report reminds us all that there are people who do not have the same consideration for our young tribal members. Many of the people they encounter look at them and only see dollar signs.  It is important that we not allow others, whether it is the press, or nefarious businesses, to paint us and our members with broad brush strokes, but also to keep an eye on or young adults. We need to continue to make sure they know the options available to them, and encourage to find the best ways to practice their own wealth management.

We will continue to serve our People and protect one another from outside attacks that do nothing but aim to tear us apart and bring us down.

With the Nation continuing to play a role in local, state, and national politics, we will always have our detractors. Some of them will use cheap tricks and write stories to paint us in the worst possible light, all with the intent of subverting our influence. Rest assured that officials of the Ho-Chunk Nation will always be working for the advancement of all our tribal members, and that we will not let our citizens be maligned. We will continue to use our voice to champion our interests, and protect our families.

What was once a good option for 18 money distribution may not be working today. However, it may be working just fine. That debate will never go away.


If you feel your child, or a child you know is being adversely targeted by a businesses, please contact the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. Additionally, we encourage you to stay informed and use some of the following resources to help guide you on your way to responsible saving and spending.


How to Avoid Scams & Frauds-

How to find a financial advisor you can trust- http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-find-a-financial-advisor-you-can-trust/

If you’re interested in viewing financial data related to per-capita distribution for the Ho-Chunk Nation along with other tribes throughout the state and country please visit the links below.

Ho-Chunk Per Capita Payments


Allocations of tribal revenues


2013 Tribal gaming revenues


Tribal payments to the State broken down by tribes


Gambling has given Ho-Chunk new hope


Richest Tribe in America




The post Ho Chunk Officials Respond to Media Coverage Regarding Children’s Trust Funds appeared first on Native News Online.

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