Former four-time Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin tribal chairwoman, Lisa S. Waukau walked on to the spirit world on June 18, 2016, surrounded by her family at her home in Keshena, Wisconsin. She was 71.
“The Menominee Nation has lost an extraordinary leader,” Joan Delabreau, tribal chairwoman said upon hearing the news in a release from the tribe. “Chairwoman Waukau was also known as ‘Nehaeqsnemetaemoh,’ which translates to ‘A tree standing in the forest.’ She was like that tree, strong, inspiring and honorable in her resolve.”
A life-long educator and published author, Waukau, born December 26, 1944, dedicated her life to the betterment of the Menominee Nation. She touched many tribal member lives as a leader and history teacher with the Menominee Indian School District.
“Her 18-year tenure serving the Menominee People was always bound by her conviction and for the betterment of the tribe. She attended every meeting, voted on every issue, and fought many good battles,” Delabreau said. “Her comprehension of issues and their impacts on the people stirred her resolve and she brought that same determination to every table.”
Waukau began serving as an educator with the Teacher Corps in 1977 at the Menominee Indian School District. Throughout her 37-year career she taught elementary, junior high and high school.
She was first elected to the tribal legislature in 1995, beginning her 18 years of tribal leadership serving as tribal secretary (four years), vice chairwoman (one year) and chairwoman along the way.
While a part of the tribal legislature, she championed issues on the tribe’s behalf that included: recognition of Menominee language, culture and history licensing with Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction; gaming issues with the Department of Interior; health services; and children and family services. Waukau held a long-standing appointment on the tribe’s Kenosha Gaming Authority, education committee, economic development and housing committees, and elders and youth council.
Her legacy of cultural competency in teaching Native youth was solidified in 2009 when she co-authored Teach Native American Across the Curriculum: A critical inquiry.
The release states she had an uncanny ability to get the job done, and carried a diplomatic nature, charisma and wit that served her well across the various venues she worked in.
“She exuded the air of diplomacy and was able to do battle from one issue to the next, while also maintaining friendly relationships with her peers and constituency,” Delabreau said.
Visitation will be held at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, Father David Barrett Hall on Thursday, June 23 from noon until 10 p.m. The funeral will take place at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Keshena, Wisconsin on Friday, June 24 at 1 p.m. Swedberg Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. In memory and honor all flags at tribal facilities have been ordered to be flown at half-staff for a period of 10 days.
“She will be greatly missed, but will live on in the memory of all whose lives she touched,” Delabreau said. “On behalf of the Menominee Nation and tribal legislature, I offer sincere condolences to the family, friends, and many colleagues of former Menominee Tribal Chairwoman Lisa Waukau.”