The stories of our students do not end when they leave CMN. Here, we will attempt to document the highlights and exciting things past and present CMN alumni have gone on to accomplish.
Former CMN student Maria Haskins (Lac Courte Oreilles) has recently stepped in to the role of Native Vote Manager for the Wisconsin Native Vote program. A member of Wisconsin Conservation Voices, she recently took the time to answer some questions CMN had regarding her work, her time at CMN, and her goals with the WNV.
What is a particular highlight that stands out from your time at CMN?
During my time at the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) from 2007 to 2010, I cherished the strong sense of community that permeated the campus. It seemed like everyone who was anyone attended CMN during that period, providing ample opportunities to form lasting relationships with peers and potential future colleagues.
The faculty members at CMN were consistently warm and welcoming, contributing to a supportive learning environment. Many of the students, including myself, were non-traditional learners who embarked on their educational journeys after having children. When childcare arrangements fell through, the faculty graciously allowed students to bring their children to class. As a result, my oldest daughter accompanied me to numerous college courses.
One of the highlights of my involvement at CMN was participating in Student Government activities, particularly the highway clean-up organized by Paddy Brzezinski. Under her guidance, we would collectively clean HWY 47, fostering a sense of community and emphasizing the importance of civic responsibility. Following the clean-up, we would gather for lunch as a group, further solidifying our bonds. Through activities like these, Paddy Brzezinski instilled in us a deep appreciation for fair democracy and nurtured our interests in law and politics.
How did your time at CMN prepare you for the work you're doing now with Wisconsin Native Vote?
The College of Menominee Nation (CMN) played a pivotal role in shaping my readiness to engage with organizations like Wisconsin Native Vote. Through my involvement at CMN, I developed a keen interest in political engagement and community organizing. Serving as Secretary for the College Democrats Club provided me with valuable exposure to different political platforms, particularly during the historic presidential campaign of Barack Obama. This experience introduced me to the intricacies of political gatherings and governmental processes, sparking a desire to deepen my understanding of civic engagement. Collaborating closely with my peers and other professionals at CMN, I actively participated in organizing small groups and events aimed at amplifying collective voices and advocating for community interests. These experiences at CMN helped me develop the skills and passion necessary to contribute meaningfully to initiatives like Wisconsin Native Vote, where I am committed to empowering indigenous voices and promoting democratic participation.
What do you think the most important hurdle is to clear in terms of advancing the WNV/WCV goals?
Currently, one of the most critical challenges facing Wisconsin Native Vote (WNV) is ensuring individuals have the ability to register to vote using their home address. In recent elections, numerous tribal members encountered obstacles when attempting to register because the state’s election database did not accurately reflect their physical addresses. This discrepancy rendered many unable to register. Additionally Wisconsin’s voting laws do not allow P.O. boxes to be used when registering to vote, yet many Native people around the state have P.O. box numbers as addresses. To address this issue, WNV is collaborating with organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) to advocate for solutions and ensure equitable access to voter registration for indigenous communities.
Our team at Wisconsin Native Vote also has a major goal of increasing voter turnout in Native communities around the state in 2024 through voter education and registering people to vote. To accomplish this, we plan to table at community events, host informational sessions, and have conversations at doors to empower individuals with the knowledge and resources necessary to participate in the democratic process. By overcoming these hurdles and advancing our goals, we are committed to advocating for fair and inclusive voting practices that uphold the voices and rights of all citizens, particularly indigenous communities.
Do you have a message of goodwill for our students and faculty?
As I reflect on my journey from the beginning, I am filled with gratitude for the friendships and connections forged during my time at the College of Menominee Nation (CMN). I am profoundly thankful for the unwavering support of the faculty and fellow students who walked alongside me through the challenges of being a young single mother striving to balance academics and work. There were moments when the demands seemed insurmountable, yet I persevered, carrying a heavy load of credits while juggling multiple jobs – always reminding myself that the sacrifices would one day pay off. The guidance and encouragement of individuals like Dr. Besaw, Dr. Brzezinski, Dr. Mahrie Peterson, Dr. Alphia Creapeau, the entire CMN staff, as well as my peers and supporters within the American Indian College Fund, were instrumental in my journey to success. If it weren't for their unwavering belief in me, I wouldn't be where I am today.
If I could share a message with many, it would be to embrace your truth with confidence, navigate your path with grace, uplift others with words of kindness, utilize your knowledge for the betterment of your community, and most importantly, believe in your own capabilities. You are capable of achieving far more than you may realize. And above all, never forget the power of your voice – exercise your right to vote and make your voice heard in shaping the future of our communities.
For more information about the Wisconsin Native Vote program, please visit the Wisconsin Conservation Voices website.
Alumni Abroad seeks to highlight stories of CMN alumni both present, past, and future. If you have a story you'd like to share with us, please email the Advancement department at firstname.lastname@example.org.