Dee works with tribal leaders, activists, and partners to bring the voice of First Nations communities into Wisconsin Conservation Voters campaigns, and to develop environmental leaders and connect northern communities with policy-making in the State Capitol. She also works to engage Native Americans in the electoral process through our sister organization’s nonpartisan Native Vote program.
Her work with Native Vote includes registering voters and educating them about the electoral process. In a public information capacity, she helps build awareness about the environmental issues that tribal citizens in the state and of the Great Lakes region feel most profoundly about; those that not only effect their homelands and their economic livelihood, but their cultural lives and spiritual practices.
I grew up on the Iron Range of northern Minnesota where my father worked the taconite mines and my mother made a home for us deep in the woods. They fed our family by harvesting wild game, by fishing year-round, by gathering berries, and tending gardens of all kinds. In the fall, the basement cellar was filled with canned food and produce and with stacks of wood close by, all to keep us warm and well fed through the winter. At no greater time in my life was my existence more wholly dependent upon the fruits of their labor and the abundance of this Earth.
As a child, I would watch the iron mines gnash away at the woodland territories, turning rivers and streams into a red slur, and I began to understand the troubling relationship between industry and the natural environment. How, if unchecked, industry will upset Nature's delicate balance, how rural economies can be dismantled nearly overnight, how families would need to pack up their homes – moving in order to re-establish themselves in an environment where hope and possibility might still exist. After the mines shut down, we moved to Wisconsin where the wide expanse of America's Dairyland was still lush and emerald green, and where inland seas moved briskly, still sparkling clean and still fit to drink from a child's cupped hands.
Later as a young parent and college student, I became politically involved during the Wisconsin Treaty Wars, witnessing for peace and solidarity at a very difficult time for our state. I dedicated myself to the spirit of the Seventh Generation Amendment put forth to the Wisconsin legislature by Mr. Walt Bresette (Red Cliff) and others at that time. It declares that the citizens of Wisconsin must account for the state's environmental resources – their use, their protection, and their future preservation. We must demand that the land, earth, water, and sky be held in high regard, just as every other living thing – by our state legislators as well – and then act accordingly. We all must be able to assure the children that for the next seven generations they will also have a chance to make a life for their families upon this rich earth. So shall we be of this mind.
- B.A., M.A., English, emphasis First Nations Studies, Creative Writing, UW- Eau Claire
- Outstanding Woman Of Color Award, 1992, 1994 (WI Women's Council)
- Decorah First Book Award, 1998 (Native Writers Circle of the Americas)
- Posner Award for Poetry, 1998 (WI Council of Writers)
- UW-Eau Claire Distinguished Alumni Award, 2004
- WI Poet Laureate, 2004-2008
- Professor Emeritus, UW- Green Bay
- Published author, 5th book entitled, Palominos Near Tuba City: New And Selected Poems (Holy Cow! Press: 2018)
Storytelling, biking, kayaking, cooking, ballroom dancing, theatre, film, volunteerism, myth-making, words.
I'm a conservation voter because I am Anishinaabe (Ojibwe, White Earth) and am responsible not only for my own quality of life and well-being, but for that of all living beings of this Earth, both animate and inanimate. This is a sacred covenant for Indigenous people, and we cannot rise above it nor turn our backs on it without consequence. The old people left behind a simple legacy for us to uphold: to protect and sustain this Earth so that She may continue to provide her gifts to make all life possible – especially for those yet to be born. That is real to me.
Favorite Place in Wisconsin: Sand Island, Apostle Islands Archipelago