Secretary Haaland – Deb, you’re such an extraordinary woman. You fight tirelessly for native people and our public lands. Thank you for your leadership and your partnership.
Chairwoman Kakkak, it’s been incredible to spend the day with you and the people of Menominee Nation.
Thank you for welcoming me and for showing me some of the things that make this community so special.
President Caldwell, thank you for the warm welcome to the College of Menominee Nation.
Being surrounded by so many amazing women, it’s hard not to think of Ada Deer.
Born on this reservation. The first woman to lead the Menominee Nation. A barrier breaker. And a fierce advocate for all native people.
Her years-long battle to restore this tribe’s sovereignty changed the course of history – and the law of the land.
Ada learned that strength from someone whose name history may not remember, but who changed it all the same: her mother, Connie.
She told Ada that she was put on this earth for a purpose and that purpose was to help her people.
Most of our mothers aren’t in the history books, but they left pieces of their spirits in all of us, didn’t they?
My mother never asked me to follow in her footsteps – she only made sure I knew I could find my own way and that she’d be there to root for me.
And though she left before I was done needing her, I feel her strength inside me. I see her fire in my daughter, Ashley. I know that she never stopped cheering me on.
We’re all here today because someone believed in us. Because someone taught us to be brave. Our mothers. Our aunts. Our nanas. Our teachers and mentors.
As I’ve traveled the country as First Lady, I’ve visited Tribal Nations and Native communities. And I’ve seen that bravery in the incredible women I’ve met who are leading change.
In tribal health clinics and schools, I’ve met women and men who are weaving their heritage with their dreams, expanding connections through the reach of broadband, supporting revitalization of their native languages, and fighting for clean water.
And Joe’s Administration is proud to be a partner in those efforts.
That’s why Joe’s made the largest-ever federal investment in Indian Country. He’s honoring the nation-to-nation relationship – making sure all parts of his administration are consulting with tribes. And he’s begun an unprecedented collaboration with Tribal Nations to manage the lands, waters, and natural wonders that are important to you, because you know best what you need.
Today, I saw how the Menominee people and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to bring federal resources here, so the tribe can continue sustainably managing the forest using knowledge passed down from generation to generation – harvesting lumber while protecting the environment.
Young Sugar Maples, Black Ashes, and White Pines grow in a ring with an older tree at their center – like a mother watching over her circle of daughters, as they grow from seed to sapling, to tall and strong in their own time.
That’s all any mother hopes for – that our daughters will take what we know and make their own way, shape and shift the world after us – like young trees stretching up to the sky.
Because a piece of past generations lives on in each of us.
Ada’s legacy lives on in all of you.
She taught us how to run head first into a problem even if it seems impossible to fix – because someone has to try. She showed us how to never let a loss become a defeat. How to lead when there’s no one to follow.
I know your ancestors and mentors and teachers are proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished – and their spirits live on in your work.
The ideas and partnerships that you create here will ripple far beyond this room. Your innovation and creativity, your leadership and your wisdom, will inspire the girls who will inherit this earth.
And they will know they belong in all places of power, that their boldness is beautiful, that they can be anything they want to be as they go on to lead and shape this world too.
Joe and I stand with you and all of Indian Country, as we work to build a brighter future together.
It’s been an honor to spend time with your community today and see the incredible work you’re doing.
Thank you for welcoming me to your nation.