Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

New Group Will Support Native American Women

A new professional group for women in a city where less than one percent of the population is Native American.

Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee
First Nations Women’s Professional Leadership Group members, (from left) Judy Dordel, Jacqueline Schram and Richanda E. Kaquatosh (Photo by Courtney Perry)

First Nations Women’s Professional Leadership Group members, (from left) Judy Dordel, Jacqueline Schram and Richanda E. Kaquatosh (Photo by Courtney Perry)

Richanda Kaquatosh grew up on the Menominee Indian reservation, the youngest of nine children. When she was 10, her family moved to Milwaukee, away from her childhood friends. But the challenges of being uprooted and shy were offset for Kaquatosh by the influence of her mother.

“I had a very strong mother (and) mentor who was pro-education,” said Kaquatosh.

Her mother and other mentors she found along the way supported her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at Alverno College and a master’s at Cardinal Stritch University. Now the coordinator of Milwaukee Public Schools’ First Nation Studies program, Kaquatosh is launching an organization to help Native American women and girls and build her community.

“I had women mentors (who) helped me grow and become successful, so I think we need to do that for our girls,” Kaquatosh said. Working with young and adult women is the group’s main focus because “there are a lot of unhealthy behaviors … going on out there that we can address,” she said.

Group members discuss future plans in a meeting at Marquette University. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

Group members discuss future plans in a meeting at Marquette University. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

Kaquatosh has chosen five women in her professional network as the core of the First Nations Women’s Professional Leadership Group. They are Judy Dordel, executive director, Indian Summer Festival; Jacqueline Schram, governmental and community affairs associate, Marquette University; Kaye Garcia, executive director, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation; and Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell, professor of educational psychology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“All of us have this capacity within us, which really binds us together, to see that our young Native women need leadership support, ” Schram said.

The group members stressed the importance of passing down knowledge they received from other Native women to strengthen bonds in the community.

The Native American population is one of the smallest ethnic groups in Milwaukee, making up just 0.9 percent of the population according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That is one of the reasons the founders established the group.

“Native people are looking for information to come together. They need something to relate to,” said Dordel.

The women said they feel a strong connection between themselves and the community. “It’s a magnetic pull. It’s palpable,” Schram said.

Still in what Schram describes as its “humble beginnings,” the group hopes to establish a scholarship for young women, bring various Native communities together and work with colleges to raise awareness of Native American history.

The group would also like to expand its membership and, eventually, develop it into a national organization.

The women said they believe that, overall, it is important to support one another as women and not limit the group’s possibilities. Said Dordel, “I don’t think we should put any limits on what we do and what we plan and just keep moving forward.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

2 thoughts on “New Group Will Support Native American Women”

  1. judith ann moriarty says:

    My grand-daughter is Ojibwe, from Wisconsin. Her childhood was poverty, poverty and more poverty, but she kept going, and today is an attorney working on behalf of impoverished persons, in of all places, New Zealand. I’m so proud that she elected to serve humanity via a non-profit.

  2. Debra Fabian says:

    Do you have any contact information for this group? I am a Native American, self employed woman and am interested in this First Nations Women’s Professional Leadership Group.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us