Woman becomes youngest president of Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians

November 04, 2016 04:23 PM

Native Americans have a philosophy that says “we don't own the land, it owns you, so you're a part of it.”

But colonial wars, a reduction in their numbers and encroachment from white settlers would eventually uproot the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians from their land. It's a history etched in the mind of Shannon Holsey forever.

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“We originated from here and ended up in Wisconsin several hundred years ago,” said Holsey, President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

One of 11 tribes in Wisconsin, this nearly 1,500 member tribe was able to retain their culture, a form of government and businesses.

“We also have a police department, health center, we own enterprises, we own a casino,” Holsey said.

In fact, they're the largest employer of non-Native Americans in their county. Last year, Holsey was elected president. She is the youngest president in tribal history.

“You're given a huge opportunity and its an honor and privileged to serve your people,” Holsey said.

Holsey holds a bachelors and masters degree and says her presidency shows young women what is possible.

“I was that girl that grew up on a reservation like any other reservation girl,” she said. “What the difference was is that my parents instilled a fearless spirit that says you can do anything you want.”

Despite their sovereignty, Holsey says the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians still vote and registered for this year’s presidential election. She questions why gender is still an issue when it comes to women and leadership.

"The Queen of England has been in power for years, and there have been [female] prime ministers,” she said.

On Thursday night, Holsey made a presentation in Albany at city hall. It was in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.

WEB EXTRA: Shannon Holsey


WNYT Staff

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