In its initial stages, WIEA was primarily an information sharing organization, however in recent years the Board has become pro-active regarding issues that affect Indian education. Legislative Breakfasts have been held in Madison for the past 5 years where Board members have the opportunity to share with State Legislators concerns on issues that affect Indian people in Wisconsin. Some of the issues brought to the attention of State Legislators at the breakfasts:
- Strengthening 1989 Wisconsin Act 31, a law that requires the incorporation of Wisconsin Indian history, treaties and tribal sovereignty into the public school curriculum at grades 4, 8 and 10.
- Restoring the Wisconsin Indian Grant to the 1995 level of funding at $2,200/academic year when it was arbitrarily reduced to $1,100 in 1996.
- The use of “Indian” mascots, logos, and nicknames in Wisconsin’s public schools.
- Distribution of gaming revenues under the Gaming Contracts.
Board members have also provided testimony at public hearings regarding the first three issues.
Two Board members were appointed to the Governors Task Force on Recruitment and Retention of minorities to the Wisconsin Technical College system in 1990.
The Association has provided input to the University of Wisconsin System’s Design for Diversity and Plan 2008.
The American Indian Language and Culture Education Board was disbanded in 1997. Since then the State Superintendent has used W.I.E.A. in an advisory capacity to Department of Public Instruction for programs that affect Indian students in the public school system.
More recently, Board members have become active in support of the Wisconsin Technical College System’s Northern Consortium. The Consortium consists of Native American and multi-cultural advisors who are trying to seek a more equitable distribution of funds for multi-cultural programs that, in the past, have been historically awarded to the southern urban technical colleges.
For the past five years the board has held strategic planning sessions after the annual conference in order to accomplish tasks that relate to the mission of the association.
WIEA also oversees the dispersement of scholarship monies for American Indian students in Wisconsin. In 1999 the Association was selected to manage and award the Jeanette Elmer Scholarships to Indian students through a trust fund created by the former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh librarian. These scholarships, are for undergraduate and graduates and are based on financial need. The students must also demonstrate satisfactory academic progress. To date, over 109 Indian Undergraduate and Graduate students have been awarded Jeanette Elmer Scholarships.
The WIEA scholarship is granted to 4 students each year. The recipients are named at the annual awards banquet which coincied with the annual conference in spring.
As part of the Association By-laws, an annual Statewide Indian Education Conference is held each year in April. Regions can bid on hosting the conference with their Board representatives acting as coordinators. The conference includes keynote speakers, workshops and presenters who address education issues from Pre-K to post-secondary Indian education. An Awards Banquet is held during the conference to recognize the achievements of Indian Educators, students, parents, elders and friends of Indian Education.