FHWA Home | Feedback

Outreach to Native Americans
A Comprehensive Look at Wisconsin's Efforts


Mary B. Williams, Civil Rights Program Manager
Federal Highway Administration
567 D'Onofrio Drive
Madison, WI 53719-2418
Voice 608-829-7516; FAX 608-829-7526
E-mail: mary.williams@fhwa.dot.gov

John C. Carroll, P.E., Engineering Consultant
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Office of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs
4802 Sheboygan Avenue
P.O. Box 7965, Room 451
Madison, WI 53707
Voice 608-266-0503; FAX 608-267-3641
E-mail: john.carroll@dot.state.wi.us


Martha Florey, WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety
Jaclyn Lawton, Federal Highway Administration
Jim Zegers, WisDOT Office of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs
Jason Bittner, Midwest Region University Transportation Center - UW Madison
Sue Skutley, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
Tracey Mofle, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

October 31, 2002

Outreach to Native American - A Comprehensive Look at Wisconsin's Efforts
Background: Steps to Building the Bridge
Partnering: Other Initiatives
Historic Preservation and Native American Coordination
Transportation Alliance for New Solutions (TrANS)
Tribal Visits - Government-to-Government Relationships
WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS)
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Capacity Building Efforts
Investing in the Future Career Awareness Project
Partnering - Lessons Learned
Working with Native Americans: Lessons Learned


Outreach to Native American - A Comprehensive Look at Wisconsin's Efforts

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Wisconsin Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have partnered to achieve our goals when serving mutual customers. This includes working with Native Americans businesses and individuals, working with Wisconsin's two Native American community colleges and working with Wisconsin's eleven federally recognized Tribes on a government-to-government basis. Both agencies have proactively sought ways to increase employment of Native Americans, increase the participation of Native American businesses contracting for transportation infrastructure development and increase participation of Federally recognized Tribes in the Federal-aid highway program.

The WisDOT and FHWA have moved from the traditional command and control concept of administering the Federal-aid highway program to a partnership concept. WisDOT, FHWA and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC) have successfully partnered since 1995. WisDOT, FHWA and the College of the Menominee Nation (CMN) have successfully partnered since 1999. The partnerships with LCOOCC and CMN were developed to increase the opportunity to achieve greater success in our mutual goals as they related to Native Americans including strengthening the economy of the reservations with real jobs. Huge opportunities continue to exist within the Federal-aid highway program due to the increased funding provided by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) and it is anticipated this funding will continue into the future.

Back to the top

Background: Steps to Building the Bridge

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

In 1993, WisDOT's DBE Office was conducting a Native American employment initiative. As part of the project, WisDOT staff made visits to each of Wisconsin's eleven federally recognized tribes. During one of these visits to the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation near Hayward, WI, the DBE Staff was introduced to the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC).

LCOOCC is a tribally controlled two-year institution founded in 1982. The college is a public institution and has both technical and community college status in Wisconsin. LCOOCC achieved candidacy status from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), in 1987. In 1993 the college was accredited for 5 years and in 1998 this status was renewed for another 8 years.

"...LCOOCC is viewed by its local constituents as much more than a college. It is deeply embedded into the social, economic, political, and cultural fabric of the community. It clearly is the center of the community's 'vision' in terms of not only promoting higher education, but also in terms of bridging cultures; creating a sense of hope and prosperity for future generations; and providing a central 'place' for the community to gather and celebrate-to ponder their collective talent, pride, achievements, and aspirations. This 'blending' of the College with the community has been accomplished at a level rarely observed in today's world of higher education..."

- NCA team report of April 22, 1998

LCOOCC and its outreach communities are located in remote areas that are not easily served by any other post-secondary institution. The College brings educational opportunities to students for whom higher education would otherwise be geographically, financially, or culturally inaccessible. Despite minimal funding, LCOOCC has had unmatched success in terms of student retention, matriculation, on-going education rates, and graduation rate in comparison to the Wisconsin University System.

Approximately 85% of its 450 students are Native Americans. LCOOCC is funded almost entirely by tuition collected and funds received from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). As a result, LCOOCC has been very innovative to assure maximization of funds. For example, when the college built a new wing, its construction trades classes performed a major portion of the work.

While WisDOT was developing the video and the resource directory, FHWA was seeking a way to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Minority Institutions of Higher Education (MIHE) initiative. LCOOCC is a recognized MIHE and eligible for inclusion in the MIHE program. FHWA recognized that Native Americans were an under represented group within the highway contracting industry. FHWA was looking for a source to enter into and become credible within the Native American community. FHWA approached WisDOT concerning participating in the MIHE initiative through a partnership with LCOOCC.

WisDOT enthusiastically accepted because they recognized that most Native American DBE firms in its program were very successful. WisDOT knew there were other good Native American firms in Wisconsin but cultural differences limited the effectiveness of outreach. Like FHWA, WisDOT was looking for a partner to help get their message to the community. The partnership was the first step to Native American Outreach in Wisconsin.

College of the Menominee Nation

The Menominee Tribal Legislature chartered the CMN, located on the Menominee Reservation in Keshena, WI in 1993. In 1996 the Menominee people reinforced the college's existence by initiating a charter for the college under Article VIII of the Menominee Tribal Constitution and by-laws. In February 1998 an NCA team of evaluators and consultants conducted a site visit to the college campus and recommended that the commission grant CMN full accreditation. The CMN was granted full accreditation in 1998. The campus includes classrooms, administrative offices, a state of the art technology lab, new library, and distance education center. Plans for further campus development are progressing. Students who enroll during the planning phase of this expansion will have the unique opportunity to help plan and create the expansion.

The CMN's mission is to provide quality educational opportunities in post-secondary education to Menominee and surrounding residents so that they possess the skills and knowledge to be responsible in their chosen profession. As an educational institution chartered by the Menominee people the college also has the responsibility of infusing this education with Menominee values to prepare students for careers and advanced studies in a multi-cultural world,expand information through research, promote, perpetuate and nurture Menominee culture, and provide outreach workshops and community services.

Both WisDOT and FHWA had been trying without success to gain an introduction and entry into CMN since 1995. Fate intervened in late 1999 when WisDOT staff met a Menominee Tribal member at a non-work related function. An invitation to come to CMN and brief them on our programs resulted from this chance encounter. In early 2000 WisDOT and FHWA visited CMN with the intent of introducing this Native American College to the STI program.

We met with the Dean and the Assistant to the Dean and made a presentation on the success of the program at LCOOCC. The CMN staff was very receptive and made a decision to apply for an STI before we left. This was the entry both WisDOT and FHWA had hoped for. This one visit was the start of a mutually beneficial partnership, which continues today.

Partnering: Sharing of Resources

In the summer of 1995 WisDOT and FHWA staff visited the college for the purpose of inviting LCOOCC to participate in the MIHE initiative. LCOOCC accepted, and in September 1995 LCOOCC, WisDOT and FHWA signed a formal partnering agreement. A copy of the partnering agreement can be obtained from the authors upon request. Key elements of the action plan and partnering charter include a commitment to work together as partners to plan, develop, and foster careers and business development for Native Americans in Wisconsin's transportation industry; to make the College aware of grant money which may become available and assist the College in obtaining the money; to offer surplus furniture and equipment, including computers to the College as a first priority; and to provide the College with any technical assistance they may request, such as program-specific information about FHWA, WisDOT, the DBE program, and other state agencies and programs.

The partnering agreement has been very successful and beneficial to all partners. The College had recently built a new wing on the campus and had no funds to furnish it. The FHWA Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan Division Offices donated and WisDOT arranged for the shipment of over 500 pieces of excess furniture, equipment and computers. The computer equipment was excessed to the LCOOCC under the authority granted in FHWA's policy memorandum, February 22, 1994, "Excessing Equipment to Educational Institutions". The furniture and equipment was transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs using standard GSA procedures. The Bureau of Indian Affairs then transferred the furniture and equipment to LCOOCC. The FHWA furniture and equipment allowed LCOOCC the full use of their facility as these donations were used to equip classrooms and offices previously left vacant. The school is still using this furniture throughout the facility.

In January 1997, the FHWA Wisconsin Division in cooperation with WisDOT and Second Chance Computers, a private non-profit business consortium, established a network thru which the LCOOCC received used computers donated by anonymous businesses throughout the Madison Metropolitan Area. Second Chance Computers provided LCOOCC with over 80 computers, network cards, printers, etc. in 1997 and 1998. The FHWA performed the up front contacts with Second Chance Computers. WisDOT provided transportation of the equipment to LCOOCC. WisDOT provided three excess UNIX computers, along with supportive software, to the LCOOCC's GIS instructor. These used computers allowed LCOOCC to provide students with computers and added computers to classrooms. The donations also bridged the gap until funding was obtained to furnish LCOOCC with new state of the art computers.

In October 2002 FHWA learned that CMN needed computers for some programs associated with the college. As a result the Wisconsin Division will make available to the CMN approximately ten computers, which will be available by the end of October. This is our first effort to share this type of resource with CMN. We hope to continue this type of sharing in the future.

Partnering: Training

As a result of the partnership, WisDOT redirected its efforts in outreach to Native American firms to include LCOOCC as an equal partner. In 1995 WisDOT and LCOOCC successfully submitted a grant request to develop an Entrepreneurial Institute at LCOOCC. As part of the Institute, LCOOCC developed two one-day seminars for Native American road contractors, established a resource library for entrepreneurs, and actively sought out Native American Entrepreneurs for referral to WisDOT's DBE program. In 1996, a grant was approved to develop a comprehensive Website, which focuses on business and estimating resources. In 1997 a grant was obtained to provide correspondence courses on line to Native American entrepreneurs. These grants were received from FHWA Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services Indian Outreach funds were designed to continue the development and implementation of Indian outreach efforts and activities by States. The funds were used to assist Native American owned firms in becoming certified DBEs, and to provide special training and services needed to augment their participation.

LCOOCC benefited by leveraging their resources to develop the institute while FHWA and WISDOT have been given credibility and legitimacy in the Native American Community. LCOOCC's reputation and knowledge of the community have been invaluable in reaching firms. Thirty-two firms attended the two training sessions respectively. In addition, a total of eleven agencies/organizations that work with Native Americans attended one or both training sessions. WisDOT and FHWA gained knowledge of these agencies, but LCOOCC had a working knowledge and was able to attract them in larger numbers than would have otherwise been possible. The networking opportunities created by this mix of attendees were greatly appreciated by all attendees.

Although the director left the institute to take another position, the Business Department continues working with Native American businesses and students who wish to become business owners. LCOOCC now has an Associate Degree program in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship. They moved from a one-year certificate to an associate degree in the 2001-2002 academic year. Many of their students are interested in starting small businesses; however, LCO staff felt it necessary to provide a well-rounded background in the business field along with learning how to start a small business. LCO will graduate their first students in this new degree at the end of the 2002-2003 academic year. It is unfortunate that the partners could not obtain the resources to retain the resource library for entrepreneurs. This resource library has been closed since the material is now out-dated and resources to keep it current have not been found. In 2002, funded by an additional FHWA grant, LCOOCC's Business Department in partnership with the College of the Menominee Nation developed a business needs survey for DBE's, compiled the survey and are developing workshops for DBE's to address these needs. The first two workshops will be held on October 19. The first workshop addressed bidding on WisDOT construction projects and payroll and accounting requirements for WisDOT projects. Two additional workshops will be held on December 13 and January 8 which will address additional business needs of DBE's. This effort had the added benefit of renewing the relationship between the CMN and LCOOCC.

Partnering: Other Institutions Assist

In 1999, the University of Wisconsin - Madison, successfully competed for the FHWA's Midwest Region University Transportation Center (MRUTC). When developing the MRUTC the University requested assistance from FHWA on an introduction to staff at LCOOCC. FHWA and WisDOT facilitated that introduction.

The MRUTC currently includes LCOOCC as one of its consortium members. As such, LCOOCC representatives serve on the Advisory Committee of the MRUTC. LCOOCC receives $25,000 annually from the MRUTC federal grant with no matching requirement. The following transportation related activities are enabled through this relationship:

LCO/Sawyer County Transit System

LCOOCC faculty, staff and students participated in the development and implementation of a mass transportation system for the Lac Courte Oreilles Community. Assistance/involvement included Transit Committee membership, participation in communications, needs assessment activities, route development, development of public relations/marketing materials, and evaluation of the system. Utilizing the funds from the MRUTC, LCOOCC employed a part-time employee who has, along with full-time faculty, designated staff time towards this project.

This system serves over 1200 community members per month. Because the LCO Transit side has been completely funded by LCO Casino revenue and managed/operated by a group of volunteers, no formal analysis of the system had occurred until a funded research opportunity emerged through the MRUTC. In an effort to sustain and improve the current successful system, the LCO/SC Transit Committee is exploring federal and state aid in order to improve the efficiency of operation by expanding collaboration between LCO and SC. More efficient ways to manage its assets and integrate this mode into local and regional transportation plans is needed. LCOOCC faculty and students worked in consultation with various transportation agencies to assess community transportation needs, compile accurate demographic and economic profiles for the LCO and SC community, assess transit modes within other tribal communities, and identify the benefits of a formal collaboration between Sawyer County and Lac Courtes Oreilles. The research project also aims to assess the Lac Courte Oreilles and Sawyer County community's transportation research needs, strengthen collaboration between Sawyer County and Lac Courtes Oreilles community and determine opportunities for optimizing local and regional transportation investments.

The MRUTC research advisory committee for this project includes members from the Wisconsin DOT, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Minnesota DOT, and staff of the MRUTC.

Faculty/Professional Development Activities & Domestic Travel

University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC), with financial support from the Midwest Regional University Transportation Center (MRUTC), are working on a mentorship/partnership education project in which students and faculty learn together to develop student projects in Geographic Information System for Transportation (GIS-T) that fulfill transportation needs of both the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Lac Courte Oreilles Community.

The goal of the project is to give LCOOCC students both the background knowledge and practical experience in developing GIS-T applications for WisDOT. The project objectives are: 1) Provide undergraduate students with work-based learning opportunities; 2) Provide University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty and graduate students with diverse teaching experience; 3) Provide LCOOCC undergraduate students with opportunities to work together with University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students on the planning and implementation of GIS-T application, and 4) Provide a LCOOCC faculty with course materials on theory and practical applications of linear location referencing and GIS functionalities for transportation applications.

In this project, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student, Suphawut Malaikrisanachalee, worked together with Professor Teresa M. Adams to develop a course entitled, "GIS Applications in Transportation" which being taught by Mr. Malaikrisanachalee at LCOOCC during the Spring 2002 semester. Students learned the fundamentals of transportation location referencing systems and specifically the WisDOT linear location referencing system as well as basic spatial and non-spatial GIS operations necessary for transportation operations. Final plans for this part of the project includes offering a 2-day Linear Referencing System workshop to BIA staff and tribal GIS specialists from the Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan region. With knowledge gained from this workshop, BIA and tribal staff will be able to operate on a level with state and local government staff to collaboratively develop local roads database information for reservation communities.

In addition to developing curriculum and teaching the transportation applications course, Mr. Malaikrisanachalee also spent time serving as a mentor for the LCOOCC students in developing a hot-link traffic signal tool for WisDOT in District 7. The tool provides district staff with easy access to geospatial and database information for traffic signal specifications needed in emergency and other management situations. The students gained additional real-world GIS application development experience including data accuracy analysis, interface design, and application architecture. LCOOCC GIS Lab staff continues to work with District 7 staff to fine-tune this interface and to explore possibilities for adapting the tool to meet other statewide needs.

GIS Lab Transportation Apprenticeship Opportunities

With support from the MRUTC, the College has also been able to work in conjunction with the LCOOCC Youth Apprenticeship/Work-Based Learning Program to offer LCOOCC students with work-based learning positions in the GIS Lab. These positions give students opportunities to work on transportation-related projects for the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation while pursuing their college degree. Students have helped GIS Lab staff on the following transportation-related projects over the past year: 1) Development of route schedules and maps and a website for the Sawyer County and Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Transit System; 2) Updating the inventory of pavement conditions for LCO's road system; 3) Compilation of conference materials, survey results, web page material and database information needed to develop a working group of tribal GIS and transportation managers, FHWA, TTAP, BIA, and WisDOT staff involved in other regional transportation initiatives.

One important benefit of these "apprenticeship" positions is that students are given opportunities to be exposed to all aspects of the projects they work on. For instance, while working on the transit system project, students are invited to planning meetings, involved in analyzing and compiling ridership data and preparing maps and route schedules used in promoting the system. The structure of the GIS lab workplace encourages students to develop a sense of responsibility, a strong work ethic, problem-solving skills, and the ability to work in teams and develop good time management skills. Students graduating from apprenticeship programs across the state not only have developed valuable skills, but also sometimes have guaranteed full-time employment upon completion of high school and college degree programs.

LCOOCC staff looks forward to increasingly positive results from this type of program such as higher enrollment in transportation-related degree programs at the College, increased awareness for transportation career opportunities, and growing numbers of students eligible for the many internships, scholarships and fellowships available from transportation agencies and organizations.

PASER Training

In January 2002 the LCOOCC received a MIHE grant to conduct road inventory training for Wisconsin Tribes. MRUTC Research Manager Aileen Switzer assisted in the development of training for tribal transportation managers on Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating systems (PASER). This project also utilized the resources of the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) center at UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Transportation Information Center, the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) center at Michigan Tech University and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

The grant, which was expanded to include training for Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota Tribes, resulted in the establishment of a planning team to assess tribal community needs for using PASER within Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) development; developed a survey to assess tribal community use of PASER, GIS, and other technology related to developing and maintaining road inventory data; held a PASER/Database Integration Tool Workshop for tribal transportation and GIS managers; and established a user/planning network of BIA, TTAP, and tribal resource managers to continue looking for better solutions to database integration issues.

Tribal Transportation Planning

In February 2002 LCOOCC received a MIHE grant to conduct Tribal Training Related to Comprehensive Planning & Participation in the State & Federal-aid Highway Process. The MRUTC participated in the Tribal Transportation Planning Summit held in August 2002. In addition to being presenters at a session specific to transportation asset management techniques and strategies, MRUTC director Ernie Wittwer assisted in lining up speakers and other panelists.

The grant resulted in the establishment of a planning team to assess tribal community needs and intergovernmental communication needs in the area of comprehensive transportation planning; developed a survey to assess status of WI tribal community planning; delivered the WI Tribal Planning Conference for tribal and non-tribal planners, and transportation managers; and established user/planning network of BIA, TTAP, tribal resource managers to continue looking for better solutions for improving planning policies and processes.

LCOOCC and TTAP establish a working relationship through MRC/MIHE Projects

Through the two recent MIHE (MRC) Grant projects, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College and the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) out of Michigan Technological University have established a working relationship that has resulted in improved educational outreach opportunities for tribes. Together LCOOCC and TTAP have begun looking at the technical and non-technical needs tribes have in developing transportation and comprehensive plans and in managing their transportation assets. There will be on-going discussion amongst BIA, TTAP, LCOOCC and tribal resource managers that have been linked together into an informal "working group," as a result of the MRC projects. Ongoing phone conferences and face-to-face meetings are scheduled to allow tribes with opportunity to offer input into the standards that need to be in place for developing GIS and database information necessary for tribes to stay up-to-date with current technology commonly used by state and local units of government.

Secondary Student Field Trip to UW Madison

The MRUTC also hosted a field trip for high school students from Lac Courte Oreilles High School. The students, escorted by LCOOCC instructors, toured the School of Engineering and the GIS Lab to learn about educational and career opportunities available to them. Both FHWA and WisDOT personnel also participated in the field trip. LCOOCC is working to weave information on transportation careers into their pre-college program.

Back to the top

Partnering: Other Initiatives

In 2001, LCOOCC accepted a work request from WisDOT to update their Native American directory. WisDOT, the Tribes, the Tribal Colleges and the construction industry as a contact resource have used the directory, originally created by WisDOT in 1995. LCOOCC is in the final stages of this update directory and WisDOT anticipates issuing the directory on CD Rom in the near future.

Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP)

In 1998 WisDOT and LCOOCC were introduced to Ilene D. Payne, Ph.D., Director, Universities & Grants Programs, Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program. The DDETFP objectives are to attract the Nation's brightest minds to the field of transportation, to enhance the careers of transportation professionals by encouraging them to seek advanced degrees, and to retain top talent in the U.S. transportation community. The DDETFP encompasses all areas of transportation and has six award categories including the Eisenhower Tribal Colleges Initiatives, which identifies transportation activities at tribal colleges in order to provide Native American students and faculty fellowships.

We learned that the DDETFP had been unsuccessful in establishing a relationship with a tribal college. LCOOCC expressed an interest in the DDETFP and began efforts to "Find a Fit". As luck would have it, WisDOT staff working on our partnership knew the GIS coordinator for the Ottawa National Forest in Ontonagon, Michigan. The Ontonagon National Forest was operating under a deadline to establish GIS mapping for their forest road system and other features. The LCOOCC GIS instructor was approached about the possibility of the college providing summer interns to the Forest Service to work on GIS mapping of forest roads. After some negotiation, LCOOCC and the Forest Service reached an agreement.

LCOOCC applied for and received a DDETFP grant, which provided stipends to pay the expenses of two students to perform the GIS work and for LCOOCC to provide student supervision. Three students worked in Ontonagon throughout the summer of 1998. Two shared one position, while the third worked the entire summer. The students successfully completed GIS mapping over 50% of the roads in Ontonagon National Forest.

This was the first Eisenhower Tribal Colleges Initiative awarded by the DDETFP. A second grant was received in 1999 for LCOOCC GIS students to perform GIS work for WisDOT District 8.

We are currently working with the DDETFP on a grant to assist WisDOT District 7 to complete GIS work in their District. LCOOCC is currently working to identify a student to take on this project prior to finalizing the grant request. In addition, we are working with the DDETFP on the LCOOCC GIS Instructor's application for an Eisenhower Fellowship grant.

Currently we are working with the DDETFP and the College of the Menominee Nation (CMN) to find a fit and hopefully duplicate our success at CMN. We have made arrangements for Dr. Payne of DDETFP and Dr. Ayele of the National Highway Institute (NHI) to meet with Sylvia Wilber, Assistant to the Dean, CMN, and discuss programs, which may benefit all. Our ultimate goal would be for both Wisconsin's Tribal colleges and DDETFP and NHI working together on transportation related programs, which will benefit both students and faculty, WisDOT and FHWA.

Our recommendation to other Native American schools wishing to participate in this program is to just ask. There are funds available. Know what your college wants and needs and how these wants and needs can be utilized to fulfill others wants and needs. Work for a win win situation for all parties concerned.

National Summer Transportation Institute for Secondary School Students

The National Summer Transportation Institute for Secondary School Students was established by FHWA in 1993. The program features four weeks of instruction including life management seminars, field trips, and student projects, which stimulated interest in engineering, science, transportation and technology careers. Another objective of the program is to attract minority and low-income youths into the transportation industry. Historically, the Summer Institutes have, by and large, been awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the southeastern United States.

LCOOCC was invited to participate in the 1998 program. This was the first time a Midwestern college has hosted the program, the first time a Native American College has hosted the program, and to the best of our knowledge, the first time that a college was invited to participate in the program independent of a formal application. An ambitious agenda was developed for the first STI program. Additional STIs were hosted during the summers of 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2002 LCOOCC made the decision to withdraw from the program due to problems unrelated to the STI. We hope a decision to return to the program will be made in the future.

In early 2000 WisDOT and FHWA visited CMN with the intent of introducing this Native American College to the STI program. We met with the Dean and the Assistant to the Dean and made a presentation on the success of the program at LCOOCC. The CMN staff was very receptive and made a decision to apply for an STI before we left. CMN submitted a successful grant application the next day and has hosted successful STIs in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Over 100 students have attended the seven STIs hosted by Wisconsin's Tribal colleges, the majority of which have been Native American. Technology plays a role in the program with students utilizing special transportation software in the computer lab. With the pre-engineering soft ware, students are able to design their own bridges and then see them put to the test through animation. Some of the projects utilized more old-fashioned engineering techniques. Each student was instructed to build a bridge using balsa wood and glue. Field trips to construction sites, airports, harbors, rail yards, and Coast Guard cutters also play a role. Both FHWA and WisDOT work with the schools on arranging field trips, providing speakers and working in the classroom. Both FHWA and WisDOT staff have chaperoned trips, participated in graduation ceremonies and met with parents and other relatives of the students. Our presence on campus and willingness to meet not only with students but also family has been very beneficial to increase our credibility with these two tribes and Tribal colleges.

The greatest challenge for most of the students attending the STIs is overcoming their fear of leaving the reservation for the overnight field trips. The instructors accomplished this by providing fun activities, which keep students involved and too busy for their apprehensions to overwhelm them.

Another unique feature of our STI at LCOOCC was that two States, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and two FHWA Offices, Wisconsin and Minnesota, worked in partnership with LCOOCC in sponsoring seminars and field trips. Other assistance provided to one or both institutes came from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Minnesota and Wisconsin Air National Guard, Operating Engineers Center (Coloma, WI), Laborers Union Training Center (Almond, WI), Wisconsin State Patrol Academy, Bureau of Indian Affairs, D.M. & I.R. Railway Company, Wal-Mart, Duplainville Transportation, Inc., Experimental Aircraft Association, to name a few.

The CMN remains very enthusiastic about this program and is looking forward to participating in future years.

Partnering for Indian Employment in Highway Construction

The LCOOCC hosted a 1998 workshop designed to increase the employment and retention of Indians in highway construction. The two-day workshop, held on the college campus, was arranged in cooperation with the National Highway Institute, the Tribal Technical Assistance Program at the Michigan Technological University and the WisDOT's Office of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs. Speakers from the Council for Tribal Employment Rights (CTER) presented the course. This was the first time this course has been held in FHWA Region 5 and one of the first presentations in the nation. This program was again presented in 2002 at the Ho-Chuck Nation facility in Wisconsin Dells. An additional session is scheduled for the end of October in upper Michigan.

Native American Hiring Preference

The WisDOT places a Native American hiring preference in federal-aid projects on or near Indian lands. The special provision requires that the contractor(s) shall make aggressive, concerted efforts to employ Native Americans on the projects. The provision also applies to all subcontractors who will perform work on the project for more than five working days. It is the intent of the provision that the contractor(s) and subcontractor(s) new hires for the project, independent of permanent core crew, shall be composed of Native Americans. The permanent core crew is composed of those full time employed individuals necessary to satisfy his/her reasonable needs for supervisory or specially experienced personnel to assure an efficient execution of the contract work. This special provision was written to comply with 23 USC 140, as amended by section 1026(c) of the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).

Tribes have one week of the placement of a job order by the contractor to provide sufficient qualified or qualifiable applicants to meet the employment goal. The contractor, ensuring nondiscrimination and providing equal employment opportunity, may employ persons living off the reservation. The contractor shall give full consideration to all qualified applicants referred by the tribe. Under this provision, the contractor is not required to employ any applicants who, in the contractor's opinion, is not qualified to perform the classification of work required.

Contractors my request reasonable exemptions from and modifications to this provision upon grounds of undue hardship, inequity, and when special circumstances in the public interest, or local or area wide employment situations so require. Exemptions or modifications, with justification, are directed to the WisDOT District Office where the project is located. Exemptions, if granted, are made after consideration of the good faith efforts of the contractor together with the ability of the Tribal government to refer workers in sufficient numbers and in time for the contractor to meet the goal and perform the work.

AASHTO/Transportation Activities Research Center (TRAC) Program

TRAC is a hands-on program that allows middle and high school students use math and science to solve real-world problems in transportation and civil engineering. The program opens young minds to new ways of learning. Wisconsin currently has 33 schools participating in the TRAC program.

Thru LCOOCC, FHWA and WisDOT recommended to the WisDOT's TRAC Coordinator that both Lac Courte Oreilles and Hayward High Schools be added to the schools participating in the TRAC Program. LCO schools have a 100% Native American student body and Hayward high school has a 25% Native American student body. A 54-module computer-based and Internet-accessible TRAC PAC along with a computer was provided to these schools for use in the classroom. WisDOT also provides an engineer mentor for all schools participating in the program.

Our relationship with LCOOCC was directly responsible for gaining access to these two schools. Our goal is to work with CMN to offer the same program for Menominee schools as soon as the TRAC program updates are received and available, hopefully in 2003.

Smart Growth Grants

In 2000 FHWA provided the Wisconsin Department of Administration (WisDOA) through the WisDOT funding for smart growth grants to establish state and local land use strategies. The grants, administered by WisDOA, were distributed through a request for proposals (RFP). Two federally recognized tribes had requested proposals and had been told that Tribes were not eligible for and could not apply for the grants. They based this decision on the grant language, which stated that the grant was for local units of government. Both Tribes contacted the FHWA Wisconsin Division and requested information as to their eligibility for these grants.

After obtaining information from all parties, the FHWA Division Administrator met with WisDOT management and phoned WisDOA management. Tribal eligibility under both federal and state law was discussed. A copy of Wisconsin State Statute 20.002(13) Indian Grants was faxed to WisDOA Legal Counsel.

Wisconsin State Statute 20.002(13) Indian grants. Notwithstanding any statute to the contrary, wherever any law authorizes a grant of state funds to be made by a state agency to any county, city, village or town for any purpose, funds may also be granted by that state agency to any federally recognized tribal governing body for the same purpose. The grants are subject to the same conditions and restrictions as apply to grants to counties and municipalities, if any. This subsection shall not be construed to require any grant of state funds to be made to any federally recognized tribal governing body.

The phone calls and meetings resulted in WisDOA preparing and sending a letter to each of Wisconsin's eleven Federally recognized tribes informing them they were eligible to apply for a Smart Growth Grant. As a result, the Lac Courte Oreille Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Town of Bass Lake, the Town of Edgewater, and the Town of Sand Lake submitted a joint RFP and received a $60,000 grant.

Had this occurred prior to 2001 the Tribes would have most likely not questioned what they had been told. However, the LCO Tribe was familiar with us as a result of our work with LCOOCC and the Bad River Tribe had recently initiated contact with our office and requested a briefing on their eligibility to participate in the Federal-aid highway program. Both Tribes felt they could approach us and inquire about what they had been told. This in of itself is a great achievement.

Back to the top

Historic Preservation and Native American Coordination

Wisconsin has eleven federally recognized Tribes and four out-of-state Tribes that have expressed an interest in Wisconsin transportation projects. FHWA and WisDOT coordinate with the Tribes at two levels: a policy committee and direct project related.

All Tribes are invited to participate in the policy committee along with FHWA, WisDOT Central Office, WisDOT District representatives and several archeologists. The policy committee reviews and discusses policy issues related to archeological sites of interest to Native Americans. The policy committee addresses issues related to treatment of burials, process of project notification, monitoring of sites during construction, and institution of media days for sites. The policy committee meets at least once a year, more often when warranted.

FHWA and WisDOT also work with the Tribes on project related issues. Tribes are notified of all projects and have an opportunity to indicate those of particular interest. If an archeological site of interest is discovered, coordination meetings are held with the interested tribes, archeologists, project managers, and FHWA to determine the best course of action. Wisconsin Tribes have been very active in dealing with the repatriation of human remains as they are discovered on highway projects.

Tribes are asked to participate very early in the project development process and are invited to scoping meetings if there is any chance of archaeological sites or other tribal involvement. WisDOT has even prepared an historic Memorandum of Agreement on major construction projects to cover any potential archaeological involvement during the construction phase. This assures there is a notification process in place and an approved process for the contractor to follow if human remains are encountered. WisDOT has also gone so far as to have a Native American representative on a project during the excavation phase when there is a very high potential for discovering human remains.

WisDOT and FHWA are currently working on a grant proposal to host a Tribal summit to improve the historic preservation process already in place. If the proposal is funded we hope to host the summit in 2003.

Back to the top

Transportation Alliance for New Solutions (TrANS)

TrANS is an eighth year pilot jobs program in southeast, south central, and most recently in central and north central Wisconsin. TrANS is a public-private model for collaboration and success for preparing the underemployed with skills needed to gain access to the road building industry as laborers and apprentices. TrANS demonstrates how the public and private sectors can work together to address the outreach, preparation, placement and retention of women and minorities in the highway skilled trades. TrANS is an industry driven plan produced from the ground up by major industry and labor organizations, community based service providers and government.

TrANS is funded with federal and state dollars along with in-kind instruction time and material contributions from major industry contractors and labor organizations. The YWCA of Greater Milwaukee is the prime consultant and TrANS program coordinator in S.E. Wisconsin in partnership with other community agencies including Spotted Eagle Inc., a Native American community based organization. In 1999, the model was expanded to include the greater Madison area using the YWCA of Madison, and the Madison Urban League. The program was expanded to the Wausau and Antigo areas to include Hmong and Native American populations in 2000 and to the College of the Menominee Nation in 2002. Together they provide services to screen orient and prepare people for employment as laborers in the road building industry through: outreach and marketing; screening; industry awareness preparation programs which include the contractor and labor participation; job coordination bank; and trainee retention activities.

The intent of the road contractors is to provide full time employment for the best laborers, and help them progress into apprenticeship programs and become journey workers in the highway skilled trades. TrANS participants undergo an intensive 120?hour soft and hard skills preparation program that utilizes industry professionals. A wide range of topics are covered including physical conditioning, tool identification/usage, construction terminology, construction math, apprenticeship opportunities, job site safety issues, map reading, CDL training, hands on projects and work ethics.

The TrANS staff works closely with potential employers to identify their labor needs and tailor their classroom instruction to help prepare potential employees to be placed in jobs offered by the contractors. A class of 15-20 candidates in size raises preparation quality. After placement, TrANS continues its work with employers and their new hires to ensure job success and job retention. The program also helps remove barriers to success by providing backup or temporary assistance for child care and transportation alternatives to its participants.

There has been a Native American component to TrANS since the program started in 1995. This was first accomplished by including Spotted Eagle Inc. as the service provider to recruit Native Americans living in SE Wisconsin. When TrANS was expanded to the Madison area in 1999 the program recruited Native American participants from the Ho-Chunk Nation as well as from the population living in greater Dane County. Wausau and Antigo were added to the program in 2000. Their programs expanded opportunities for Native Americans through recruitment from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe. In 2002 WisDOT added the College of the Menominee Nation as a TrANS service provider. CMN's program works with the Menominee people and hopes to expand to other area Tribes.

WisDOT has applied for and received two On-the-Job Training Support Services grants to continue their Native American TrANS efforts. These grants allowed them to expand existing programs more fully into Native American community. The TrANS Native American initiatives work closely with the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee using their modal and giving them the ability to learn from the YWCA's experience.

Great Lakes Tribal Council

Great Lakes Intertribal Council (GLITC) is a consortium of federally recognized Indian tribes in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Started in 1963 as a Community Action agency under the auspices of the federal Office for Economic Opportunity, it was a vehicle for delivery of services and programs to its member reservations and the rural Indian communities of Wisconsin. With the development of local tribal government capacity and the ever-increasing push for self-determination, the member tribes have assumed the responsibility of more administration of services to their own communities. The role of GLITC has therefore changed from one of delivering services directly to the reservation community residents to one of assisting the member tribes in a delivery system of services and programs to back up and supplement the tribes' own service capacity.

The tribal chairman or the chair's designated representatives of each tribe comprise the GLITC board of directors, which meet monthly. Day to day business of the organization is conducted out of the central office. Direct program administration and financial services are provided, as well as coordination of program services.

The strength of GLITC lies in the resolve of the tribes to be independent among them, yet to come together in a unified forum to discuss, resolve, and address those issues that require intertribal unity and attention. As independent tribes and governments, the tribes operate widely varied government service systems, and address their communities' needs in many and varied ways. GLITC supplements the member tribes' own efforts in a variety of ways through the operation of health, aging, and development programs in the reservation communities. Political action, intergovernmental relations, and policy decisions find an intertribal discussion forum through GLITC, but by long-standing custom, public comment and policy implementation is reserved to the member tribes through their elected representatives.

FHWA first met with GLITC in 1998. This is a very important step, one we had not been able to achieve previously. The LCO chairman recommended GLITC extend the invitation. FHWA was also invited to attend the GLITC's pow wow, the first held in Madison in over 100 years.

Access to the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council is significant in that it re-enforces FHWA legitimacy within the six sovereign Indian nations, all eleven Wisconsin tribes, and one tribe in Upper Michigan.

FHWA Experience at the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Annual Board Meeting

A tribal leader, a result of a listening session invited FHWA's Division Administrator, to the annual Board of Directors meeting. Division Administrator William Fung gave an overview of FHWA and WisDOT operations with emphasis on FHWA programs that benefit the Native Americans. In that meeting, the GLITC President invited the Division Administrator to visit each tribe and discuss/listen to the specific transportation problems of each tribe.

The Board meeting was an informative meeting which addressed many unique Native American issues such as health care and housing issues within the reservations. Several Federal agencies such as Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and State agencies such as the Bureau of Tourism and the Department of Workforce Development also presented updates. These agencies are regular participants at the annual GLITC board meeting. The meeting gave the Division Administrator a better understanding of the unique problems facing the Native American Indians on reservations.

In August 2002 Division Administrator Bruce Matzke participated in the Tribal Planning Summit where he was introduced to a GLITC representative. After discussions, the Division Administrator was extended an invitation to speak to the GLITC Board of Directors at an upcoming meeting. This will be an excellent opportunity to re-introduce FHWA and for the Tribal Chairs to meet the Division Administrator. FHWA would also like to introduce the concept of FHWA being a recurring guest at their meetings.

Back to the top

Tribal Visits - Government-to-Government Relationships

In 2001 the FHWA Wisconsin Division embarked on a mission to visit each of Wisconsin's eleven Federally recognized Tribes to initiate a government-to-government relationship. WisDOT staff was invited to participate and did so on several visits. The visits were initiated in August 2001. The Division prepared a resource guide for distribution during each visit. The Division Administrator or the Assistant Division Administrator and the Transportation Program Coordinator have met with six Tribes to date.

Each Tribe was offered the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with the Tribal Chair/President or the option to include staff of their choice. One Tribe requested only the one-on-one meeting while the remaining five offered opportunities for us to meet with not only the Chair/President but also Tribal Roads and Planning staff and in one case the entire Tribal Council. One Tribe also invited BIA, TTAP, local officials and their WisDOT District Staff, and Transit staff to attend.

FHWA made a presentation on our programs and the availability of these programs to the Tribes. We discussed our work to date with Wisconsin Tribes and both of Wisconsin's Tribal Colleges. The visits to date have resulted in open communication with each of the Tribes. FHWA learned that the Tribes had not been offered the opportunity to participate in Federal-aid highway programs offered through the State. FHWA is working diligently to assure that Tribes are not only offered the opportunity to participate but is taking an active role with the State to assure this happens. Early progress includes the Tribes being offered the opportunity for the first time to participate in WisDOT's Transportation Enhancements Program. Also, at least one WisDOT Transportation District has initiated an on-going dialog with their Tribes and has developed a Tribal Government Federal-aid Transportation Program Guide describing how the Tribes can apply for various programs. We hope to duplicate these early successes in other areas of the State.

Not all our visits have been successful. The first Tribes visited did not allow us to make our presentation. The Tribal Chairman briefly met with the Division Administrator and then asked us to leave stating his Tribe was not interested in any Federal or State programs. However, the Tribal Chairman has been replaced and the Tribe has asked us to return for another visit and to make our presentation. This unforeseen invitation is the result of the Tribe's knowledge of our work with the Tribal Colleges and their participation in the August Tribal Planning Summit. We hope to re-visit this Tribe prior to the end of the calendar year.

An unforeseen benefit to our visits was learning that many State personnel were unaware of the fact that Federally recognized Tribes were eligible to participate not only in FHWA programs, but under State law were eligible to participate in WisDOT programs. We say this discovery was a benefit because now WisDOT has embarked on an education process to assure their staff are aware of this and assist the Tribes. In addition, WisDOT is developing a statewide policy for working with the Tribes.

Once we have completed our Tribal visits, we intent to visit each WisDOT Transportation District and discuss our findings with the District Director. It is our intention to encourage more open dialogue between the District staff and the Tribes.

Back to the top

WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS)

The WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS) has worked with Wisconsin Tribes in several arenas:

Highway Safety Grants

The Bureau of Transportation Safety is organized with Central Office program experts and regional outreach representatives. A number of years ago Central Office staff approached tribal health departments and offered NHTSA Section 402 State and Community Highway Safety Grant Program grants in a variety of areas including traffic enforcement, child passenger safety and EMS. Two tribes applied for and received grants for First Responder training and equipment. BOTS is currently working with the Menominee Nation to assist in funding recommended data improvements.

Tribal Safe Communities Conferences (2000 and 2001)

The Bureau of Transportation Safety initiated a three-state (WI, MI, MN) Tribal Safe Communities Conference and provided Section 402 funding for the conference. The Oneida Nation hosted the event, which was largely coordinated by the Indian Health Service and lost some of its transportation focus over time. The conference included plenary sessions and then breakout sessions by tribes for purposes of developing tribal safe community plans.

Menominee Traffic Records Assessment (2001)

The Bureau of Transportation Safety attended the Menominee Traffic Records Assessment in the fall of 2001, and funded travel costs for the attendance of a WisDOT safety engineer and a FARS analyst from the WisDOT Division of Motor Vehicles. During the Assessment, the three WisDOT representatives provided information about state practices that affected the tribes and discussed improvements in working relationships between the state and tribe with regard to data reporting and grant availability.

TRB A5020 Safety Subcommittee

NHTSA Washington funded the attendance of a BOTS staff member at the initial meeting of the new TRB Tribal Transportation Issues Committee (A5020). Wisconsin's non-PL280 issues and tribal traffic records issues are thus being included in early development of the committee and subcommittee.

Back to the top

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Capacity Building Efforts

The WisDOT Office of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs (ODBEP) recently executed a consultant contract for capacity building of Native American business that are currently certified Wisconsin DBE's and to recruit eligible Native American businesses for the DBE Program. WisDOT is also considering offering an internship to a Native American college student(s) to assist with marketing in this effort.

Back to the top

Investing in the Future Career Awareness Project

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation along with industry and community based partners has sponsored a career awareness camp since 1999. Each year at least 100 youth in fifth through eighth grade have attended the weeklong summer camp at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. Participants include a mix of boys and girls from a variety of ethnic groups. Although recruitment has included the eleven federally recognized Tribes as well has none reservation Native Americans, we have been unsuccessful in recruiting more than a small handful of Native American youth to attend the camp. Research is underway to determine why we have had limited success and to determine how we can improve Native American attendance.

Back to the top

Partnering - Lessons Learned

Many lessons have been learned which may be of value to other agencies working with Native American populations:

It is essential that the partnerships be developed on the basis of respect, mutual benefits, and mutual goals.

Our partnership with LCOOCC has been on going since 1995. It has withstood changes at LCOOCC, WisDOT and FHWA including three college presidents, three FHWA Division Administrators, a change in Division civil rights staff and three WisDOT Secretaries. The partnership works because each party has something to provide, benefits to receive, and a commitment to work together. FHWA and WisDOT both provided professional expertise specific to the transportation field, knowledge of and access to additional resources for the college, and provided LCOOCC access to a larger clientele. In return, FHWA and WisDOT received an entry into an under utilized segment of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and additional certified firms to work in highway construction. Furthermore, LCOOCC's reputation within the Native American community allowed WisDOT and FHWA to expend their efforts on developing firms. LCOOCC are the experts on training. This allowed FHWA and WisDOT to expend training dollars much more effectively. LCOOCC benefited in that they were able to fulfill some of their institutional goals for which they didn't have funding; i.e. the development of the institute for entrepreneurial training and technical assistance (IETTA), a business resource Website, PhD assistance from the UW Madison, and a renewed working relationship with the College of the Menominee Nation.

FHWA, WisDOT and LCOOCC all view the partnership as an agreement in principal whose intent is not to limit but to maximize opportunities to work together.

Commit to a long-term partnership.

Our partnership started with a few instant results. The initial partnership project was appropriately titled: "Bridging the Gap" in recognition of the gulf that had to be crossed. Years of neglect, unkept promises, cultural and value differences and in this case geographical separation are all factors that impact progress and must be sorted out in developing an effective relationship. All parties are committed for the long term to assure what we are doing will make a difference. Even though some initial efforts have been discontinued or have changed because of personnel changes or technology, we continue to look for ways to keep the partnership working and seeking meaningful ways to work together.

Back to the top

Working with Native Americans: Lessons Learned

Expect setbacks

Given the history of the majority culture's relationship with Native Americans, it is not surprising that any action taken by FHWA or WisDOT, which negatively impacts Native Americans, will be questioned. We had setbacks early on when the largest Native American DBE firm was debarred after a Federal investigation. While this action was considered "correct and justified" and had to be taken, it tended to create distrust and affect relationships with the Native American community as a whole. As long as the community realizes that these actions are necessary to protect the integrity of the program, and they are not being perceived as arbitrary, the actions are ultimately accepted. Later on when federal grant funds dried up, we worked together to find other ways of funding projects to keep the efforts going. This demonstrated that we could continue working together to achieve mutual goals.

Make realistic promises

FHWA and WisDOT have been circumspect in honoring a commitment to promise only what can be delivered. We did not know what would ultimately result from our Native American initiatives, but made a commitment to explore all avenues available. We entered into efforts acknowledging there were limited resources and recognizing that progress might come in small steps. We did not develop a blueprint for activities, but developed guidelines to conduct our relationship. This realistic approach, paradoxically, resulted in greater progress than anticipated because it fostered the growth of trust and interdependence. It is far better to move slowly and accomplish what is promised than to promise what you can't deliver and as a result lose the entry you had worked so hard to develop.

Plan self-sustaining projects

In jointly developing grant proposals with the Tribal Colleges and others, we have sought to obtain funding for projects, which have large initial capitalization costs and minimal long-term costs. We took this approach because the colleges and the Tribes did not have the up front resources. Likewise, FHWA and WisDOT, because funds are constantly in danger of being cut, could not guarantee long term funding. The infusion of short-term capital into Native American communities has rarely brought meaningful long-term results. Development projects, which necessitate external funding, must yield sustainable impacts, which boosts trust and provides expansion on which to consistently build indigenous economies. LCOOCC and CMN received programs and a working relationship with other educational institutions, and WisDOT and FHWA have obtained an entry into the Native American Community. These will remain permanently even if no additional grants are received.

Leverage resources whenever possible

By involving others, such as Second Chance Computers, the FHWA Michigan and Minnesota Division, MRUTC, TTAP, LTAP, and BIA it was possible to dramatically increase the resources provided to the Tribal colleges. As mentioned previously, WisDOT and FHWA have developed, with the assistance of both Tribal colleges, a network in the Native American community. These contacts continue to develop as WisDOT, FHWA, LCOOCC and CMN share resources and information with each other.

Be sensitive to cultural differences

LCOOCC and CMN have provided invaluable expertise in designing seminars tailored to the Native American culture to enhance learning. At the outset a goal was set to provide the targeted group (the Native American DBE's) with an opportunity for input in the planning of the seminars. This helped to create an inclusive, comfortable, welcoming environment that honored and harmonized with the traditional Native American values of sharing and caring. The participants adopted an informal dress code and an active-listening discussion presentation style as a means to encourage the free exchange of ideas and the "telling of stories". A U-shaped table arrangement and avoiding the use of a podium and p.a. system were other strategies used to enhance the sharing atmosphere and to minimize the appearance of a power differential between the presenters and the participants. Room layout, opportunities for sharing, presentation styles, etc. were all structured by LCOOCC and CMN with the goal of maximizing the comfort level of the participants.

Another important idea suggested by the colleges was to invite a very successful Native American highway contractor to address the group. No topic was suggested; he was simply invited to "tell his story". This approach, of course, drew upon the rich Native American tradition of verbal communication, and was very well received by the audience. Without attention to these nuances, the effectiveness of the seminars would have been greatly compromised.

Consistency, honesty, integrity, an openness to and an appreciation of diversity, a commitment to thoroughly discuss issues, and an attitude of helpfulness are required to succeed in outreach to this population.

Some States may have be hesitant to meet with and work with Federally recognized Tribes, Tribal Colleges and Native Americans in general because of concerns that they might expect or even demand more than the State agencies can provide. This has not been the case. In Wisconsin, all partners have benefited immensely and as a result WisDOT and FHWA have been successful in outreach to the Native American community.

An important point to note is that whatever issues arise is irrelevant. The important point is to be willing to place any issue on the table and talk honestly about it.

Find " The Right Person "

WisDOT, FHWA and each Tribe all are large bureaucracies. Like any large unit of government, each organization has employees who strive to "keep their heads above the water" with their assigned tasks, let alone take on new ones. Nevertheless, with persistence, you will always, in time, discover the individual who will grab hold of the idea and make it work. It took many visits and constant knocking on the door to develop our partnerships, but the results speak for themselves.

Do Your Homework

In many instances, incorrect assumptions are made by well meaning people. For example, a long-standing assumption made by many WisDOT Managers and staff is that Tribal Governments are not eligible for grants, despite the fact that State law clearly prohibits automatically "excluding" them. In order to maintain credibility with Tribes, it is necessary to know what the various rules and guidelines are. You need to work proactively inside your own agency to assure that staff working with Tribes understands all laws applicable to Tribes and also understand the Tribes unique status as sovereign nations within a nation.

Back to the top


WisDOT and FHWA have gained many benefits from this partnership work with Native Americans and the Tribal Colleges. The building of a relationship with both Tribal colleges and the benefits each party has received is, in and of itself, sufficient cause to celebrate. These were building blocks, which led to relationships with Tribes and Native Americans. We continue to build on our successes and hope to achieve a relationship with each Tribe and that each Tribe sees a benefit to working with us.

Back to the top

To provide Feedback, Suggestions or Comments for this page contact Tim Penney at tim.penney@dot.gov.