A Tribe To Raise A Great Nation

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A Tribe To Raise A Great Nation

Drugs, alcohol, poor education, and poverty are all common problems in Indian Country, and tribes everywhere are constantly trying to find ways to win those battles. The Winnebago, who call themselves the Ho-Chunk Nation, have developed many programs to run on the front lines of these battles.

One of those programs is the Boys and Girls Club of the Hocak Nisoc Haci, which was established in Winnebago, Nebraska in 2007.

"It was started as a way to have a place for kids to go after school," Melissa Johnson, the CEO of the Club, said.

The Boys and Girls Club is in charge of the youth football team, the cheerleading squad, and an after school tutoring program. In addition, they serve about 50 meals a night to the children.

In the early stages of the club, they closed their doors between 6 and 7 p.m., so that the children could go home and eat. Eventually, the staff realized that the children didn't have anywhere to go during that time.

"We would notice that kids would just be sitting outside, waiting for us to open," Johnson said. "We knew that they weren't eating."

Johnson knows that there are many more children on the reservation who might go without dinner because of working parents, neglect, or other aforementioned issues in Indian Country. She said that there about 800 more children that the Boys and Girls Club could cater to, however, they're facility is too small.

In July 2013, during the 147th Annual Winnebago Homecoming Celebration in Winnebago, Nebraska, the Boys and Girls Club attempted to raise money to expand their facility. They are currently looking at a 1.5 million dollar project that would include a full-sized gym for the children. The Boys and Girls Club managed to raise $21,000 for a new building by holding a concession stand at the softball tournament.

Club members also volunteered to serve water at the Fun Walk/Run. This provided the Club with an opportunity to engage and build relationships with community and visiting guests.

"Our mission statement is 'To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,'" Johnson said.

Written by Rebekka Schlichting. Video shot and edited by Rebekka Schlichting.

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