Eleven Badgers recognized among Wisconsin’s Most Influential Native American leaders for 2024

Top Row L-R: Micaela Salas Livingston, Stephanie Lozano, Zoar Fulwilder, Dr. Nicole Bowman, James Flores; Bottom Row L-R: Dr. Rachel Byington, Ashley Hesse, Alebra Metoxen, Michelle Greendeer-Rave, Denise Wiyaka, Chris Caldwell
Top Row L-R: Micaela Salas Livingston, Stephanie Lozano, Zoar Fulwilder, Dr. Nicole Bowman, James Flores; Bottom Row L-R: Dr. Rachel Byington, Ashley Hesse, Alebra Metoxen, Michelle Greendeer-Rave, Denise Wiyaka, Chris Caldwell

Eleven University of Wisconsin–Madison community members were recognized in Madison365’s annual list of “Wisconsin’s Most Influential Native American Leaders” for 2024.

Madison365, a nonprofit online news publication, has published annual power lists recognizing Wisconsin leaders from different racial and ethnic groups since 2015. The purpose of the lists is to “highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state,” according to Henry Sanders, Jr., the co-founder, publisher, and chief executive officer of Madison365.

Congratulations to the following current and former UW–Madison students and employees who received this well-deserved recognition. You can read parts onetwothreefour, and five of the complete list on the Madison365 website.

Ashley Hesse is VP of Policy for Indigenous Pact, an organization that works for health equity for Indigenous people. A Comanche descendant, he joined Indigenous Pact in 2018 with years of experience in health equity, which included managing the “Money Follows the Person” Tribal Initiative at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and directing programs for Arc-Winnebago County Disability Association. He also serves on the board of Casa Esther and previously chaired the City of Oshkosh’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

Denise Wiyaka is director of the UW Madison American Indian and Indigenous Studies program, where she spearheads the Annual Evening of Storytelling and established the Elder-in-Residence program as associate director in 2018. She was recruited to American Indian Studies in 2001 by Ada Deer, became associate director in 2003 and assumed the role of Director in 2021. Denise has expanded Indigenous Language offerings through collaborative initiatives with Tribes, with the goal of ultimately offering courses in all languages of the Tribes in Wisconsin.  She is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe and grew up on the reservation in South Dakota. She holds a law degree from the University of Oregon and an LLM from Georgetown University.

Chris Caldwell is the third president of the College of the Menominee Nation. He was formally invested in October 2021 after serving as interim president since February 2020. He began his higher education journey at CMN earning his Associate Degree in Sustainable Development. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resources from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and Policy from UW-Green Bay. He is currently a PhD candidate in Environment and Resources from UW–Madison Nelson Institute. He is an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

Michelle Greendeer-Rave is an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Court. She began serving as tribal attorney after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1998. She is also a member of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and the Western Technical College District Board of Trustees.

James Flores is tribal liaison for the Milwaukee Public Museum, where he participates in exhibit design, performs outreach with community members and elected tribal government officials, and works with Tribal Historic Preservation Officers in the repatriation of cultural and ceremonial items that fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). He previously served as admissions counselor for Native American outreach and recruitment at UW–Madison and scholarship coordinator for the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation. Along with Micaela Salas Livingston, he pushed UW-Madison to offer free tuition to Indigenous students, a policy the university adopted earlier this year. A member of the Oneida Nation, he earned a degree in American Indian Studies with a certificate in Cultures and Communities from UW-Milwaukee in 2017.

Dr. Nicole Bowman is founder and president of Bowman Performance Consulting, which provides culturally competent research, evaluation, technical assistance and other services to companies, organizations and government agencies. She is also an associate scientist and evaluator at the University of Wisconsin. In 2018, she became the first Indigenous and youngest awardee of the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) Robert Ingle Service Award. Dr. Bowman supports a large portfolio of projects advancing radical Indigenous and community-led scholarship with Tribal and non-Tribal governments and philanthropic, non-profit, and private-sector organizations nationally and internationally. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), a Research Affiliate for the Center for Culturally Responsive Evaluation and Assessment (CREA), an international board member of EvalIndigenous and the International Evaluation Academy, and has been in elected or appointed leadership for AEA, CREA, Indigenous Peoples in Evaluation, and EvalIndigenous. As a member of the Canadian Evaluation Society, she is coeditor and co-creator of a new permanent section for Indigenous scholarship called “Roots and Relations” in the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation (CJPE). Dr. Bowman also recently co-edited a special global decolonization issue of the Journal of Multidisciplinary Evaluation (JMDE) with Dr. Bagele Chilisa (Bantu Tribe of Africa),a post-colonial Botswanan scholar. Dr. Bowman has been or is a reviewer and/or journal board member for CJPE, New Directions in Evaluation, American Journal of Evaluation, and JMDE. She earned her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2015, a Master of Education degree from Lesley University in 1997, and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from St. Norbert College in 1993.

Zoar Fulwilder is managing partner at Mavid Construction Services, a Green Bay-based firm that’s worked on projects including Lambeau Field’s suites, gates and atrium, as well as Aurora Medical Center in Sheboygan, residence halls at UW-LaCrosse and UW-Oshkosh, and many more. He is also a cofounder of the Indigenous Business Group, a nonprofit that provides opportunities for Native-owned businesses to access resources, network, and gain knowledge. He earned a degree in economics from UW–Madison in 1998.

Stephanie Lozano is the Tribal Liaison for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, where she provides department leadership with policy analysis, tribal perspective, recommendations, and strategic advisement on tribal affairs. Prior to joining DCF in 2016, Stephanie spent 10 years working for the Ho-Chunk Nation as a social worker, Indian Child Welfare Program Supervisor and later Executive Director of Social Services. During her tenure as a social worker and supervisor she oversaw cases involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. Stephanie was an integral member of the negotiation team that codified the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act in 2009 and continues to serve as a trainer and subject matter expert in the field of Indian Child Welfare. She received her Bachelors of Science in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse and her Masters of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin.

Alebra Metoxen is Indian Child Welfare Training Supervisor for the Oneida Nation, where she has served in a variety of capacities over 25 years.  She’s served as a family services worker, parent program coordinator, Indian Child Welfare case manager and social worker and family services supervisor. She is also an adjunct trainer at the UW–Madison, in the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System teaching case practice with American Indian Tribes to county child welfare staff. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at UW-Green Bay and a master’s degree at UW–Madison.

Micaela Salas Livingston is tribal liaison with Madison College, where she provides leadership, guidance, and support for Native and Indigenous initiatives, organizations, and programs both externally and internally. Originally from Bad River, she earned a partial scholarship to the UW–Madison in 2008, but had to work two jobs to afford living expenses. That experience led her, along with James Flores, to push the university to offer free tuition to Indigenous students, a policy the university adopted earlier this year.

Dr. Rachel Byington is tribal liaison for the Wisconsin Historical Society. She previously served as tribal youth and community liaison at Earth Partnership within the UW–Madison, where she started as an intern in 2014. Rachel is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She holds a BS in Family, Consumer, and Community Education, and an American Indian Studies certificate, and a MS in Civil Society and Community Studies, all from the UW–Madison. She received her PhD in Civil Society and Community Studies in UW–Madison’s School of Human Ecology.