Annual State of the Tribes address cites opioid epidemic as major issue.

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The 16th annual State of the Tribes Address kicked off Tuesday's legislative session at the Capitol.

Ned Daniels Jr., Chairman of the Forest County Potowatomi Community, delivered the 2020 address.

Daniels highlighted the opioid epidemic as one of the biggest crises facing Wisconsin's tribes. He said the issue has impacted his own family, citing the fact that he and his wife are now raising several of their grandchildren.

Daniels also emphasized tribes' focus on treatment. He described tribal nations' plans to create a youth wellness center to help young people in their community struggling with addiction.

Another challenge is disproportionate violence against native women and girls.

Daniels said women and girls in tribal nations are kidnapped and killed at a higher rate than in other populations, and he thanked several state lawmakers who have advocated for a state task force on the issue.

"The harm caused by these devastating acts leave lasting impressions on not only the victims but also the families and their communities. We need to address and treat the problems posed by human trafficking," Daniels said.

However, Daniels also celebrate several achievements within the tribal community. He emphasized progress in education, citing higher graduation rates. In the last 10 years, Daniels said high school graduation rates have risen from 60 to 90 percent.

"This has been done by working closely with our local schools, hiring additional tutors and guidance counselors and getting our parents more involved with their children's education, with better communication," Daniels explained.

Daniels also touched on tribal nations' success in business and creating jobs in construction and other industries. He ended his speech by urging lawmakers and the community to promote sustainability.