Library History


“Red Cliff’s successful endeavor has been transformational. It has led to powerful learning and networking opportunities––not just for our SLIS students, but also for tribal librarians, archivists and museum curators across our region. It has brought us together in ways none of us could have imagined.”

In early 2008, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa realized they couldn’t afford to maintain their small library. “It was housed in the old mission school that was built in the 1930s and had very little upkeep or improvements,” explained Dee Gokee-Rindal, Administrator of Education for the Tribe. The Tribe sought help from University of Wisconsin – Madison’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), the iSchool at UW-Madison. Over the next year, SLIS students met with Red Cliff community members and the Tribal Council. Although the library’s location was unsustainable, the community and Council expressed strong support for a permanent tribal library.

Omar Poler, one of the initial SLIS students to form a relationship with Red Cliff and now a SLIS Outreach Specialist, explained, “We wanted to figure out a way that we could be really responsible partners and be there for as long as it takes.” Omar and other students developed the Tribal Library, Archives, and Museum Project (TLAM), which introduces students to tribal library issues, coordinates service-learning projects and connects tribal librarians across the region.

“There’s been a lot of excitement in the community and really a lot of pride, too. We finally have our library back.”

Dee Gokee-Rindal

Administrator of Education, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

After the library in the former mission school closed, the TLAM group helped tribal members sort and pack up the library materials for storage. Then, the students dedicated themselves to getting a new library open. They wrote grants, cataloged materials, developed library policies for tribal review and engaged with the tribal community.

In summer 2014, the Tribe opened an interim library in the tribal administrative office. The TLAM students helped open the library by getting the books on the shelves, developing a website and online catalog, designing READ-style posters and other activities. “The community has truly embraced the interim library,” Dee noted.

The Tribal Council has set aside 40 acres of land for a cultural education center that would include a new library building, an Anishinaabe language-immersion school, secondary education facilities and space for community gatherings. The center will be called Ginanda Gikendaasomin, which in Ojibwe means “we seek to learn.” “Due to the history, there’s a lot of pockets of information that people hold, and we don’t yet have a central gathering space for that,” said Krystal Topping, the Tribe’s Director of Education. “This is really important for teaching the next generation who we are and where we come from.”

As SLIS Professor Louise Robbins (retired) explained, “Right now, we’re at the point where there is a site, but there’s just everything to be done to move to this forward.” The TLAM Project will continue to help support the Red Cliff Tribe’s interim library and will help seek funding opportunities for the future space. “I think it’s going to be a very long-term relationship,” Dee said. “We appreciate all the help, and it really couldn’t have happened without Louise, Omar and the SLIS students.”
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From The Rural Library Project:
"Exciting News - The Red Cliff Library opened on April 18, 2015!

 In the spring of 2010, The Rural Library Project was contacted by a faculty member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies with a request for assistance.  A group of UW-Madison SLIS faculty, staff and students were working with a small Ojibwe tribe in Northern Wisconsin to revive a once-vital library that had been closed.  The Red Cliff band of Lake Superior Chippewa (www.redcliff-nsn.gov) has approximately 1,500 resident members and the Red Cliff Reservation encompasses nearly 23 square miles adjacent to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
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 In September 2010, we accompanied a group of UW-Madison SLIS faculty and staff and a Chicago-based architect to Red Cliff and presented a workshop to Tribal leaders on our experience creating new libraries.  We also toured the reservation to look at possible library sites in existing structures and for new building construction.
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The Rural Library Project returned to Red Cliff in March 2011 to meet with Tribal leaders, the recently formed Red Cliff Tribal Library (Mazina’igan Wakai’igan) committee, and some of the SLIS project staff and students.  Together we reviewed the project progress and discussed project planning, community organizing, and library design and location.  We also visited a couple of sites that the Tribe was looking at more closely for construction of a new library, education center, and tribal archives facility.
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€‹Through 2010 and 2011, the Red Cliff Tribe was also working hard on another major construction project: The Legendary Waters Resort and Casino (www.legendarywaters.com).  This 78,000-square feet, multi-million dollar investment opened in August 2011 and has helped move the library project forward as Tribal members see new economic opportunity on the reservation. 
 
     The Rural Library Project is honored and delighted to participate in the collaboration of the University of Wisconsin-Madison SLIS and the Red Cliff Tribe to create a library and cultural education center reflecting the Anishinaabe heritage of the Northern Wisconsin woods and lakeshore.
 

 
 
From the TLAM Project Blog:
A Grand Opening for Ginanda Gikendaasomin
€‹May 26, 2015
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Little did we know going into our first trip to Red Cliff in February that the next time we were all gathered there, it would be for Ginanda Gikendaasomin’s grand opening, an event seven years in the making. With that April 18 date in our minds, our work took on special urgency — in a joyful way, as we would get to see our pieces of work become part of a functioning whole.
 
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The Big Reveal: Carmella Hatch (right) presents DIBAJIMODAA — “Let’s Tell Stories” — posters featuring Red Cliff community members to tribal chair Rose Soulier (center) and TLAM mentor Louise Robbins (left).
 
The four of us (Carmella, Kathryn, Megann, and Sam) took the six-hour drive up north with Omar and Janetta Pegues, who recently became the director at Madison Public Library’s Goodman South branch and was part of TLAM during her time at SLIS.

One of the most amazing parts of the opening event was the chance we got to meet past TLAMers who had worked on the project. Every year was represented by at least one person who had been part of the Red Cliff group. In our conversations with TLAM graduates, we got a better sense of the history of the project, the relationships it has fostered, and the important role it played in everyone’s personal and library-related education
 
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Do I Have That Straight?: Sam Link (center) positions a poster as (from left) Brenna Degan, Cassy Keyport, and Carmella Hatch offer feedback.
 
We got into Bayfield and made a phone call to check in with those who had arrived the day before. They were (surprise!) working in the library, so we swung over to say hello and see what needed doing.

People were seizing the opportunity to check on classification numbers that had yet to be entered correctly into the LibraryThing catalog. Some of us dove into that and some volunteered for a project under the direction of Red Cliff librarian Nancy Newago, tying handfuls of tobacco into cloth bundles that were to be given to guests the next day.

We took a break for group dinner — Louise had arranged a big table for Friday fish fry in Bayfield. After eating together and welcoming a few new arrivals to our number, many of us went back to the library to keep working until we called it quits around 10 p.m.
 
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Full House: The day of the grand opening featured bright sunshine and a room brimming with well-wishers to help the library celebrate an auspicious new beginning.
 
The next morning, TLAMers gathered in the library before other guests were to arrive. We did some final preparations — hanging posters, setting up chairs and tables, and contributing to the growing atmosphere of anticipation. Shortly before “go time,” Nancy gathered us into a circle and sent a bag of tobacco around so that everyone held a small handful. She smudged each of us with burning sage, said a few words of prayer and thanks, and then we went outside to offer our tobacco back to the earth. We returned inside as community members began trickling in until the lobby area was a hubbub of hugs and excited chatter.
 
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From the Heart: Dee Gokee-Rindal invites Louise Robbins up to speak. As their words and gestures testified, the two developed a close relationship over the years that has helped SLIS and Red Cliff come together to support the library project and enrich the lives of everyone involved.
 
The ceremony began with a heartfelt prayer offered by a friend of Nancy Newago’s, followed by speeches from Rose, tribal chair, and Dee, education director, who over the past several years have been key advocates for the library within tribal government and the community at large. They both expressed gratitude and wonder for the fruition of many years of dedicated work. Next, Louise gave a speech echoing those sentiments and sharing how how important the project and her connection with Red Cliff has become.
 
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No More Red Tape: Nancy summons a community elder and two youths for the ribbon cutting.
 
Then the gift-giving part of the ceremony began: everyone affiliated with SLIS had a new book in hand and when Louise gave the word, we went up one by one to formally donate them to the library.
This was followed by Nancy calling attention to the woven yarn dreamcatchers hanging up around the library. She explained they were made by her mother and friends and have been in storage as she didn’t know what to do with them until now. She called each of us SLIS folks up to be given a dreamcatcher in thanks for our help over the years to launch the library into a new era.
 
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All Together Now: TLAM students and supporters past and present call in Nancy, Dee, Carmen, and Rose for a group photo.
After that, the ribbon Nancy had hung over the half-door entrance was cut, signifying the library is officially inaugurated. All in attendance were invited to the VFW for a celebratory feast.
 
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Run Don’t Walk: Ginanda Gikendaasomin is OPEN for business — as well as education, recreation, and special programs!
The grand opening was a testament to the partnership whose rewards have touched ever more people over the years, starting with the students who created the TLAM class to investigate the question raised at Red Cliff about what other tribal communities out there are doing to maintain cultural institutions like libraries, and eventually growing into the Convening Great Lakes Culture Keepers conferences to share knowledge among a network of tribal cultural professionals.
 
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Sweet Encouragement: A cake decorated like the library’s logo completes our feast.
 
€‹Our 2015 group is so happy to have had the opportunity to take part in this community milestone and to express our best wishes for the success of the library and the step it represents toward a multi-use cultural center for Red Cliff down the road.
 
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Blast Off: This year’s TLAM group poses with Nancy for a riveting “We did it!”