About Red Cliff

The Red Cliff Band is part of the Ojibwe nation. The Red Cliff Indian Reservation stretches 14 miles along the Bayfield Peninsula on Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. About 6,250 members belong to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Of those, about 925 live on the reservation.

Today, the Red Cliff Band is experiencing a cultural renaissance. The Red Cliff Early Childhood Center, which serves more than 100 families, operates an Ojibwe language revitalization program. The reservation hosts a powwow each July. Legendary Waters Resort & Casino opened in Fall 2011. The Red Cliff Band established the Frog Bay Tribal National Park, and and runs a community garden. The band also is building a new health clinic facility.

About the Partnership Between the Students and Red Cliff

The School of Library & Information Studies (SLIS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been involved with the Red Cliff Library Project since 2008. Early that year, the Northern Waters Library Service revealed that the Red Cliff Public Library was in danger of closing. Although the sorely underfunded library ultimately closed, UW-Madison library students, staff, faculty, and administrators have been working with tribal members to reestablish library service to the Red Cliff community.

In June 2008, library students made the first six-hour drive from Madison to Red Cliff. Students and administrators visited the reservation several more times that year, including a community meeting in October. The trips were designed to gauge community interest in a tribal library. The team found that tribal members wanted to reopen the public library but also sought a long-term goal of building a new tribal library. From the onset, tribal members expressed the desire for the new library building to include a gathering space for wakes.


Work at UW-Madison and Red Cliff

The TLAM course, started in Spring 2009, allowed students to continue working on the Red Cliff library project. Students, faculty, administrators, and staff visited Red Cliff regularly. Volunteers boxed up books from the Red Cliff Public Library to be stored at the fire hall until a new library could open.

Plans for a new library grew. By Fall 2011, the library project began to evolve into a project that included more than a library. The proposed facility included many community spaces and uses, including a tribal library, language-immersion school, college classrooms, and a gathering space large enough to hold traditional wakes.

In January 2012, interested Red Cliff community members formed the Red Cliff Library Board.  Along with SLIS partners, the library board began planning a capital campaign for the project called Ginanda Gikendaasomin, which means “we seek to learn” in Ojibwe.  This center will further the current cultural heritage preservation efforts by the Red Cliff tribe, will support the preservation of the Ojibwe language, and encourage community development.

In the spring of 2012, students researched grants for the campaign, creating a grants database that is shared with the Red Cliff Library Board.  The students in the Spring 2013 class outlined the information architecture of the Ginanda Gikendaasomin website and created promotional videos for the campaign.  To create these videos, students traveled to Red Cliff to interview the library board and interested community members.

Going Forward

Students will be able to use interview footage to create more videos, highlighting the different aspects of Ginanda Gikendaasomin. There is also the opportunity to interview more community members to increase the number of voices speaking out for the project. In addition, students will continue to update the grants database and search for new sources of funding.