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 is establishing the Frog Bay Tribal National Park and a community garden. The band also is building a health clinic.
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 on the Red Cliff Indian Reservation.
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
At students’ urging, the library school created a Tribal Libraries, Archives & Museums (TLAM) independent-study class in spring 2009. The course allowed students to continue working on the Red Cliff library project and study American Indian issues. By Spring 2010, TLAM had become part of the library school course schedule. Now, TLAM is offered each spring as a three-credit class and is open to all UW-Madison library students.
Students, faculty, administrators, and staff continued to visit 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 had evolved into the Ginanda Gikendaamin Community Center. The center would include a tribal library, language-immersion school, college classrooms, and a gathering space large enough to hold traditional wakes.
In Fall 2011, library students created the TLAM Student Group. Inspired by the TLAM class, students wanted to form an official group that would remain in contact with Red Cliff and other Wisconsin tribes year-round. The group would encourage library students to participate in service projects with American Indian communities and to enroll in the TLAM course. Members adopted a constitution, elected officers, and recruited an adviser. The group meets regularly to discuss the Red Cliff library and the other projects.