Lac du Flambeau Public School Cultural Connections, WIEA partner to bring inclusion, diversity to Lakeland School District
As the beat of the drum and rhythmic chanting of traditional song from Lac du Flambeau’s Tomahawk Circle echoed throughout the Lakeland High School gymnasium, a quadrigeminal of Native women Veterans danced in procession, each carrying the American Flag, Lac du Flambeau tribal flag, Wisconsin state flag and Lac du Flambeau tribal eagle staff. Accompanying the women Veterans and carrying the new Lakeland Union High School eagle staff was Lac du Flambeau elder Milan “Bobby” Williams.
And with that, Jackson along with a host of others, helped take the Lakeland J-1 school district’s Act 31 implementation to new heights.
“I’m going to challenge you right now. It’s not taking a look at history as being the old grey hairs from years and years ago – the 1800s and early 1900s – but think about your own family history. You are creating history,” said Lakeland Union High Principal and District Administrator Jim Bouché. Lac du Flambeau tribal council members and other dignitaries were on hand to witness the dedication of the staff to the school’s entire student body – a historic moment for a school and town that were both known for their racial intolerance.
“Have you ever sat down to talk to you grandparents? Have you ever sat down, if you’ve had the , to talk with your great-grandparents,” Bouché posed to the student body. “Many of you and your families have been an integral part of the communities we live in today,” added Bouché. “Have you sat down and really talked about the fact of where you come from? So today is not just talking about one culture, it’s talking about all of our cultures.”
The eagle staff dedication and assembly were the culmination of nearly two year’s worth of work Jackson and his team put into the cultural awareness efforts, however fast the staff and assembly came to fruition.
“This whole process came about very fast. I didn’t expect this staff or any of this to happen as quickly as it did. The staff was the result of the actions of a group of young Native men who have been regularly attending a weekly talking circle group here at the high school,” said Jackson. “These students took it upon themselves to seek out the resources to make this happen,” added Jackson.
The eagle staff was constructed by Lakeland Union Sophmore Joe Boyle Jr.’s father Joe Boyle Sr.
Ten of the eagle feathers adorning the staff were donated by former Lac du Flambeau Tribal President and Chairman of the Voigt Inter-Tribal Task Force Tom Maulson. An additional lone feather was donated by Boyle Sr to collectively represent the eleven federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin.
“We talk about the colors on this staff. They represent the four colors of man,” said Lac du Flambeau tribal elder Milan “Bobby” Williams, referring to the red, yellow, black and white ribbons that hang from the top of the staff. “This is a long time coming for the struggles we’ve had in this school and on the outside,” said Williams, who shortly before spoke in the Ojibwe language as part of the dedication ceremony.
Williams was referring to the racial animosity and violence faced by Ojibwe (Chippewa) who exercised their court affirmed treaty rights in the 1980s and 1990s.
Along with the weekly Talking Circle at Lakeland Union High (LUHS), Jackson has worked to successfully implement a weekly Talking Circle at Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School (AVW) in Arbor Vitae, WI. along with periodic pow-wows at the school as well. In addition to the Lakeland and Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School cultural initiatives, Jackson has also worked with Minocqua-Hazelhurst-Lake Tomahawk Public School (MHLT) to hold the school’s first ever pow-wow last Fall.
“Part of my role is to not only be in Lakeland High School but also serving the Lac du Flambeau community, Lac du Flambeau Public School where I’m employed. But on this journey and mission of Act 31 initiatives, I’m in other schools as well: AVW; MHLT; North Lakeland (Manitowish Waters); Rhinelander,” said Jackson. “Part of the message of Cultural Connections program in working with the the other schools is about building relationships.”
Noteworthy is Lakeland’s Act 31 Steering Committee, which is chaired by Rob Way, Lakeland Union High School Curriculum Director.
After the dedication ceremony, guests and dignitaries were invited to join students for a feast of wild rice soup, fry bread, corn bread and salad in the school’s distance learning room.
Former LdF tribal president Tom Maulson said of the event to the students, “It’s up to you, the student body, the leaders of tomorrow, to mend the fences your parents and grandparents couldn’t. It’s a new day and we have a lot to offer each other through the sharing of culture and our way of life.”
Red Cliff’s Gordon named Bayfield School District Superintendent
On July 1, 2017, Jeff Gordon will officially take the reigns as superintendent of the Bayfield School District. It was announced at Tuesday’s Bayfield School board meeting that Gordon had been selected to fill the role as new superintendent. Current Bayfield Superintendent Dave Aslyn recently tendered his resignation and will become superintendent of the Spooner, WI, School District in July.
Gordon, a longtime educator, currently holds the position of Bayfield Middle School Principal and Dean of Students, serving in that capacity for the past three years.
Gordon has been pursuing his superintendent’s certification for the past two years through Viterbo University’s Superintendent Program.
Gordon, a 1984 graduate of Bayfield High School, obtained his Bachelor of Education degree in 1989 from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. In 2002 Gordon received his Master’s Degree in Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was a teacher for both the Bayfield School District and the Oneida Indian Nation from 1989 to 1999, as well as athletic director and coach. In 1999 to 2003 Gordon served the Menominee Indian Tribe as principal for the Neopit Middle School in Neopit. From 2003 to 2006 Gordon was K-8 principal at the Indian Community School in Milwaukee, WI.
In addition to his current duties at the school, Gordon also serves as head basketball coach for the Bayfield Boys squad.
Gordon, a Red Cliff tribal member, is proud of his heritage and keenly aware of the obstacles facing Native students and Native people in general. Understanding those challenges, Gordon is high on providing support to American Indian students and all students.
“I always had a sense that there was a tremendous amount of community support from Red Cliff and from the Bayfield School District. There were resources that I could act upon,” said Gordon of his career and life journey.
“Early on—even in college and my first years as a teacher—what was real important for me was the number of mentors and community people that were willing to help me,” said Gordon. “I can go back to the first time I applied for college and even through high school—in some cases I may have been the only Native student in the classroom.”
Gordon cites foremost his parents and family as mentors.
“They were always there to support me,” said Gordon.
He also credits teachers in Bayfield with providing him confidence and support as well as the Red Cliff community.
“From the education directors, down to the tribal council; they always seemed to be there to support young people who were going off to college or to start a career. There was always a sense that they were there to support your first endeavors—whether it was in the workforce or obtaining a college degree—either path you chose the tribe was there,” says Gordon.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I came back to Bayfield in 2012 and have been working here for the previous four years,” he adds.
“For me, as a school superintendent in Bayfield, I will provide the necessary support and resources for our teachers, staff and students,” said Gordon. “I want to make Bayfield the best school district in northern Wisconsin.”
Gordon says it’s his duty to follow the lead of the Bayfield School Board along with continuing the implementation of the district’s strategic plan. The plan was developed and initiated by current superintendent Dave Aslyn.
“We’re going to continue on with that mission and make this the best school for kids,” said Gordon.
Gordon is especially sensitive to the needs of children in rural northern Wisconsin and the large Native enrollment population at the school district.
When asked his thoughts on the school’s efforts relative to Wisconsin Act 31, Gordon said he’s confident the district will continue providing accurate American Indian studies.
“Our teachers and staff in Bayfield over the past years have blended in the Ojibwe culture within the walls of the district—it’s not only within the walls but it’s also within the curriculum,” explained Gordon. “For the future, we want to continue on that path and build upon that.”
*Reprinted with permission from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians’ weekly publication, Miisaniinawind