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Learning in Lac Du Flambeau

Prescott students meet with the tribal elders at the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation during a recent trip. Photo courtesy of Jeff Ryan1 / 3
Prescott students with the drum group Wigwam Nation, during a recent trip to Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation in north central Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Jeff Ryan2 / 3
Prescott students visit Moving Cloud Lake during a recent trip to the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation. Pictured are (front) Madison Dorau; (back row, from left) Brady Schmidt, Erik Zielinksi, Connor Hince, Belle Brotka, Aiden Nespbor, Lauran Korfhage and Alex Stancer. Photo courtesy of Jeff Ryan.3 / 3

For the 18th consecutive year a group of Prescott High School Students traveled to the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation to learn about the history, government and culture of the Ojibwa community located in Vilas County in north central Wisconsin.

Since the fall of 2000, social studies teacher Jeff Ryan has organized this trip providing students an opportunity to learn first hand about lifeways of this native community.

Students spend four days visiting museums and important cultural sites. They meet with native educators and tribal elders and discuss historical and contemporary issues important to the people of Lac Du Flambeau. Students participate in a craft workshop, learn about native drumming and singing, and complete a service project.

"It's all hands-on learning", said senior Madison Dorau. "I really enjoy learning in a way that allows me to become actively involved. It's what is so much fun about the trip. You learn by doing."

Chosen by a panel of educators and community members, the eight students who traveled to the reservation have become part of a student group known by many members of the Lac Du Flambeau community.

"Everyone in the community looks forward to visits from students from Prescott High School," said Tribal Member Brandon Thoms, who has helped coordinate Prescott trips over the past three years. "Prescott students are always so respectful, well prepared, and conscientious. It makes me feel so good to know there are young people out there that want to understand who native people are and what we are all about."

Wisconsin Indian Education Association President and Lac Du Flambeau Tribal Member Brian Jackson agreed with Thoms' assessment.

"When it comes to understanding 'Indian Country' and wanting to learn more Prescott students are at the top of the list. We are always very, very honored whenever students or people from Prescott come and visit our community."

Ryan points out that 294 Prescott High School alumni have visited Lac Du Flambeau either during the fall trip or the summer trip that he also organizes.

"It's really a unique learning opportunity for students" said Ryan. "The relationship that has been created between Prescott and Lac Du Flambeau has paid huge dividends for students. And what is so tremendous is that the school and community recognizes the educational importance."

For senior Belle Brotka a trip to Lac Du Flambeau was something she had been thinking about since registering for the class last spring.

"I had heard so many good things about the trip. I wanted the opportunity to experience what so many former students have talked about for a long time. The people, the scenery, everything about it was great," Brotka said.

For years the school and community support has been outstanding. Along with the continued support of the Prescott School Board, the Ann-Marie Foundation provided a sizeable grant for the trip this fall. Ryan said the trips would not be possible without enthusiastic support from the community.

"We are all very grateful for the support we received from the school and Ann-Marie Foundation," said senior Erik Zielinski. "I am pretty sure there would be some students that would have difficulty paying for the trip out of their own pockets, but thanks to the grant that burden was lifted. We can't say thank you enough to both the school and Foundation."

Several students expressed an interest in going back to Lac Du Flambeau at some point in the future.

"I definitely would like to go back," said senior Brady Schmidt. "For the entire four days everyone was so accommodating. All the people we met with answered all of our questions and were genuinely interested in who we were as people - as human beings. The hospitality we received was great."

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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