The former Native residential school still exists at Lac du Flambeau

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Many of these Wisconsin schools were demolished and the land they were on is now privately owned, making it more difficult to find whether Wisconsin would have burial sites similar to those found in Canada.

But a structure of that painful part of history still stands in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

“It’s a really traumatic story for Native Americans, but it’s also a story that needs to be told,” said Sarah Schuman. Schuman is the tribal historical preservative for the Lac du Flambeau tribe. She heard directly from family and tribe members what happened within these walls.

“When they first came here they had to have their hair cut, their braids were taken, they were told to wear dresses, shoes, hats, if they spoke their language they were punished. As for the punishment, we don’t know what it was. ”

These schools were operating at a time known as the Age of Assimilation. Families were forced to send their children to these schools and leave behind their families, their culture and their identity.

“It was just to get them used to white culture.”

The Flambeau Lake boarding school operated from 1895 to 1932. During this time, hundreds of Native American children were taken from their families for education under the US federal government.

According to records, the majority of the children there were from the Potawatomi, Ho Chunk and Menominee tribes. There were a few children from Lac du Flambeau because their villages were right across the lake from the boarding school complex but that changed quickly.

“Some kids would run away,” Schuman said, “and then people would have to go back and sort of argue over the kids. So eventually what they started to do was send the kids out of the lake. du Flambeau off reserve to other residential schools to make it more difficult for them to return to their families. ”

Each year at the school, they housed over 150 students and several staff members each year. He said it was a school for children between the ages of 5 and 8, but accounts and photos from tribes suggest it even started at a younger age.

“Some of the kids seem smaller than the age of 5. What was happening was that a lot of communities were saying their kid was only 3 or 4 and they ended up taking a tape measure and if the ‘kid was as tall as a yard or taller, they would just take the kids out no matter if they were 3 or 4 years old. ”

The building that still stands has witnessed a painful part of tribal history, but now sees a bright future for the tribe and its people.

“It’s a bit like putting our foot on the ground. No need to deprive ourselves of our culture anymore,” said Schuman. “We are just trying to preserve this as future generations advance.”

The building and grounds are now used for classes to teach tribe members their language, arts and a place to celebrate their culture. ”

“Teaching our kids about our culture, rather than just a side of the culture they only know from the history books.”

According to the Lac du Flambeau tribe, at this time, their boarding school is not under investigation by the US Department of the Interior. We asked them if they knew of any burial sites in the area. According to Schuman, given that the area around it has been developed over the past two decades, it is difficult for them to determine whether there are – or had been – burial sites around the school.


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