Prescott students make annual trek to WaswagoningFor the 10th consecutive year, Prescott High students traveled to the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation to learn about the history and culture of this Northern Wisconsin reservation community.
For the 10th consecutive year, Prescott High students traveled to the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation to learn about the history and culture of this Northern Wisconsin reservation community.
The unique four-day field trip affords students the opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities and to meet with noted tribal members of the Lac Du Flambeau reservation. Students visit the tribal museum, participate in workshops, and discuss historical and contemporary issues with well-known Ojibwa teacher and lecturer Nick Hockings.
“What we try to do here at Prescott High School is have students understand the enormous cultural, political and economic impact Wisconsin’s tribal communities have on our state,” says high school social studies teacher Jeff Ryan. “Far too often, schools spend their time discussing native people from a 19th Century perspective,” adds Ryan. “We have made a concerted effort to talk about the contemporary issues facing Wisconsin’s indigenous people.”
In the early 1990’s, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction mandated Wisconsin Indian History and Sovereignty Issues be taught in public schools. Act 31 requires topics connected to Wisconsin’s native communities be taught at least once at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Since 1998, Prescott High School has offered an 11th and 12th grade social studies elective entitled “Native America Since 1790.” Taught by Ryan, the semester-long course covers topics ranging from the Constitution to contemporary treaty rights issues in the state.
“We take Act 31 very seriously at Prescott High School and the class goes over and above what schools are expected to teach,” says Ryan. The school-sponsored trip to Lac Du Flambeau became a part of the course in the fall of 2000 and has proved to be a very valuable tool at promoting an understanding of Wisconsin’s cultural diversity.
During the four-day educational experience, the students stay at Waswagoning, a recreated 17th Century Ojibwa Village located on the Lac Du Flambeau Indian Reservation. Created by Hockings and scores of volunteers, Waswagoning is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is among the most visited cultural sites in the State of Wisconsin.
“This trip is a great way for us to become engaged in learning about native people,” says student Eric Strandine. “What we learn about native people while we are here cannot be duplicated in the classroom.”
“There are so many misconceptions and so much misunderstanding in our state regarding native people,” says senior Mindy Mutschler. “These four days really open your eyes and cause you to realize that the native people of Wisconsin are really no different than us. The similarities certainly outnumber the differences.”
Along with the continued support of the school district, this popular social studies program received a sizable grant from the Prescott Foundation in order to defray students’ expenses during the four-day trip.
“Without the support of the Prescott Foundation, it would be very difficult the students to participate,” says High School Principal David Bunn. “It’s a trip that had received a lot support from our local community.”
Social studies teacher Ryan added, “with the Prescott Foundation’s generous support, these students were able to participate in an extremely important program that focuses on understanding who indigenous people were, and who they are today.”
“It was really a great experience,” says senior Zach Lewis. “Prescott High School is extremely lucky to this exchange program with Lac Du Flambeau because it provides students a chance to experience something really unique.”
Since the fall of 2000, over 200 Prescott High School Student have made the trip to Waswagoning. Along with the annual fall trip, Ryan organized a summer trip for other residents through Prescott’s Community Education Program.