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Recreating a challenging past: the restoration of the Boys Dormitory in Lac du FlambeauSubmitted: 02/01/2014

Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com


LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Painful memories tempt us to try and forget the past.

In Lac du Flambeau, they're doing just the opposite.

"We can't ever let anybody forget that this had happened to our people and that
we had survived," says Melinda Young.

"These are the schools that were designed to assimilate the Native Americans of
this country into the American cultures," says Travis Maki.

A U.S. Government-run Boarding School took that mission to Lac du Flambeau from
1895 to 1932.

"The ultimate goal was to completely eliminate native cultures altogether," Maki
says.

"You don't hear about this in textbooks. I lived in this community my entire
life and did not know that this was a boarding school," Young says.

But by the middle of this year, the boarding school story will be on full display.

Young and Maki both work for the tribe's historic preservation initiative and
are working on the boarding school project.

Physically restoring what, for 27 years, was the Boys Dormitory at the school
will help restore a part of the Lac du Flambeau tribe's history.

"This hallway will mirror exactly what this building looked like in 1906. The
ultimate design is to have that visual impact of what these students were coming
into when they were brought to this school initially," Maki says, showing off
the entrance to the Boys Dormitory.

The Boarding School will be open for visitors to experience what native children
did so many decades ago.

It will also be the hub of the Ojibwe language and historic preservation programs.

Many of the rooms will mirror what they looked like in the early 20th century.

"We had an elder that had attended in the 1920s. We did a walkthrough with him,
and he told us what each of these rooms was for," Maki says.

Leaders hope a step back into the tribe's historic culture will provide another
reason for people to visit Lac du Flambeau.

"You have families coming. So it's providing an opportunity for families to do
something in our community together," says Young.

Painful as some of the memories may be, historic leaders are working to make
sure they're told at the Boys Dormitory.

"It's part of our history. We talk about World War I and Vietnam and everything
else. This is a fact of our history. It cannot be forgotten," Young says.

The Boys Dormitory should open to the public in June.

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