Tribal Libraries, Archives & Museums Program Event Celebrates Successes

Louise Robbins, being gifted an amazing quilt by Kathy Barri and Jared Blanche.

For fourteen years members of the iSchool have been working together with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe (Gaa-Miskwaabikaang) as part of the Tribal Libraries, Archives and Museums (TLAM) program. In late October a broad group came together for a reunion, educational events, career and college fair, and to celebrate the progress of the Red Cliff tribal library.

The celebration involved reflecting on the past and talking about the history of the project as well as the gifting of a stunning quilt from the Red Cliff community to iSchool Professor Emeritus Louise Robbins for her efforts in helping launch and build the program. The two-day event also involved a career and college fair where local elementary, middle and high-school students could connect with UW-Madison and other local colleges as well as area employers.

TLAM alumni and friends.

“I was thrilled with the celebration of all the Red Cliff community has accomplished, delighted to see such a gathering of alums, and absolutely stunned by the unexpected honor from the tribe,”  Robbins said. “It is so significant that Alan Rubel, iSchool Chair, was there to celebrate the ongoing reciprocity between the iSchool and the community. I am grateful to all who made the event possible, especially Kathy Barri, who has been the heart of the library for several years..”

Highlights were reuniting with alumni, past instructors, and members of the Red Cliff community who worked on TLAM since 2008 and hearing stories about the impact of the program on the lives and careers of students. Attendees were treated to music and the origin story of the Native flute by Michael “Laughing Fox” Charette, a celebratory dinner prepared by chef Joanne Peterson, and a kayaking trip focused on Ojibwe history and culture led by tribal member Mike Montano Jr. Attendees also participated in an opening prayer led by Jim Pete and enjoyed youth drum group Buffalo Jrz from the Boys & Girls Club led by Dusty LaFernier.   

Kathy Barri & Christina Johnson show off books donated by Elizabeth Albert-Peacock and Thomas Peacock of Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing
Kathy Barri & Christina Johnson show off books donated by Elizabeth Albert-Peacock and Thomas Peacock of Black Bears and Blueberries Publishing

An important and emotional part of the two-day event was the reuniting of TLAM alumni and Red Cliff library staff including Education and Library Director Jared Blanche and Library Assistant Kathy Barri at the new Red Cliff tribal library. The opening of the new library space is the result of years of effort, support and collaboration between the iSchool and the Red Cliff community. Efforts to support the library collection, services and physical space were set in motion back in 2008. While visiting, many alumni spent time working in the library. It was very moving for them to be there in the permanent space. 

“Bit by bit we created everything from scratch but were able to work together in close collaboration with the iSchool. Louise really made an impact on our community and me personally.” said Kathy Barri, Red Cliff Library Assistant. “Gifting the quilt, and having two days of events and celebration really reflects the strength and importance of the relationship between the iSchool and our community.”

While the growth of the library is a culmination of work it is also the start of an exciting next chapter. Not only is the library now open but UW-Madison is expanding and strengthening its commitment to TLAM by opening a new position for a Tribal Libraries, Archives & Museums Manager.  The position is an opportunity to build on the proven track record and established relationships of the program, and expand efforts across the state and beyond. Learn about the TLAM position – applications are due 12/1/22.