Kinnamon School Grand Opening

Kinnamon school had their grand opening on October 8th, celebrating a long project of renovating and restoring a school beloved by many. Many Kinnamon alumni and even a teacher were in attendance.

A ribbon cutting ceremony started off the day. Dennis White said the opening prayer and Waadookodaading singers performed the honor song. Tribal Chair Mic Isham spoke and welcomed each guest speaker.

Guest speakers included Stephanie Klett, Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Tourism; Dr. David Beaulieu, Professor and Endowed Chair, College of Education and Human Services at the University of Minnesota and former Director of the U.S. Office of Indian Education; and Dr. Rick St. Germaine, former Kinnamon student and retired Professor in Education.

“There’s so much history here,” Chairman Isham said. “We have to know our history, and they don’t necessarily teach that in schools.” He went on to discuss future plans of expanding and adding climate control and storage so that artifacts from museums and other places can be repatriated. Chairman Isham shared his goal of Kinnamon becoming a repository for stories and artifacts and not only be a historical place, but a cultural attraction for tourists.

Stephanie Klett spoke about tourism and its importance here in the Northwoods. She said that tourism in Wisconsin is a $19.3 billion industry that employs over 190,000 people, and Tribes are a huge contributor to this. “Why I’m excited about this museum and visitor center is because of what makes tourism so passionate, and that’s the cultural element. Tourism, when done right, can be transformative. And so here [at Kinnamon] people of all backgrounds and ages can learn about Lac Courte Oreilles and about what life was like, what school was like, your religion, your philosophy, the way you look at environment, the way you look at the earth, the way you look at your culture, and you’re opening that up to a whole new generation,” Klett stated.

Dr. David Beaulieu and Dr. Rick St. Germaine both gave indepth histories of not only Kinnamon school, but what Indian education in general was like in the past. Wisconsin and Minnesota were front runners in educating and ‘Americanizing’ native youth before the Johnson O’Malley Act, because tribes were sending their kids to public schools more than anywhere else in the United States. Dr. St. Germaine went into more detail about how Kinnamon came to be, noting the school was named after a local German man who supported education, and even shared a class syllabus of what students did on a normal school day.

Faith Smith, a former Kinnamon student who has been organizing this renovation project, shared that when she first came into the building after renovations, she could hear children laughing. She said that she could also feel a sense of comfort and belonging when she enters the building. “We need to define as a community what it is that we want to report, what we want to share with people, what we want to teach our children and grandchildren, and what we want to preserve here.” She encourages everyone to come in, have a cup of coffee, and share stories and pictures so that they can be archived and recorded and our history can be taught from our own perspective.

After listening to the speakers, guests shared stories and experiences of their time at Kinnamon. People spoke of how they would walk a mile to school every day, what kind of games they played, the things they learned in the classroom, and their general experience of attending Kinnamon school.

The grand opening and reunion was sponsored by the LCO Tribe, Native American Tourism of Wisconsin (NATOW), the LCO Tribal Community College Library, and the Institute for Museums and Libraries (IMLS).

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