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LCO Tribal Governing Board Welcomes New Ganawenjigejig Earth School Leader

The Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board officially welcomed Stephanie St. Germaine as the new Ganawenjigejig Earth School leader after she addressed the board in Ojibwe to thank them for this opportunity. “chi-miigwechiwendam indinawemaaganidog omaa bi izhaayeg Waabigwan indizhinikaaz,” I offer my great thanks to all of my relatives to speak to you today as Waabigwan, Flower that Brings Color to the World.


My mother is Lori Boss St. Germaine, and my grandmother was Saxon St. Germaine. Thank-you for this opportunity and challenge to work as the director and lead teacher of this new school. . . . I have recently been reflecting on the things I have been most grateful for, and I cannot be more grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to creating a team that will not just work together, but a team that will respect, trust, and care for each other.

Our goal will always be to respect and honor our Aki, our Mother Earth.


The Tribal Governing Board members offered their welcome in return, with Jason Schlender thanking her for coming to the tribe to share her talents and support for young tribal members.


Rose Gokee noted that she is particularly grateful to see a young tribal woman stepping into a leadership role: “What a positive role model you are and will continue to be for the young women of the tribe who need to understand the leadership role women have traditionally played and will continue to play for the Lac Courte Oreilles community into the future.”


In turn, each member thanked her and shared how good they feel about this new role for her on behalf of the tribe and its membership wishing her success in launching and heading the new Ganawenjigejig Earth School.


It is significant that so many of Stephanie’s ancestors are Ajiijak, teachers and speakers who pass on the learning traditions of the tribe, but also visionaries who anticipate the future and the way things might be if we raise future generations to live the right kind of life.


It is also significant that Stephanie’s father, Ernie St. Germaine, has been a respected tribal judge dedicated to reintroducing traditional ways of peacekeeping and reconciling differences within the tribal community, once the responsibility of the Waawaashkeshi. Ernie and other elders will play a leadership role in helping Ganawenjigejig students come to understand their mutual role in supporting each other and taking responsibility for their own actions. In western education, discipline can be quite punitive, rather than constructive. The vision of Ganawenjigejig is that students will be taught in ways that rekindle traditional values so they might be great stewards of the earth and of the tribal community where everyone contributes to the common good and is respected.

Academically, Ganawenjigejig Earth School is an accelerated learning pathway which runs from middle school through college and teaches students how to care for and protect Mother Earth: Ganawenjigejig means “those who take care of things and protect them.” With the help of college partners like Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College and Northland college and industry partners like the Lac Courte Oreilles Conservation Department and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, GES will provide dual credit courses which enable students to earn college credits while still in high school, then transition seamlessly into summer environmental and language camps which function as Early Colleges first introduced by the Gates Foundation and recognized by the Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse as one of the most effective ways of helping young learners be successful in higher education and advance into well-paying professions.


Each week, students will participate in field practicums where they learn on the job how environmental sustainability functions in the workplace as a growing economy rated as one of the “hot spots” for future employment, particularly for LCO Conservation and GLIFWC charged with responsibility for overseeing and managing more than 76,465 acres of tribal lands and more than 62,000,000 acres across ceded lands of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.


As GLIFWC Director Mic Isham has noted in his letter of support of the GES Charter School, “In addition to 71 full-time positions, GLIFWC hired 177 limited-term (i.e. seasonal) employees in 2016 to conduct electrofishing surveys, control purple loosestrife, undertake fall Lake Superior fish assessments and monitor spring spearfishing and netting harvests. It is becoming increasingly difficult to fill limited-term positions as older Native American workers retire.”


The strategy GLIFWC has developed in response is the model adopted by GES: 1) expand outdoor experiences and increase awareness of treaty harvest opportunities for upper elementary, middle and high school students, 2) participate in education/job fairs in tribal communities to increase awareness of career opportunities at GLIFWC and the various levels of education required, 3) network with tribal community colleges and area colleges/ universities to improve understanding of GLIFWC’s natural resource employment needs, and 4) develop a network to assist tribal members in identifying appropriate natural resources and conservation enforcement degree programs.


It is anticipated that 100 students will enroll in GES over the next four years.

Students and parents who are interested can contact Stephanie St. Germaine, GES Director/Teacher Leader at sstgermaine@lco.edu, 715-634-4790x115.