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By Frank ClancyPhotographs by Penny De Los Santos



At the Indian Community School in Milwaukee, Native American kids reconnect with ancestral traditions.



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

In this extended family, people gather to pray in times of trouble. So one cold March night, Waubano organizes a sweat lodge ceremony for a young man who's slated to lose his job as a teacher's aide. A dozen or so men and boys huddle around a bonfire in the courtyard, seeking refuge from swirling, bitter winds. Buried in the blaze, rocks absorb the energy to heat the lodge, a low hut of canvas and blankets stretched over a frame of maple saplings: the womb of Mother Earth, according to tradition. When the stones ("the grandfathers," Waubano calls them) are ready, everyone crawls into the lodge, around a shallow pit. Waiting in the dim light, the boys joke nervously. One confesses to being afraid. "Face your fear," a friend replies.
 
The fire tender places seven stones in the pit. Waubano sprinkles tobacco on the rocks, then pours water over them. Steam—the breath of the Creator—envelops everything. The door closes, and Waubano's deep voice, speaking in his native Menominee, rises in the darkness. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, the men and boys chant, pray, and drum for hours in the dizzying heat. Three times new rocks are brought in. The participants sweat and sweat, sipping water once, eating a single strawberry apiece.
 
When the ceremony ends, they crawl out of the lodge, emerging from Mother Earth as they entered the world, cleansed and pure, if only temporarily. Their suffering, Waubano explains later, is a gift to the young teacher's aide, a way of sharing his burden and giving him strength.

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In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
Smudging ceremonies similar to those performed at the Indian Community School occur in tribes throughout North America. Fragrant, medicinal plants such as sage, sweetgrass, and cedar are burned in a bowl or seashell, and the smoke is wafted over people or objects to cleanse and protect them. In some tribes an eagle feather is used to move the smoke, because it is believed that the wings of eagles carry thoughts and prayers directly to the Creator.
 
These ceremonies are such an important part of American Indian spiritual life that the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Cultural Resources Center, located in Suitland, Maryland, includes a special room for this purpose. With a large window, a fire pit, and special ventilation system, the room is used by Native American visitors and staff to perform smudging rituals on objects as they enter or leave the museum's collection. An outdoor space at the new NMAI in downtown Washington, D.C., serves the same purpose.
 
—Shelley Sperry
Did You Know?

Related Links
Indian Community School of Milwaukee
www.ics-milw.org
The official Web site of ICS provides an overview of the school's mission and programs, as well as links to a newsletter, calendar of events, and information updates about the new campus.
 
ICS4Kids
www.ics4kids.org
Stay up-to-date on the fight against budget cuts at ICS at this information clearinghouse created by parents and community members.
 
Indian Country Wisconsin
www.mpm.edu/wirp
Discover the history and culture of Wisconsin's Native Americans at a site created by the Milwaukee Public Museum.
 
American Indian Education Foundation
www.aiefprograms.org
Connect with others interested in providing school supplies, incentive programs, and college scholarships to American Indian students throughout the country, at this nonprofit organization based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Web site also includes a short history of Indian education in the United States.

Cultural Resources Center of the NMAI
americanindian.si.edu/subpage.cfm?subpage=collaboration&second=internships
For college students who want to explore American Indian culture up close, the NMAI's Cultural Resources Center offers information about a variety of internships.

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Bibliography
Adams, David Wallace. Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928. University Press of Kansas, 1995.
 
Szasz, Margaret Connell. Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self-Determination Since 1928, 3rd ed. University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

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NGS Resources
Kerston, Denise. "Milwaukee's Old World Street." National Geographic Traveler (March 2004), 123.
 
Kirkwood, Judith. "Hog Wild in the Heartland." National Geographic Traveler (July/August 1998), 27.

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