National Geographic : 2004 Sep
though splashing water from a bowl. Tromp reminds them that this cleansing ritual, known as smudging, is meant to clear the mind. Native American culture thrives here mainly because of the efforts of three Oneida mothers. Tired of watching their children being mistreated in public schools, they began teaching five chil dren in an apartment living room in 1968. Enroll ment grew. Now on the former campus of a Lutheran college, the school is supported by a Potawatomi casino in the heart of Milwaukee. The casino money has enabled the school to give the children extraordinary services. Families pay no tuition. The school provides free meals and transportation. Classes average 15 students. Larry Beardy, the school's Ojibwa language teacher, had a far less pos itive school experience, one that once was not uncommon among Native Americans. He was raised 350 miles north of Thunder Bay in Muskrat Dam, Ontario, where his family survived by hunting, fishing, and trap ping. He first saw pavement at 16, when he flew 200 miles south to attend high school in Sioux Lookout. There, Beardy says, he and his friends "were kicked and hit and called all kinds of things, treated like dirt" by whites and the handful of Indians in town. That was 1978. Of the 21 Indian boys who left "the bush" with him, he was the only one to graduate. Beardy moves so gracefully in the modern world that it's hard to imag ine he experienced such cultural dislocation. His solid grounding in Ojibwa culture and spirituality, he says, gives him strength. "That is what we would like to pass on to the children," he adds. "When they have that, they are able to stand on their own no matter what kind of people they asso ciate with or what environment they are in. They will be able to do what ever they have to do to survive without feeling like they are lost." Beardy shows off a much loved place of his at school, heading into an abandoned building, upstairs to a room with a wall of soaring leaded glass the old college chapel. He feels the presence of the past here, he says, of the generations of Christians who worshipped here. For him, the school's sweat lodge is such a place, a way of connecting to the Creator, to the ancestors. Paintings of cultural touchstones adorn school walls. In the cafeteria Mother Earth watches over students, who get breakfast and lunch pro vided daily. (This boy brought his own.) Family gathers at Bunny Tomaw-Connors's home (below) to watch a football game. Her grandsons are the second generation to attend ICS, opened in 1968. "When I was in school, we weren't exactly allowed to talk about being Indian,' says Bunny, at left. "Now kids are proud to be in an Indian school. It's brought the whole Native community together."