May 29, 2002 - Interview with Jack Kibble, LSSU's first official Native American Center director.
by Stephanie Sabatine

The idea of a Native American Center on the campus of Lake Superior State University began around 1969 or so.  John Boltman, a Native American from a Western tribe, was hired as a counselor.  He was also appointed to serve as the "advisor to Native students."  The idea of the center soon languished as Mr. Boltman's primary interest appeared to be in his returning to his own tribe.  After that, Louie Baca served as the advisor to LSSU's Native students for a short time.

Sometime in 1986, Jack Kibble was provided with a small office in Brown Hall.  He laughed jokingly as he told the story that he used to tell his Native students.  He said that "if two students appeared in his office at the same time that he would have to leave."  Upon vacating his tiny office, he moved to the Fletcher Center and assisted in the organization of a Native American student group in 1987.  Dr. Shar had promised the students an official Native American Center - a place where they could gather, hold meetings, study, etc - in an unspoken-for spot in the basement of Brady Hall.  The students excitedly took the initiative to claim the small area in Brady Hall's basement.

In a weekend, they moved out the junk that occupied most of the space and kept the items they thought might be useful to the Center.  Hence, the official LSSU Native American Center had arrived.  Aaron Tadgerson, the current Native American Center Director and a student at that time, had volunteered his time and services to paint the space that would come to be known as the Native American Center.  Although there were student liability issues and the possibility of crossing the line in regards to job descriptions discussed afterwards, the students appeared to have no regrets as they took the initiative to claim the space provided for the Native American Center.  They simply took a risk and then vowed never to do it again, once the Native American Center was established.

After that, the Center grew in popularity as more and more Native American students learned about the Center.  They often visited the Center and used the space to study, visit, and share with other Native American students, and to use it as a place to hold weekly potluck luncheons.  "Many of the professors in the Business department even started coming down to the Center for the potluck lunches," Jack remembers.

When Jack Kibble left Lake Superior State University in 1993 to work for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians' Education Department, Bea Peters was hired as his successor.  The Native American Center was moved to a former frat house, next to the Chippewa House.  The building now bears the name, "Eskoonwid Endaad," which means "student study house" in Ojibwe.

In 1997, Aaron Tadgerson was hired as the Native American Center Director, and he, along with the help of his staff, took the initiative to provide a "facelift" to the Native American Center.  The interior walls were repaired and painted and new carpeting was installed.  In addition, the administrative offices were moved to the second floor and the first floor was opened up to provide additional student study space.   The computer lab was also upgraded to accomodate high-speed Internet and e-mail access to students.   Updated software was installed on the computers in the improved lab so that students could learn on the latest software.  If students require special software, such as programming or engineering or statistical software, the Native American Center staff accomodates the students' requests.

Today, the Native American Center is a busy place on the Lake Superior State University campus, during and after normal business hours.   Approximately ten percent of the LSSU student population is Native American.  Many students use the Center on evenings and weekends as it is set up to meet the needs of the students who use it.  In addition, there are several Native American student organizations which use the Center.  For instance, it is used for the meetings of the Native American Student Organization (NASO) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).  More recently, the Center is used to hold cultural diversity classes.

In its recent accomplishments, the Native American Center staff was instrumental in the Michigan Department of Education's approval of the Ojibwe Language and Literature minor that will be offered through LSSU's School of Education.   The program will provide opportunities to prepare LSSU elementary and secondary education students to Ojibwe language in the classroom.  There is also a Native American Studies minor offered at LSSU.  The Center now has its own website in addition to the capabilities of providing statistics in regards to Native American students at LSSU.

Overall, the Native American Center, along with the accomplishments of the Native American personnel throughout the years, have come a long way since the idea of a center was first formed in 1969.  The Native American staff intends to continue to explore and provide educational opportunities for the Native American students of Lake Superior State University.

On a final note, students do not have to be Native American to enjoy the benefits and privileges of a friendly, welcoming, and positive atmosphere.  The Native American Center is a place on campus for all students to use and enjoy.   The next time you're in the neighborhood, stop by for a visit and personal tour.  The coffee's always on!

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