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The evolution of the Circle of Life Academy which was started in 1977 when 12 students along with their Drop-out Counselor, Shirley Winters from the Waubun School District who where disenchanted with the public education system left the school district and decided to start their own school that would have an emphasis on the Ojibwe language and culture. Originally called the Gaa-Waabaabiganikaag Cultural Learning Center, Circle of Life Survival School of White Earth. It started with a limited budget of $3,000.00 supported by the local Indian Education Committee in a vacant house near the current Roundhouse in White Earth. Phyllis Bunker was the original teacher at the school.
The following year 1978-79 on behalf of the Circle of Life Survival School, Shirley Winters and several LIEC Members initiated and was approved for a Title IV, Part B application and Rod High Elk was hired as the project Director. The Circle of Life opened it’s doors and 42 High School students that were enrolled for the school year. The school moved from the vacant house into 2 trailer houses located nearby.
In 1980 the school moved again to the old White Earth School Building, which was recently vacated by the Waubun School District. At this time the White Earth Business Committee became the fiscal agent for the school and an application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs was made and plans were put into motion to include an elementary program along with a home based early childhood program. The courses that were offered included English, Ojibwe Language, Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, Arts and Crafts and Physical Education.
The School Board Members were William Freeman, Rose Beaulieu, Brent Gish, Grace Jackson, Ruby Weaver, Joseph Foster, Myrna Murray, Lenny Potter and Vernon Belcourt.
The School Staff members were: Project Director/Science Teacher, Karen Brown-Good; Counselor, Verna Millage; Secretary/Bookkeeper, Patleen Keezer; Ojibwe Language/English Teacher, Laura Fineday; Arts and Crafts and Culture Teacher, Charlotte Jackson; Mathematics Teacher, Beverly Libby; Social Studies Teacher, Betty Avery; Teacher’s Aide, Aurelia Brown and Mary Jackson; Bus Drivers Ramiro Alvarado and Richard Basswood; Night watchman/Custodian, Charles Whipple; and Volunteer Drum Group Advisor James Weaver.
After 31 years at the old White Earth School site, in 2012 a new facility was built on the Shore of Mission Lake and in 2013 the Circle of Life Academy opened its doors for occupancy at the current location.