Soukup Book Donation
Photo by Michael Meuers
Ruth and Leo Soukup posing with the 700 books they donated to Red Lake Tribal College discuss who “snagged” who when they met at Ponemah in 1979 as teachers.

11 Recommended Books: Retired Teachers Donate Hundreds of Books to Red Lake Nation College

Michael Meuers

On December 2, 2015, Leo and Ruth Soukup donated more than 700 books to Red Lake Nation College. The donation will help the college toward its goal of accreditation.

“Both of us have been interested in history, especially Ojibwe, Dakota and Minnesota history and archeology, and we both taught in the Red Lake School District,” Leo said.

Leo taught English on the reservation from 1979 to 2005—five years at Ponemah and 21 years at Red Lake. Ruth taught at Ponemah Elementary from 1978 to 2006. “We have friendships on both sides of the lake,” Leo said with a smile.

“The donation is giving back to Red Lake for all those years, and even though we are retired, in a way, we are still teaching,” said Ruth. “It is a blessing to have a worthwhile place that has a use for the books.”

Cassy Keyport, Director of Library Services & Tribal Archives at the college, was happy about the donation. She said she has a need to fill the library for AA (Associate of Arts) accreditation. “I had made up a list of books to purchase to help achieve that accreditation,” said Keyport, “and Leo and Ruth show up with a good share of the books on that list… and for free. The books are in excellent shape, like new. It’s a tremendous gift.”

Leo and Ruth Soukup, Cassy Keyport, Director of Library Services & Tribal Archives, and Library Assistant Jen Hart. (Photo by Michael Meuers)

Keyport’s family is from Grand Portage and she is a direct descendent of John Beargrease.* She has a Masters Degree in Library and Information Studies meaning Keyport is also an archivist. She is in the process of writing a grant to hire a highly experienced archivist to organize the Red Lake Tribal Archives at its new climate controlled site. “Specifically the first goal of the archivist will be to process the digitizing of language and cultural materials,” said Keyport.

“We have 30 years of collecting books,” said Leo. “Between the two of us, all the books have been read. You get to a point in life when you start to declutter. Our children weren’t really interested, and you don’t want to put these kinds of books in a yard sale. We are very happy that the books will be getting read by many more people now.”

Leo and Ruth Soukup live in northern Hubbard County. They met while both were teaching in Ponemah back in 1979. They disagree on who “snagged” who.

The Red Lake Nation College Library is available not only for use by college students, but everyone. It’s a public library available to all, Keyport pointed out.

Soukup’s Recommendations for Those Interested in Minnesota or Ojibwe History

Anything by (Red Lake member) Brenda Child

Anything by the Treuers: Robert, Anton and David

Louis Erdrich, especially young adult books

Books by Jim Northrup, Vennum, Dildrich, Frances Densmore, and Wingerd’s “North Country”

A thank you plaque for Leo and Ruth Soukup is bookended by Winona LaDuke Reader and a book on John Beargrease. (Photo by Michael Meuers)

Titles Recommended By the Soukups

“The White Earth Tragedy”

“Atlas of the Great Lakes Indian History”

“Between the Waters”

“History of the Ojibway People”

“John Beargrease”

“Chippewa Child Life”

“Full of Fair Hope (on St. Mary’s Mission)”

“Minnesota Boundary with Canada (The Northwest Angle)”

“Minnesota Geographic Names”

“Winona LaDuke Reader”

“Traditions of the Ojibway Nation”

*John Beargrease, born 1858 as the son of a minor Anishinaabe chief by the name of Makwabimidem (Beargrease), is best remembered as the winter mail carrier between Two Harbors, Minnesota and Grand Marais, Minnesota during the last two decades of the 19th century. John used a rowboat and a dog sled to deliver the mail. His legendary dog sled runs are remembered and celebrated in the annual 411-mile John Beargrease Dog Sled Race between Duluth and Grand Portage, Minnesota. John died at his home in Beaver Bay, Minnesota in 1910.

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