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Indigenous Land-Based Courses Offer Life Changing Experiences for Participants

Students take part in a practical learning experience surrounded by nature, culture and Indigenous teachings.

(August 10, 2023) - Not all learning is done in a classroom, and this past July 23 students from various undergraduate programs at Laurentian University participated in an Indigenous Land-Based course at the N’Swakamok Friendship Centre Grounds. This 8-day Anishnaabemowin immersion course is an opportunity for students to learn a language and truly experience Anishinaabe culture. Rooted in language learning, the course is designed to identify and describe the core teachings of the Southern / Zhaawanong direction using the Anishinaabemowin language.

The delivery and success of this course is supported by many devoted Laurentian community members. This includes course instructors Eli Lorney Bob and Maajiijwan Petahtegoose, Paula Potts, as well as graduate student Renee Lemoyne.

The course incorporates daily language learning, a variety of teachings and ceremonies (sunrise, fire lighting, fire keeping, birthing of drums, etc), sharing circles as well as basic outdoor survival skills like cooking, fire lighting, and fishing. Throughout the course, students were paired up and were responsible to watch over the sacred fire. All day and all night, in two hour blocks of time, the students fire keep with a watchful eye (with of course having obtained the appropriate permits).

Originally from Kebaowek First Nation in Kipawa Québec, Renee Lemoyne is a Laurentian alumna from the Biomedical Biology program, a current graduate student in the Masters of Indigenous Relations program as well as a staff member in the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Center (ISLC) as the Indigenous Student Transitions Coordinator. Having assisted in the course delivery as a helper (Shkaabewis), Renee was responsible for a wide range of important elements. As a Shkaabewis, she would be accommodating and supportive of the needs of all those participating such as; food, propane, washrooms, student safety as well as emotional support. 

“It has a life changing impact. The course is everything to the people who go there and make the most of it. It’s a time for letting go… and to learn to love oneself, to get rid of body shame, to feel free to do what you need to do in life and to get away from all of the judgment,” said Lemoyne.

The learning of the course material is expressed through both teachings and experiences. “The foundation of the teaching style is that the Anishinaabemowin language is an emotional language, it’s a language of love, spirit.” Renee continued to support her statement with the importance of the ceremonies in accordance with the language teachings. “Engaging in cultural activities based on the seasonal direction clear all of the emotions that we feel so we can let that emotional language in and have space for it.”

Renee’s passion for the impact and learnings of the land-based courses have made an influence on her personally and academically. “My masters thesis is simply that taking this course improves your wholistic health.” Renee anticipates being able to execute her research hypothesis on the next land-based course; set to take place in August. 

“Every night we would sit there and we would drum and we would sing and we would teach the students some songs. It is magical to say the least.”
For more information about how to register for the Land-Based courses, please visit Laurentian University’s list of Indigenous academic offerings.