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School of Indigenous Learning offers traditional Anishinabek knowledge and land-based skills for youth

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The School of Indigenous Learning (SOIL) was created by Fort William’s Jeordi Pierre and Marlene Pierre and Dorothy Rody to provide Indigenous youth with language and cultural programs and to give them back their identity. – Photo by SOIL

By Rick Garrick

NEEBING — Fort William’s Jeordi Pierre created the School of Indigenous Learning (SOIL), located about 35 minutes south of his community, in 2017 to provide an opportunity for youth to get back out on the land.

“[My father Xavier Michon and mother Marlene Pierre] had this camp called Camp Nanabijou long ago and we used to go there from Monday to Friday — we had a cultural night, we had a recreation night, we had a talent night, we had various things going on out there,” says Pierre, owner/operator at SOIL. “As I got older, a lot of these people that were at that camp always talked about it with good things being said about it, about how we felt we were safe out there and had really good memories.”

Pierre says he kept hearing from people about the need to get back out on the land, so he began searching for property in about 2012 for SOIL, which is located about five minutes north of the U.S. border.

“The people that owned this place just loved the idea that I was going to start a school here and try and help our youth to find identity,” Pierre says. “Through Residential School, we have about two generations of people that don’t know their language or don’t know much about their culture. We were being punished to practice our culture and our traditions, so what our collective (Marlene Pierre and Dorothy Rody) came up with was that we were going to try and give that back to our youth to give them some insight about their culture, do some language programs, do all kinds of cultural activities with them and try and give them back that identity.”

Pierre says they started up SOIL, which has a website at: indlearning.ca, without any government funding through his own income as a sheet metal worker.

“But now, it’s community driven because we have clients who invest in the school,” Pierre says. “This place has just snowballed and turned into a very nice place. The original dream was seven teepees and I think we are purchasing our fourth teepee this year.”

Pierre says SOIL currently has a 20×40 foot event tent, two 16×24 foot prospector tents and two Elders cabins.

“A lot of healing takes place here, a lot of learning and we’re just so happy that the community really believes in us and we continue to deliver a program that people need to get started with their cultural journey,” Pierre says. “We do groups of no less than five, and we’ve had groups of up to 60 people out here, so we can accommodate all kinds of different things; we’ve had corporate retreats here, we’ve had team building for some corporations. One of the big highlights out here is that we cook on the fire, which brings family together, community together.”

Pierre says he began dancing when he was able to walk and has since followed the pow wow trail in Canada and the U.S.

“One of the big highlights about dancing was … I got the chance to go to China and dance on the Great Wall, which was pretty amazing for me,” Pierre says. “I never thought that dancing or my culture was going to bring me to the other side of the world.”

Pierre says his grandchildren have been enjoying themselves at SOIL this summer.

“They’re learning, too; they come out and join the programs once all the food is cooked,” Pierre says, noting that the oldest grandchild has gone goose hunting and moose hunting with him. “He got his first fish this year, all these important things that he’s going to carry for the rest of his life.”

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Lead Facilitator – Circle Process

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ANISHINABEK NATION “To give a voice to the vision of the Anishinabek Nation and to preserve  Anishinaabe Bimaadziwin while advancing our goal of Nationhood.” Employment Opportunity LEAD FACILITATOR – CIRCLE […]

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Rice will serve as a mentor for program featuring budding Indigenous writers

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By Sam Laskaris SUDBURY – When Anishinabek writer Waubgeshig Rice found out he had a chance to serve as a mentor for young Indigenous writers he jumped at the opportunity. […]

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Inherent rights highlighted at the 8th annual Anishinabek Nation Lands and Resources Forum

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By Kelly Anne Smith NORTH BAY— Concerns of climate change, extreme mining claims, and the health of the Great Lakes were heard over three days at the 8th annual Anishinabek […]

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