Manitoba Daily

Friday, January 28, 2022

Dave Courchene Jr., the creator of an Indigenous education center, died at the age of 71

Dave Courchene Jr., a Manitoba elder and the creator of an Indigenous education centre, died.

Key takeaways:

  • A 71-year-old Manitoba elder who founded an internationally respected centre to exchange Indigenous knowledge and teachings died on Wednesday.

A Manitoba elder who built an internationally acclaimed center to exchange Indigenous knowledge and teachings died on Wednesday at the age of 71.

In a social media statement, the Turtle Lodge Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Education and Wellness stated that Dave Courchene Jr. has “begun his journey into the Spirit world.”

Courchene Jr.’s spirit names were Nitamabit and Nii Gaani Aki Inini, which mean “The Original Way; One who Sits in Front and Leads Earth Man.”

According to the post, he died quietly at his home on the Sagkeeng First Nation, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

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Courchene established the lodge in Sagkeeng in southern Manitoba in 2002 as a gathering place for intergenerational knowledge exchange, language revitalization, training youth leaders, and finding environmental solutions to climate change.

According to the center’s website, the Anishinaabe elder has shared the stage with other spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, over the years.

Courchene was born into a leadership family.

According to the center’s biography, his great-grandfather, Joseph Courchene, and grandpa, Paul Courchene, were chiefs in their respective communities.

David Courchene Sr., his father, also became chief and was grand chief and co-founder of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood in the 1960s, which led to the founding of the advocacy group Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in 1988.

Dave Courchene Jr., the creator of an Indigenous education centre, died.
Dave Courchene Jr., the creator of an Indigenous education center, died. Image from Winnipeg Free press

According to the assembly, Courchene will be recognized for his career efforts to revitalize First Nations jurisdiction.

“Your legacy will be forcefully reflected in the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ continuous commitment to maintain and promote First Nations’ rights, as well as all the teachings, sacred laws, and linguistic and cultural resources stored inside the Turtle Lodge,” Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said in a statement.

Cindy Woodhouse, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, expressed gratitude for receiving Courchene’s profound spiritual education.

“Elder Dr. Courchene has been a bridge to performing with the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous Nations all around the world, and a protector and advocates for the environment and culture knowledge-keeper from whom we have all sought guidance as First Nations peoples across the country,” she said in a statement.

Courchene was honored at a special gathering last month to honor his accomplishments. Governor-General Mary May Simon praised him for his tenacity, insight, and dedication in defending Indigenous knowledge and the environment.

“With each sunset, your vision and promises to preserve and safeguard our lands and rivers become more vital,” Simon said in a video address filmed at Rideau Hall.

“Your efforts, teachings, and principles that you have given us are increasingly being acknowledged and heeded.”

At the same event, environmental campaigner David Suzuki stated that Courchene educated him about Mother Earth and natural law.

His wife, Orianna Courchene, preceded in death, who passed away in February 2020.

According to the lodge, a ceremony and feast will be held at the center on Sunday.

The Canadian Press published this news on December 8, 2021.


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