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Application of Indigenous Thought Project

Contributed by MFNERC’s Research & Development Program

MFNERC staff

Since the writing of Wahbung: Our Tomorrows more than 40 years ago, First Nations people have been uncovering and learning about our Indigenous philosophies, teachings, sciences and histories. Our Elders have explained that in order to truly understand Indigenous practices used in ceremony, we must be ready to participate and learn on all levels. Then, we can reflect on our experiences and learn to apply those understandings and create new learning experiences for others. The Application of Indigenous Thought Project was created by MFNERC’s Research & Development Program (RDP) in order to accomplish these goals and support the staff at MFNERC. To acknowledge and respect the teachings, values, histories and world views of First Nations, during the month of June all MFNERC staff attend and participate in a full-day Teaching Lodge session with the option of participating in a Sweat Lodge ceremony.

Building the Teaching Lodge

Traditionally, the Teaching Lodge is a place of cleansing, healing and thanksgiving for Anishinaabe people. For MFNERC’s sessions, a large lodge it is built by RDP staff prior to the event. Then, when all are present, the sacred fire is lit and participants gather around the fire for remarks from the drum carrier, Elder Dan Thomas. After his teachings, a feast is held, with food provided by all who are present.

Preparing for the Sweat Lodge ceremony involves very specific roles for men and women. RDP staff also take care of these preparations. Women are responsible for cleaning the Lodge and surrounding area, as well as bringing water and putting cedar around the site. The men gather the wood and the grandfather rocks for the ceremony. Building and maintaining the sacred fire is also the responsiblity of the men.

The day of the session, upon completion of the feast, all MFNERC staff have the option of participating in the ceremony. But first, participants hear the story of the Little Boy Waterdrum, and learn how the Sweat Lodge came into being.

The Application of Indigeonous Thought Project is a time for learning, cleansing and healing. As one staff member says, “It’s easy for educators to forget that we, also, need to constantly be learning. And when it’s our own history and stories, it becomes even more meaningful and valuable.”

To learn more about this project contact Olga McIvor at

The Teaching Lodge