Anishinaabe Culture Permeates Leech Lake

Feb 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 16-3: Indigenizing Education, Tribal College News

Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC, Cass Lake, MN) infuses the classroom experience and the daily operation of the college with Anishinaabe philosophy and culture.

Students are encouraged to express their ideas, ask questions, listen respectfully to fellow students and instructors; Ojibwe language and materials (books, films, treaty documents, maps, arts, crafts, song, dance, and oral histories) are used; and local elders and other speakers come to share their life stories, cultural skills, and wisdom.

The cultural mission has proven challenging for many instructors who grapple with how to introduce Anishinaabe culture into classes such as carpentry, construction electricity, business writing, first aid/CPR, criminal justice, or chemistry. College administrators responded by conducting “cultural infusion” workshops, and faculty have responded favorably.

A team-teaching approach in the spring of 2004 yielded very positive results when a biology instructor at LLTC invited an Anishinaabe elder to assist in teaching an ethnobiology class. A capacity number of students enrolled, attrition was low, and enthusiasm for class projects was pervasive.

As part of their instruction, students spent time in a maple sugarbush camp on the reservation, learned traditional trapping methods, and mastered Ojibwe words for numerous indigenous plants and animals.

Faculty members were concerned about the impact of classroom immersion in Anishinaabe culture on non-Native students. But instead of losing non-Native students, this population at LLTC almost doubled, and these students are actively recruiting others to attend the college.

“Leech Lake Reservation is beset by social and economic difficulties; overcoming adversity is a way of life. LLTC provides a center of hope, an opportunity to learn the culture and history of one of North America’s largest indigenous nations: the indomitable Anishinnabeg,” says Ginny Carney, LLTC’s associate vice president of academics.

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