Teaching Lodge Provides Space for Community Members to Gather

Revitalizing Teachings, Ceremonies and Traditions

Written by Leslie McLove

Dozens of Tribal Members representing Potawatomi Tribes in attendance for the 2023 Gathering were on hand in July for the construction of the Teaching Lodge. On the Pine Creek Indian Reservation, where the rich tapestry of Bodéwadmi heritage weaves its intricate threads, a remarkable journey of Community, Culture, and connection was underway.

NHBP Culture Specialist Kevin Harris II led the lodge-building ceremonies by sponsoring Traditional Teachers and Tribal Community Helpers to build a traditional Anishinaabe Teaching Lodge for the NHBP Community and relatives.

“Building a Teaching Lodge is very critical in revitalizing teachings, ceremonies and understanding the relatives before us,” said Harris.

There is sacred significance in the actual construction of the Lodge itself. Tribal Members from all walks of life converged, each carrying a piece of the puzzle that played a part in constructing the Lodge. The journey began with selecting a site and collecting building materials. The weekend before the Gathering, relatives dedicated their time and energy to harvesting Maple saplings in preparation for the upcoming build.

The Lodge-building endeavor wasn’t just about constructing walls; it was about erecting a space that holds the echoes of Ancestors’ voices and the promise of a future woven with tradition. Together, relatives harmonized their skills, labor, and love to craft a sanctuary that would soon be used to host traditional teachings, cultural workshops and a safe space to hold talking circles and storytelling.

Constructed using a traditional Potawatomi Lodge building method, utilizing all-natural materials, building the Lodge was an effort that took multiple days.

Beyond the physical labor involved in the Lodge’s construction lies something more profound – the spiritual foundation that anchors this endeavor. As Lodge poles were raised and the dome took shape, the Potawatomi Community taped into a collective consciousness that whispered of unity and reverence for their heritage. Each Lodge pole that was bent and tied together was a tribute to Potawatomi roots and a testament to the resilience of Bodéwadmi people.

As the final touches came together, the Lodge stood not only as a physical structure but as a living embodiment of tradition, history and aspiration.

First Ever Fire Keeper Conference Held in Teaching Lodge
Inaugurated on day three of the Gathering for the Fire Keepers Conference, the Teaching Lodge is located next to the Sacred Fire Arbor.

This conference was held as a means to acknowledge the work being done across all Potawatomi tribes and the work Tribal Members are doing as Fire Keepers within their Tribal communities. It was used as a time to uplift youth and future generations of Fire Keepers.

“There has always been a shortage of Fire Keepers. This conference was the perfect time for individuals from Potawatomi nations to unite and learn from one another. We shared teachings on the protocols for being a Fire Keeper and used this time to motivate and encourage men and women to step up within their own Tribal communities,”

NHBP Culture Specialist Kevin Harris II

Many fire stories were shared in the Teaching Lodge during the Fire Keepers Conference.

“I heard so many stories and versions of the traditions of fires while hosting the Fire Keeper Conference. The Teaching Lodge was a sacred space that provided answers for what some conference attendees didn’t know,” said Harris. “The entire basis of the conference was centered around keeping the Fire Keeper traditions alive. Together, we all gained a better understanding of the value of ourselves and we had the opportunity to honor our relatives and learn why the Fire is so sacred and important.”

During the conference, Harris sponsored a scholarship through the NHBP Culture Department for upcoming and current Fire Keepers. Each Fire Keeper was gifted a beginner’s Fire Keeper bundle. The bundle included a Bag, steel striker, fire Medicine and a blanket.

“Fire keeping is instrumental in finding your path in life. When I first started, I had a backpack and an eagle feather,” said Harris. “I didn’t have much starting out, but as years went by, I acquired a full personal bundle to start fires and learned how to take care of my sacred tools. My family and Community gifted me these items. I wanted to pay it forward and give back to those interested in carrying on this tradition. The bundle was meant to give them tools to get them started, a resource they could use to build from on their own journey.”

Revitalizing Teachings, Ceremonies and Traditions
As the 2023 Gathering unfolded, the Teaching Lodge became a sanctuary for learning and growth beyond just that which was shared during the Fire Keepers Conference.

Traditional teachings were imparted by revered Elders, stories were woven into the fabric of time, and the circle of Community tightened with each heartfelt discussion. Many were present to share their knowledge, including Lodge-building instructions by Biindige Daleary, Mario Wasegiishek and traditional teachings by Steve Pego, Fire teachings by Virgil Tobias, Water teachings by Mae Pego and Ndanis Pego, Ogitchedaw teachings by Mark Denning and Bud Day, as well as many other traditional teachings from Ogitchedaw Kwék.

“So many traditional elders shared with us teachings and gratitude,” said Harris. “Big thank you to the Cooks and Helpers as they helped host hospitality at its highest. We served hot breakfast and lunch for two days of the ceremony. We kept everyone hydrated. We had so many helpers step in to watch the fire. So much healing and love was shared throughout the week. I’m ready to do it again!”

The Teaching Lodge stands as a testament to the power of a Community coming together, honoring the past while crafting a future, and of using words, actions, and spirits to transcend the boundaries of time and leave an indelible mark on the tapestry of existence.

Not only was the Lodge used during the Gathering, but it was also used during Wild Rice Week for Rice Camp and Fall Ceremonies in September. The Lodge isn’t just a space; it’s a vessel of transformation, a testament to Bodéwadmi people’s journey, and a beacon of hope for those who seek to navigate the path ahead.


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