Teaching lodge constructed at CMN

Facility available for college classes, community teaching opportunities
By: 
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The College of Menominee Nation is constructing a teaching lodge on its Keshena campus in hopes of reconnecting with the past and using its knowledge to help students move into the future.

During a presentation May 28, CMN President Chris Caldwell described the lodge as a resource to continue the teachings of the Menominee people.

“We need to have this teaching lodge for interns, students and the community,” Caldwell said. “We all need to take responsibility for properly putting up this teaching lodge and advance the purpose of the college with this in mind.”

The project was taken on through the college’s Sustainable Development Institute at the request of faculty members and former SDI director Tom Kenote, according to Rebecca Edler, SDI’s sustainability coordinator.

“We needed a place on campus that would be like a cultural space for our faculty and community members, artists, crafters — any individual that wants to do some sort of teaching for our students and the community,” Edler said.

Menominee Tribal Enterprises provided to CMN the saplings used to form the framework for the lodge, according to Edler, which is being constructed with the supervision of community member Mary Webster. A number of community members and almost a dozen SDI interns are making the project a reality, Edler said.

“It’s really nice because they can bond and they can meet each other over the construction of this teaching lodge,” Edler said, noting the lodge will be 20 feet wide by 40 feet long. “It’s being made by hand. There are no electric power tools.”

The framework is almost complete, but the SDI is working to figure out what the covering will be made from, if it will be canvas or some other material, according to Edler. Covering it will allow the lodge to be used in any weather, even extreme heat or heavy rains, she said.

Edler noted that tribes like the Menominee “have different buildings for different purposes. This lodge would be for teaching. It would not be for ceremonial events. That would be constructed similar to it, but the purposes would be different.”

In accordance with cultural teachings, the main door will face east toward the rising sun. Having an elder like Webster advising while the building is going up also is prescribed in Menominee culture, Edler said.

Webster previously helped with constructing a similar teaching lodge years ago with Maehnowesekiyah Wellness Center located between Keshena and Neopit. She noted that lodge was used by community members and elders to teach things like gardening.

“We’re going to have sessions in here, groups,” Webster said. “It’s something that our relatives did in the past. It’s a part of our culture, so our students are learning, as it’s the first time they’re constructing a teaching lodge.”

Even with the work that’s being done, the interns are having fun as they’re getting to know each other, Webster said.

“The goal is to learn through experience. It’s part of their culture,” she said. “It’s a whole different feeling when you’re out in the elements versus in a building. If someone’s going for a walk, they’re connecting with nature and everything that’s around us. They’re learning about what our relatives did in the past.”

Interns like Jeremiah Moses were eager to see the lodge completed, but taking part in the process is also fun.

“It’s a really good thing bringing back our ancestors’ traditions and the way that we’re learning with each other,” Moses said. “It’s honoring our ancestors and honoring ourselves, as well.”

This is the fourth summer Moses has interned for SDI, but it’s the first time he’s started off an internship like this, he said.

“It really helps build a good sense of community between interns and students and other school workers,” Moses said. “I would say there’s definitely a learning curve. We had to redo one of the support poles, because this is the first time we’re doing anything like this.”

Caitlyn Katchenago, another intern, is also enjoying the work going into making something culturally significant for the Menominee.

“I’ve never done it before,” Katchenago said. “It’s really calm and peaceful. It’s nice to be able to work with my community members, and I feel so connected to the earth and my ancestors. I mean, they had to do this without all the tools that we have, which is amazing.”

The work has gone very well, according to Katchenago, and even when challenges and obstacles have come up, she and the rest of the team have found a way to get past it and move forward.

“I feel like all of us are really fast learners, so it’s going very well,” Katchenago said. “We’ve had a couple of places that weren’t so well because there’s rock underneath, but other than that, it’s going very well.”

lpulaski@newmedia-wi.com