The University of Winnipeg community mourns the passing of Elder Dave Courchene — Nii Gaani Aki Innini (Leading Earth Man) — a respected knowledge keeper of the Anishinaabe Nation who devoted his life to environmental stewardship. He passed away on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at the age of 71.
Elder Courchene was well known for his ability to inspire dialogue and cross-cultural understanding between Indigenous knowledge keepers and western-trained scientists. He founded of the Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness, a sacred lodge recognized internationally and by the Assembly of First Nations and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as one of the most significant gathering places for Indigenous peoples to share their knowledges across the Nation.
He was an active collaborator at the UWinnipeg Prairie Climate Centre. His knowledge regarding climate change inspired notable figures and institutions — from ministers to judges and media to museums — to consider Indigenous teachings and make a collective commitment to future generations.
In 2019, The University of Winnipeg recognized Elder Dave Courchene with an Honorary Doctor of Laws for his vital role promoting peace, cultural understanding, and environmental sustainability.
His leadership was rooted in generosity, kindness, and a desire for peace and sustainability. His impact on our community, locally and globally, will not be forgotten.
In honour of Elder Courchene’s passing, campus flags will be flown at half-mast on the day of his memorial.