Manitou Mounds and Lakehead University sign agreement for more collaboration

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

There’s a whole new world of possibility in store for Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre thanks to a new agreement signed last week with Lakehead University.

Following the presentation of a new student-led and traditionally-made canoe at the centre, also known as the Manitou Mounds, on Thursday, June 22, 2023, a special memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Rainy River First Nations chief Marcel Horton, Mounds grant manager and archivist Jessie Richard and Lakehead University vice-provost of Indigenous initiatives Denise Baxter. According to Richard, the plan before and since her arrival at the Mounds has always been to try and expand the types of professional and educational opportunities that can be done out at the Mounds.

“Since before I got here, before a year ago, there’s been a want and need to create more of a partnership with Lakehead,” she explained.

“Lakehead students come here quite often, especially their law students. They come here for a couple of days to a week and they camp out and they kind of just enjoy land-based activities and land-based education. We have a lot of really big dreams here at the centre, and one of them is to make it into a research and education space.”

Lakehead University vice-provost of Indigenous initiatives Denise Baxter, left, Rainy River First Nations chief Marcel Medicine-Horton and Manitou Mounds grant manager and archivist Jessie Richard hold the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the university and Mounds. – Ken Kellar photo

In those dreams, Richard said Lakehead students who are pursuing master’s, PhDs, or even just undergraduate programs, could intern or do co-op placements at the centre to work and conduct their research. One of the major benefits to those students, Richard said, is just the sheer amount of diversity the mounds have to offer.

“That’s the really cool thing about this place, is that we have so many different kinds of ecosystems here,” she said.

“We are on sacred space, we have an incredible roaring river in front of us. So really, every department of Lakehead could have a possible internship or a possible entryway to being here with us for short or long term.”

As previously mentioned, some collaboration between the Mounds and Lakehead have been ongoing for some time, with Baxter noting that the MoU really just formalizes the partnership, but also allows for more and greater collaboration in the future.

“We’ve been doing work with Manitou Mounds for a number of years, but it just really formalizes some of the work that we’ve committed to doing together like collaboration, building stronger relationships, working with this particular centre in person,” Baxter said.

“We’ll be having a steering committee where we have staff and faculty working with Rainy River First Nations staff, and then we will be, from there, deciding what projects that will move forward. But it’s really about sharing culture, providing opportunities to students, and economic opportunities for the region as well.”

With an MoU in place, Richard said she’s excited to see the new faces that will come through the centre as researchers, interns, and more come to learn more about the area and discover all that the mounds have to offer.

“I’m very confident to say that we all want this space to become more of a research and an education-based space, especially on land-based education,” she said.

“So opening those doors to programming and to classes and to experiential education on the ground and with the community and rare plants and all of these things I think will be a really awesome way for students and people to be able to explore Canada as well. That being said, there’s no limit. I would love to see arts programs here, or resident artists. We’re working on lots of big plans right now, but this is an awesome first step, for sure.”