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Dave Courchene

Dave Courchene

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Dave Courchene — Nii Gaani Aki Innini (Leading Earth Man) — is a respected elder and knowledge keeper of the Anishinaabe Nation who has devoted his life to environmental stewardship.  

From lighting the sacred fire at the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992, to sharing the stage with spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Courchene’s leadership has had a global influence.

In 2002, he founded 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 important gathering places for Indigenous peoples in Canada. 

Individuals from around the world gather at the lodge to facilitate intergenerational knowledge sharing, language revitalization, youth guardianship training, and environmental solutions to climate change.

Considered a trailblazer, Courchene has built alliances with institutions, academics, and policy makers across the country. His work has been recognized with many prestigious honours, including the INDSPIRE National Aboriginal Achievement Award in Culture, Heritage, and Spirituality; the Volunteer Manitoba Award for Outstanding Community Leadership; the International Award of Excellence; the Aboriginal Circle of Educators Award; and the International Indigenous Leadership Award.

He is a deeply respected elder, known for his ability to inspire dialogue and cross-cultural understanding between Indigenous knowledge keepers and western-trained scientists. His leadership is rooted in generosity, kindness, and a desire for peace and sustainability.

Courchene is an active collaborator at the UWinnipeg Prairie Climate Centre, and his knowledge regarding climate change has 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 recognition of the vital role that he has played in promoting peace, cultural understanding, and environmental sustainability, both in our province and globally, The University of Winnipeg is proud to bestow Elder Dave Courchene with an Honorary Doctor of Laws.