July 16, 2022

Looking Back at Back INDG 312 Cultural Immersion Field Course with Daryl Kootenay and Dr. Adela Kincaid

This unique course offers all students the chance to experience of ceremonial & cultural activities.
Summer Class with hide

INDG 312 Cultural Immersion Field Course  

Offered this Spring Semester for the first time, this unique course offers all students the chance to experience of ceremonial and cultural activities, with a focus on four themes: living values; spirituality; health and healing; and roles, responsibilities, and respect.

The course was taught by a Îyârhe-Nakoda community member, Daryl Kootenay, who guided students through various traditional and contemporary activities rooted in land-based learning and teaching approaches. As an internationally recognized Indigenous leader, Daryl’s practices are informed by Indigenous cultural values and teachings.


Kootenay headshot

Thanks for doing this interview with us! By way of introductions, can you tell us a bit about your community, the Îyârhe-Nakoda and yourself? 

Îyârhe-Nakoda are part of the ocetisaguwi which are the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota nations. Stoney is a European word to describe our community for the relationship and use of stone in our everyday lives. Îyârhe means mountain and thats the appropriate way to call our community – Îyârhe-Nakoda.

My name is Tatunga Wagichi which means Dancing Buffalo in English. My other name is Wacha Tocanaca Itacan which means leads with his heart. My English name is Daryl Kootenay from the Îyârhe-Nakoda nation on my mothers side and a part of the Diné or Navajo Nation of New Mexico. I am a youth leader in my community.

We hear that this spring is the very first time this course has been offered! How did the course come to be and what is the unique need that you want the course to fulfill? 

The gap is that we are not teaching local community knowledge that exists here. Local traditional knowledge. Through this course we hope to address this need by partially fulfilling and asserting our rights as Indigenous people under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) article 14 where we are establishing educational systems that are aligned with our cultural methods of teaching and learning.

What are the sorts of things that the students learn and do in the course?  

Students learn the history of Treaty 7 in the Bow Valley from a Îyârhe-Nakoda perspective. They engage in reflection pieces, group discussion and land-based and arts-based learning. This is done through activities such as hide scraping and creating parfleches out of the hide. Students are also exposed to ceremony. Key teachings are cultural values and beliefs, deep listening, wise-practices and strength-based experiential learning. The course is centered around land-based learning.

What did you find the most rewarding doing with the students and what did you find the most challenging? 

What I found most rewarding was the appreciation, recognition, and respect that participants learned and shared in relation to Indigenous worldviews and Indigenous knowledge. I found working with the unpredictability of the weather in June a fun challenge as well as finding adequate space at the University for a land-based learning course.

Why do you think it is important to create partnerships such as this one with Indigenous communities and the International Indigenous Studies program at the University of Calgary? 

It is important because International Indigenous Studies can be very high level, but the root is the local impact with local community. Through this partnership we were able to lift the voices of the local Indigenous communities.

Now lets ask several students about their experience taking INDG 312. 

Summer Class with Tipi

What was the most impactful part of the course? 

The development of community and the sense of belonging created throughout the course was the most impactful part. This course brought the class together and created a community through storytelling, sharing circles, ceremony, and connection with the land. While the course was about how to scrape a deer hide and create a parfleche with an Indigenous community member, the main lessons that were of value were lessons in the importance of community, building that community, relying on community, and giving back to community. As always, with Indigenous based courses, the lesson you expect to receive is often not what you get and instead you get the lesson you need to hear and that is what makes Indigenous courses at the University of Calgary so beautiful. 

– Marissa Bell 

If you had to choose to share one thing that you learned, what would it be? 

Throughout the course, I learned that Stoney (Îyârhe) Nakoda people are incredibly resourceful, which was displayed in multiple ways. One specific teaching was choosing specific trees for tipi poles that guide the rainwater down the poles, so the rain does not drip on people and everything inside. It was very impressive that during our course everything and everyone inside the tipi remained dry, regardless that it was raining outside. Learning inside the tipi really helped feeling more connected with the land and my Indigeneity, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  

– Roxanne Ferguson 

Scraping the hide

After taking this course, what does land-based learning mean to you? 

Land-based learning encompasses cultural identity, knowledge, acknowledgment, respect for oneself/others and their relationship with the land and animistic world. It is the significance of human existence, a journey, and a narrative that embraces the means of knowing, doing, being, and connecting. It represents our continuous existence as a people, battling for the right to live while recognizing each others truths. 

– Bia Pasqualini


Completed hide

For you, how does the course relate to reconciliation or to decolonizing the institution? 

As a nehiyaw woman, I believe that more land-based learning courses offered in multiple disciplines can be a positive step towards decolonizing the University of Calgary and, hopefully, inspire other institutions to begin to do the same. Simply put, land-based learning courses, such as INDG 312, are critical if decolonization is to transpire in academic institutions. As shared by Iyarhe-Nakoda community member Daryl Kootenay, land-based education provides space for healing. Not only does such healing occur in all of an individuals realms–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual–spaces not found within the institution and its concrete walls, but land-based education provides space for healing between Indigenous Peoples and the non-Indigenous population. For instance, in INDG 312, working with deer hide was a relational process that provided space where social bonds between the class were strengthened and thus, conversations regarding what is necessary to address the non-harmonious relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the non-Indigenous population guided by Indigenous ways of knowing, being, doing, and connecting are possible. 

– Alexis Miedema