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August 9, 2023
NEEBING — Fort William’s Jeordi Pierre created the School of Indigenous Learning (SOIL), located about 35 minutes south of his community, in 2017 to provide an opportunity for youth to get back out on the land.
“[My father Xavier Michon and mother Marlene Pierre] had this camp called Camp Nanabijou long ago and we used to go there from Monday to Friday — we had a cultural night, we had a recreation night, we had a talent night, we had various things going on out there,” says Pierre, owner/operator at SOIL. “As I got older, a lot of these people that were at that camp always talked about it with good things being said about it, about how we felt we were safe out there and had really good memories.”
Pierre says he kept hearing from people about the need to get back out on the land, so he began searching for property in about 2012 for SOIL, which is located about five minutes north of the U.S. border.
“The people that owned this place just loved the idea that I was going to start a school here and try and help our youth to find identity,” Pierre says. “Through Residential School, we have about two generations of people that don’t know their language or don’t know much about their culture. We were being punished to practice our culture and our traditions, so what our collective (Marlene Pierre and Dorothy Rody) came up with was that we were going to try and give that back to our youth to give them some insight about their culture, do some language programs, do all kinds of cultural activities with them and try and give them back that identity.”