Sweat Lodge Site Project

In the fall of 2008, the School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism embarked on a service-learning project with the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives. Specifically, two classes (OUTD 3410 Heritage Interpretation and OUTD 4411 Advanced Heritage Interpretation) offered to help plan and design an interpretive sign for the Sweat Lodge site located at Lakehead University (Thunder Bay). The purpose of the sign was to contribute toward improved recognition and protection of the Sweat Lodge Ceremonial area. Drawing upon the philosophy of experiential education, the project aimed to integrate the theory and practice of heritage interpretation with a meaningful service benefiting the many individuals and organizations that participate in events held at the Ceremonial Lodge Site.

Interpretation is a specialized communication process designed to reveal meanings of and relationships with our cultural and natural heritage, through first-hand experiences. Using various media (such as signs, guided tours, demonstrations, living history and exhibits) interpretation seeks to enhance understanding, appreciation, and therefore, protection of historic sites, natural phenomena, and cultural places.

Under the guidance of Ernie Kwandibens, (Elder and Ceremonial Lodge Keeper) and the broader Elders Council, the students learned about Aboriginal culture and ways to respectfully communicate teachings through heritage interpretation. The class also benefited from advice provided by Luc Simard, owner of the sign company Scenario 3. The term project for the introductory course (OUTD 3410) was to create conceptual interpretive sign designs. Five design concepts were shared with the Elders Council. The Advanced Heritage Interpretation class was then responsible for applying the Elders' recommendations to create the final conceptual design combining many elements from the original sign ideas. The class also researched construction processes, materials, and installation factors. The final design was presented to and approved by the Ceremonial Lodge Keeper, Elders Council, Office of Communications, and the Administrative Executive Committee.

The sign panel and directional markers are made of a weather-resistant material called iZone high pressure laminate. The wooden post (donated by the Lakehead University's Wood Science Testing Laboratory) is Eastern White Cedar. The custom-designed hardware was made and donated by Lakehead University's Science Workshop. The sign was installed by Thunder Bay Signs and Install Inc. As the acknowledgement list indicates, many individuals assisted with making this project a success.

Overall, the students gained valuable knowledge through the opportunity to apply interpretive planning theory to a real scenario. The experience and completed project contributes to their portfolio and may help students secure future employment in the field. Visitors to the Ceremonial Lodge site hopefully will benefit through increased awareness of the area's purpose and the invitation to learn more about the rich Aboriginal heritage of this region. 

Lesley Curthoys, Ph.D.
Certified Interpretive Trainer & Planner
School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism

Student Quote
"Planning and design of the interpretive Sweat Lodge Ceremonial sign provided the foundation for a broad spectrum of learning opportunities. Not onlydid the project provide a forum to discuss and apply the principles of interpretation, but as well it exposed us to the array of challenges associated with its application. Through active dialogue with the project's partners and the further development of our skill sets,these challenges were metresulting inan inspirational experience that truly engaged our minds."
Gratitude is extended to the following people who helped make this project a success:
Elder Ernie Kwandibens, Ceremonial Lodge Keeper
Elders Council - Charlotte Kwandibens, Isabelle Mercier, Freda McDonald, Agnes Hardy, Dolores Wawia, Gerry Martin
OUTD 3410 (Heritage Interpretation in Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism) Fall 2008 and OUTD 4411 (Advanced Heritage Interpretation) Winter 2009.
Robert Bates
Jean Cleave
Nicholas Cotter
Katlyn Darling
Tamara Eyre
Bradley Farrish
Michael Filipowitsch
Kathleen Fraser
Elisabeth Huesmann
Abigail MacNaughton
Kim Rapati
Rachelle Selmeci
Catherine Simpson
Julie Trutiak
Elizabeth Van Every
Ian Wells
Jodi Wilson-Vincer
Steve Wesley
Devon MacPherson 
Lakehead University Staff & Faculty
Eleanor Abaya, Office of Communications
Hugh Briggs, Physical Plant
Rusty Brown, Faculty of Life Long Learning
Ed Drotar, Science Workshop
Steve Elliot, School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism
Martin Kwiaton, Wood Science Testing Laboratory
Mathew Leitch, Wood Science Testing Laboratory
Lisa Wabange, Aboriginal Cultural & Support Services
Melissa Twance, Aboriginal Cultural & Support Services
Amy Brown, Crazy Creek Timber Frames
Milo Richards
Luc Simard, Scenario 3-Enseignes D' Interpretation / Interpretive Signs
Click here to download a map to the Sweat Lodge Site.
If you would like to learn more about Cultural programming, please visit the Cultural Services webpage.