First Nations Initiative/
Seven Generations

Indigenous culture, history, and learning philosophies are a cornerstone of the everyday learning experiences at RLC.

The Seven Generations Initiative at Rosseau Lake College is unique. It is named after an Indigenous teaching that emphasizes the responsibility of each generation to consider the impact of their decisions on the next seven generations. The initiative, as it exists at RLC today, is a result of nearly three decades of consultation and development with the guidance from First Nations Elders and families within the Robinson Huron Treaty Territory and Wahta Mohawk Territory — including many RLC Indigenous alumni. 

Today, Indigenous awareness is included in all areas of the curriculum and co-curricular offerings, through respectful, culturally sensitive and Indigenous guided teachings. It includes wellness and wellbeing in combining the schools mission in support of  “one another to be the best of ourselves” while sharing in the gifts of an Anishinaabechigewin lifestyle, which emphasizes an important wholistic balance of mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

The RLC Seven Generation initiative aims to foster a sense of community and responsibility among students, encouraging them to take action to create positive change in the world. A full range of Indigenous perspectives is represented in the classroom, and on the board of directors. Scholarships are offered for First Nations students in order to ensure that all who can benefit from the offering are able to access the school and its programs. 

RLC aims to be a leader in education as a tool for reconciliation.

Seven Generations is a vital and integral part of the school's identity, curriculum, and student experience. By the time they graduate, students of RLC will have learned aspects of Indigenous knowledge and history from Elders, participated in Indigenous celebrations, and lived and worked alongside members of First Nations communities just as they have lived and worked alongside students from other cultural communities. 

For more on projects currently underway, click here.

Seven Generations Leadership

RLC Director, Olivia Franks ‘15, a graduate of RLC and Queen’s University, ensures that decisions made about the future of the school are done with the input of Indigenous partners. Olivia is a researcher at Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).

Indigenous Seven Generations Cultural Program Coordinator, Dawn Tabobondung is a member of the school's leadership team and is tasked with developing programs, informing academic development and delivery.

Victoria Grant has been named an Officer of the Order, and her citation from the Governor General's office explains it is in recognition of her work to "bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture, business and communities through her facilitation and mediation." She is of the Loon Clan, Teme-Augama Anishnabai, and a member of the Temagami First Nation. She describes herself as a community builder, and has had many roles in her career, including resident and owner of Moving Red Canoe, offering consultation on Aboriginal affairs. Victoria continues to provide thought leadership for the ongoing development of Seven Generations at RLC.

The Development of Seven Generations at RLC 

In 1986 Rosseau Lake College established a formal partnership with Wasauksing First Nation, and soon after, entered into a similar one with Wahta. Both communities had approached RLC looking for a more inclusive community for their students, one that would provide an alternative to public school education. More than 75 students arrived at RLC through those partnerships, which were augmented by a tuition agreement.

In 2016​, the school began the process of consultation, to learn more about how to better support Indigenous students. The Truth and Reconciliation Report further highlighted the notion that access to education, itself, wasn’t enough, and that a truly equitable response demanded a broader, more meaningful approach to academic support. The RLC administration reached out to elders, leaders, and alumni from Wahta and Wasauksing to learn more about this aspect of the RLC community. The school soon extended the process of consultation, meeting with elders and families within each of the seven regional First Nations, as well as other Indigenous leaders, such as the CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business JP Gladu and Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, then Vice-Provost of Aboriginal Initiatives at Lakehead University. 

Seeing each other in the school
The result was a report containing more than forty recommendations and observations which formed the basis for what would become RLC’s Seven Generations initiative. The intention was to build all students’ capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect. The curriculum  would include an emphasis on land-based learning and ceremony and instruction in Indigenous languages. Cross-cultural programming would begin in Grade 7, and even school menus would be reviewed to incorporate more local ingredients and Indigenous foods. Staffing and administration was considered as well, including a recommendation that at least one seat on the RLC Board of Directors be occupied by an Indigenous member. 

RLC’s Seven Generations initiative represented a cultural change, one that would affect the work of every staff member and department: Faculty, Student Life, Admissions, Boarding Life, Food Service, Outdoor Education, Curriculum Development. There was a hope that, in time, it would affect even the architecture of the school, creating physical spaces conducive to cultural practice, ceremony, and wellness—the look of the school would reflect Indigenous values, materials, and involve the contributions of Indigenous architects. RLC would provide a living, tangible example of what reconciliation could mean in the world of education and beyond. 

Robert Carreau was brought on as Head of School in 2017 and was tasked with bringing the recommendations to life. He began his own process of education, meeting with elders, alumni, and community members. In 2018, at the invitation of RLC alumnus and donor, Kelly Carrick ’85, Victoria Grant visited the campus to meet with Robert and the rest of the leadership team. Victoria is  of the Loon Clan, Teme-Augama Anishnabai, and a member of the Temagami First Nation. She is President and owner of Moving Red Canoe, offering consultation on Aboriginal affairs. “It was a really interesting meeting,” she later recalled. It was, and marked an important turning point. After Robert outlined strategies for introducing the principles of reconciliation into all aspects of student life, Grant paused him to refocus the conversation. “I said to Robert, ask yourself: What would make an Indigenous student feel comfortable here? How can they see themselves within the school?”

“Come walk with us”
On the face of it, she was asking exactly that: What would make Indigenous students feel comfortable here? But Grant’s larger point was that the heart of the initiative needs to be relational: people relating to people, all learning and teaching, all equal parts of the academic, social, and cultural equation. Reconciliation isn’t only an acknowledgment of the past, she was suggesting, it’s also a consideration of how we approach each other, and how we move together toward a shared future. When she was invested into the Order of Canada in 2021, the citation noted her efforts to “bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous culture, businesses and communities, through … facilitation and mediation.” She’s often described as a philanthropist, which she is, though during a visit to the school in 2022 she commented that “I would describe myself as a community builder.”

That’s the piece that Grant brought to the Seven Generations project: an anchoring in community. She helped draft the role of the Indigenous Seven Generations Cultural Program Coordinator, one that Dawn Tabobondung has fulfilled, bringing all the concepts to life. The school has integrated Indigegogy, or Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching, into the curriculum, while providing a space where they all can learn from each other. “The school is a whole school,” Grant said. From Austrian to Anishinabek, “it comes together with many different cultures. You come together [and] you learn from each other.” She has said that, within her philanthropic work, “our philosophy is that there is brilliance and ingenuity in our communities.” That, too, found its way into the DNA of the Seven Generations initiative. “We say ‘come walk with us,” she says, “and we’ll create a better world.” 

In academics, school culture, enrolment, and administration, RLC’s Seven Generations  Initiative serves as a model for other schools and organizations seeking to integrate Indigenous knowledge, tradition culture and perspectives into their own reconciliation initiatives. 

The Seven Grandfather Teachings

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are grounded in traditional Anishinaabe values, and have been passed down through generations as a guide to growing, learning, and living a good life.

​Zaagi’idiwin

To know LOVE is to know peace. The eagle teaches us love.

​Dabasendiziwin

HUMILITY is to know yourself as a sacred part of the Creation. The wolf teaches us humility.

​Manaaji’idiwin

To honor all of the Creation is to have RESPECT. The buffalo teaches us respect.

Gwayakwaadiziwin

HONESTY also means “righteousness,” to be honest first with yourself in word and action. The Sabe teaches us honesty.

Zoongide’ewin

BRAVERY / COURAGE is to face the foe with integrity. The bear teaches us courage and bravery.

Nibwaakaawin

To cherish knowledge is to know WISDOM. The beaver teaches us wisdom.

Debwewin

TRUTH is to know all of these things. The turtle teaches us truth.

I learned that RLC cares. The teachers and the staff at RLC care for each and every student - from the Head of School to the drivers to the teachers to the people who feed us every day. They all have a smile and the time for us. I first realized that RLC was special when I interviewed for the scholarship and especially when I was greeted on my first day, with friendliness and warmth and a feeling of safety and belonging.

– Courtney Tabobondung '20

Support Seven Generations

Donations help maintain and build this signature program, including curriculum development and scholarships. All gifts are eligible for a tax receipt.