Dave Courchene—Nii Gaani Aki Inini (Leading Earth Man)—is the founder of the Turtle Lodge. The lodge is located on the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba and provides a place for sharing the ancient knowledge of the Original Peoples. It was built to fulfill a vision Courchene received many years ago.
Courchene was honoured by leaders and elders of the Original Peoples at the 2010 International Indigenous Leadership Gathering; with a National Aboriginal Achievement (INDSPIRE) Award in Culture, Heritage & Spirituality; and the Volunteer Manitoba Award for Outstanding Community Leadership in 2012, for the work associated with his message and vision, including the work he has done to inspire young people.
Courchene’s recent work has involved initiating International Roundtables Supporting Ancient Indigenous Knowledge at the Turtle Lodge and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC, which have been co-led by former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He delivered the opening keynote and conducted the opening ceremonies at the 2010 G8 Summit on World Religions. Courchene is the Lead Elder of the Elders Circle Seven, who co-created Mikinak-Keya—the Spirit Tour, the signature tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
In the spring of 2011, Courchene initiated the Makoose Ka Win and the Vision Quest rites of passage to take young people of all cultures entering adulthood back to the land and the elders to find their uniqueness and promote peace.