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Dechinta, N.W.T.'s 'bush university,' wraps its spring semester

Dechinta, Blachford Lake's land-based aboriginal learning centre, is graduating its spring semester cohort in N'dilo today. The unique program mixes academic lectures with traditional aboriginal practices, including fish drying and moosehide tanning.

Semester marked first time a group of graduates tanned a moosehide from start to finish

Dechinta, an N.W.T. land-based aboriginal learning centre based on Blachford Lake, near Yellowknife, is graduating its spring semester cohort in N'dilo today.

The unique 12-week program, which has been running for nearly six years, mixes academic lectures with traditional aboriginal practices, including fish drying, moosehide tanning and cooking muskox. The program is affiliated with the University of Alberta, from where graduates will receive five native studies credits for the program. 

Dechinta's students are taught by elders and university professors, as well as indigenous activists and artists. Seven students will take part in Wednesday evening's ceremony at Kalemi Dene School.

Mandee McDonald, Dechinta's program manager, says the program is always growing. This semester, the program offered its first indigenous contemporary arts course.

It also marked the first time a group of graduates tanned a moosehide from start to finish, says McDonald.

"Students learned to take the hair off and the flesh off," she said, "how to do the softening process. So soaking it in the brain solution, hanging it, scraping it and smoking it." 

"It's a lot of work, and the students were working on the moosehides every day, for at least half a day, in order to get it done... It's a pretty big accomplishment for beginning to finish in a short amount of time."

The program is offered twice a year, one in the fall and the other in spring, along with shorter courses in the summer. McDonald says people have already started registering for the fall. 

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