Waadookodaading Comes Under New Leadership
Updated: Mar 7
Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute (WOLI), the flagship Ojibwe immersion school in the United States, is coming under new leadership. Dr. Gordon Jourdain, whose Ojibwe name is Maajiigwaneyaash, started serving as Executive Director on December 6, 2021. Waadookodaading has garnered national and international attention for its innovative education strategies and groundbreaking leadership in Indigenous language education. Jourdain brings a broad array of talents and experience to the position.
Dr. Jourdain, in addition to holding a doctorate degree, grew up as a first speaker of Ojibwe on the Lac La Croix First Nation in Canada. At home in the woods, the classroom, and the board room, he assumes leadership of WOLI in the midst of rapid change and growth. WOLI intends to grow its offerings beyond ninth grade all the way through twelfth grade during his tenure. The opportunities are exciting, but also come in the midst of great challenges as many fluent first speakers of Ojibwe have passed away and WOLI continues to work hard at growing successful second language learners to sustain school operations while immersing the children there in the language.
Anton Treuer, a member of the WOLI school board said, "We have supreme confidence in Jourdain to manage operations and lead us in new directions. We couldn't be in better hands."
Dr. Jourdain has six names: Maajiigwaneyaash, Zhawaanigwaneyaash, Menewekamiginang, Giiwitaa’aategwaneb, Ba’ojaanimwewidang, and Biiwaapikogoneb. Each of his six names are foundational to his journey through the physical world. Maajiigwaneyaash is Lynx clan, and was born in Fort Frances, Ontario, and raised in the village of Kakijiwanong.
Jourdain has been involved as an Ojibwe immersion educator for more than 15 years, starting as a teacher at Waadookodaading. After spending much of his early adult life as a carpenter, Gordon decided that he wanted to share his gift of language. He explained that he “didn’t find the same satisfaction with building because he had language he’d wanted to give away.”
When Gordon started working in education, he also started on his own formal education, and finished his undergraduate degree, graduate degree, and EDD in Teaching and Learning from the University of Minnesota—Duluth.
Jourdain is happy to be back in the community where he started as an educator. He still knows many people in the community from his time at the school, and participating in ceremonies and powwows, including never missing an Honor the Earth event. He explained that he has an affinity for this place as the cultural education he’s seen in both Waadookodaading and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School reflect how he grew up.
Jourdain combines his talents as a speaker, an experienced educator, and his experience living by “old Anishinaabe morals guided by Mide-bimaadiziwin” to unify us as Anishinaabe in all areas including professionally, interpersonally, and in the community.