The Story of Asitu'lisk

Since Time Immemorial

Asitu’lisk is 200-acres of ancient forest, waterways, and the riparian zones in between, located in Mi’kma’ki on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. It contains a hemlock grove that is over four centuries old, and at least one tree – Grandmother Maple – that has been dated at over 530 years old; older than the arrival of Europeans on these shores. The Mi’kmaw people currently have care of this forest, but Grandmother Maple witnessed a long journey through time as the land was taken, settled, and then returned to us. 

The Time Apart

In 1840, the Wentzell family settled onto these acres with care, practicing sustainable forestry and agriculture. In 1990, Jim and Margaret Drescher, their family, and ten “forest families” became the caretakers of the land, forest, and gardens, demonstrating the longest-standing sustainable forestry in modern Canada. They oversaw the kilometres of trails, sustainable woodshop, forest camp, permaculture gardens, ecologically-run conference centre, off-grid cabin accommodations, gathering pavilion, farmhouse, sauna, and fire circles. Their focus was to welcome all into connecting with nature in the rich and diverse landscape of forest, gardens, orchards, fresh brooks and beaver ponds at the edge of Wentzell Lake. 

The Dreschers spent thirty years creating a culture of protecting and learning from the land, naming it Windhorse Farm after the Tibetan Buddhist representation of the human soul. They shared the space with all, hosting events and retreats to help people build connections. 

The forest gong

Buddhist Forest Gong hung by the Dreschers

The Return
At the end of 2021, the Dreschers brought their long-standing dream to life in returning Windhorse Farm to the rightful caregivers, the Mi’kmaq; the original people of this land, Mi’kma’ki. In the spirit of reconciliation and through a combination of purchase and gift, Windhorse Farm was transferred to the Ulnooweg Education Centre, an Indigenous-led registered charity serving Atlantic Canada. UEC’s gratitude is with the Dreschers and the other forest families who kept this land safe until we could return to it. 
By the end of 2022, UEC Executive Director Chris Googoo had spent much time with the land and the language, and he found a word that might become the new name for Windhorse Farm. Chris consulted some of the language’s experts – Pauline Bernard, Jane Meader, and Bernie Francis – to reaffirm the literal meaning and spelling of the word: Asitu’lisk (a verb which means that which gives you balance). The word is pronounced (ah-see-dew-lisk).  At the first inaugural Dreamers’ Gala in December of 2022, Chris revealed the name and the story of Asitu’lisk to a crowd of philanthropists and party-goers over imagery of the forestry and lands in the official renaming of the space, closing out the beautiful transition afforded by the Dreschers.
A Place of Learning

Under the UEC, Asitu’lisk stands poised to become the foremost place of learning, healing, and gathering in Atlantic Canada. Youth events and cultural gatherings have been held on the grounds since the transfer was complete – including an Ancestor Ceremony that hasn’t been held for centuries – and plans are in place to build and nurture a strong educational programming docket focused on Indigenous ways of knowledge, both directly through UEC and indirectly via partnerships. 

While we build our dreams, we are also focusing on fundraising for renovations and infrastructure to carry those dreams far into the next generations. 

Although no longer the primary focus for the space, UEC also plans to invite the public to hold their own events on the land when the educational programming schedule allows. We will invite any and all to come and learn about the Mi’kmaw culture,  language, ecology, health, science,  in the best place possible – on the land, and with your hands. 

Our Vision

This transfer has helped us move through reconciliation into conciliation, and we look to the future now. We envision a peaceful space and our open arms, to host you and your educational events, provide cultural context, and share knowledge with all our communities. 

Asitu’lisk is a place to connect with Mother Nature, to learn, and to heal and grow. UEC is focusing on bringing together the generations to share knowledge. The primary focus aligns with land-based learning and healing for people of all ages, but especially for Elders, children, and youth to explore and learn from the land.

Under the care of the Ulnooweg Education Centre, this ancient forest will be protected forever, and Asitu’lisk will be a place for all to gather for the seven generations.

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About Ulnooweg Education Centre

The Ulnooweg Education Centre is an Indigenous-led registered charitable organization that empowers Indigenous communities through the advancement of education. It is one of three divisions of Ulnooweg.

Our focus is on collaborative research, development, and delivery of educational programs and initiatives in science & innovation, agriculture, and financial literacy through a holistic approach of traditional values in Indigenous culture and language. Our initiatives include an enriched STEAM curriculum, Math with Dash, project-based science, makerspaces, a pre-collegiate program, a community garden and food security initiative, and a financial review program. Acquiring Asitu’lisk opens new avenues of delivering education in all of these areas (and more!) and we are incredibly excited to move forward into this space. 

UEC serves and supports Indigenous Communities for the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities. With respect and acknowledgment of Indigenous knowledge systems, we embody the Etuaptmumk / Two-eyed Seeing approach. We take the time to educate and inform both Indigenous and non-indigenous members of our team to provide a greater understanding of and appreciation for Indigenous worldviews. We work with partners who align with our goals and work to reverse the effects of colonialism in today’s world, to walk together towards a new way of thinking and inclusive worldview.

The four broad goals for the Ulnooweg Education Centre are action, opportunity, capacity, and sustainability. Asitu’lisk is a beautiful venue for supporting each of those.