The Bold Dream That Became Ogichi Daa Kwe

By Kathy Dix

We tell stories of our past so that people will hear the passion we have for our future. “Dreams come in a size too big so we can grow into them” reads a postcard that hangs on my bulletin board.

In the early 2000s, a small group of people had a dream—a dream based on the belief that girls would find joy in the same wilderness trips and in-camp experiences offered to boys at Camp Kooch-i-ching.

Fueled by powerful memories of their own camp experiences, the Founders Committee hatched a plan to make their dream a reality—to launch a camp for girls under the Camping & Education Foundation. Were there naysayers? Of course.

The Founders discussed drafting a 10-year plan to raise awareness and solicit support, and quickly landed on the idea of sending out a pilot trip to confirm their theory that girls would indeed enjoy tripping as much as boys.

And so, in 2004, two Kooch-i-ching trip heads, two 49-year- old women and 10 high school girls paddled down the Turtle River, from Dashwa Lake to Mine Center. The group provided all the joyful testimonials needed to secure the heartfelt support of the board and move the plan forward.

In 2005, Ogichi Daa Kwe opened its doors—or rather the doors of Rainy Lake Lodge—to a group of 38 girls and 10 staff women. The first Welcome Dinner was prepared by a shirtless short-order Kooch-i-ching trip head: a whole steak for each girl, mashed potatoes, jello and Oreo cookies for dessert.

Campers slept in hotel rooms on the lodge’s second floor, and in a couple of the dilapidated cabins. After meals, chairs were stacked and tables pushed to the side so the space could be used for activities and evening games.

In what was once Cabin 9, camping gear and trip food was arranged on wooden racks in the living room and one of the bedrooms. The male trip heads, and a bus-driver dad, slept in the other two rooms.

Ogichi’s potable water allotment was trucked in from town twice a week. Food deliveries for Kooch-i-ching came in through the main driveway, and canoe trailers were loaded and unloaded at the beach at all times of day.

At the end of the three-week session, everything was cleared from the rooms, taken down from the walls, packed up and stored away so that the Kooch-i-ching staff could use the facility on their nights off.

High on a cliff above the lodge, overlooking the beauty of Rainy Lake, a natural clearing was discovered and the brush removed to create a Council Ring. Here, a circle of grateful sentiments gave voice to the dream of Ogichi Daa Kwe.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of Songs of the Paddle.