Posts By: First Nations Drum

New Exhibits at the Northern Lakes College Native Cultural Arts Museum Promote Understanding, Healing, and Reconciliation

“Forgiveness, apologies, actions, unity, change, and healing are all components of reconciliation,” explains Sam (Carl) Willier, an alumni of the Northern Lakes College Academic Upgrading program. “We chose Indigenous exhibits to dedicate healing towards the process of reconciliation in Canada.” Sam is one of five summer students creating new exhibits at the Native Cultural Arts Museum at Northern Lakes College. Over the summer, the students were given an open-ended objective to create Indigenous exhibits using artefacts in the museum collection.

They were free to choose the number of exhibits they would create, as well as the theme. After some discussion and a survey of the artefacts in the collection, they determined they would create five exhibits celebrating aspects of Indigenous culture, with a focus on the ingenuity, creativeness, and playfulness of the culture.

The students kept top of mind the overarching umbrella of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action as they created the exhibits. “Reconciliation still has a very long way to go, but there is a movement that has been started and it will take everyone towards reconciliation,” states Sam, 24, who is pursuing his Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Alberta. The students felt that the exhibits’ celebration of culture and tradition could help that movement.

The Indigenous Children’s exhibit contains a dreamcatcher, baby moccasins, cradleboard, and medicine pouch. As explained by a summer student who grew up hearing stories in the oral tradition, “My parents told me the traditional stories as I was growing up. The Spider Lady was a spiritual protector, spinning her web of protection. As her children grew and dispersed, she taught the mothers and grandmothers how to weave their own web to protect their children. That is where the dreamcatcher originates.”.

Two light-hearted exhibits demonstrate play and transportation. Traditional Indigenous Games includes a sampling of games involving chance and skill. The Transportation exhibit includes two saddles made of bone and wood, sewn together with sinew. Tamara Ferguson, 18, graduated from E.W. Pratt in June, and intends to pursue a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on Psychology. Of the children’s, games, and transportation exhibits, she explains, “We wanted to portray Indigenous people in real life.

The stereotypes include the stoic, fierce, warrior. However, the history is not all serious, and these lighter exhibits humanize that history. Lacrosse games could involve up to 600 people per side, as the games were often played tribe versus tribe.

”The Hereditary versus Electoral exhibit looks at the modern electoral system versus the traditional hereditary system. Explains Bobbi-De Lastiwka, a current Academic Upgrading student at NLC, “Until the Indian Act of 1876 forced a European model of elected leadership, Indigenous peoples had a traditional system of hereditary chiefs.” To this day, some First Nations communities have an elected chief, whose role is primarily governance, along with a hereditary chief, who holds a significant position of influence and responsibility for ensuring the overall well-being of the community.

The exhibit also includes samples of traditional versus modern tobacco. Explains Virginia Gold, a graduate of Mount Royal University with a degree in Geology and a minor in History, “Traditionally, wild-growing tobacco was collected, dried, and used in ceremony.

Today, this is often replaced by commercial tobacco.”The final exhibit focuses on healing and reconciliation. The jingle dress, worn during a healing dance often performed at powwow ceremonies, takes pride of place. Healing herbs such as sweet grass, sage, cedar, and tobacco, which are utilized in various ceremonies, complete the display. Complementing the students’ healing and reconciliation exhibit is the artistic collage to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Canada.

Created by a former summer student who wishes to remain anonymous, the collage includes hundreds of tiny photos of the missing and murdered. Concludes Sam, “I feel my role is to educate people on the TRC, the 94 Calls to Action, and what is means to reconcile. It means a lot to have the opportunity to educate people through this work at the Museum. As a teacher, I will be able to contribute more to the process of reconciliation.

The first step is creating awareness and understanding.” The Native Cultural Arts Museum, which is located at the Grouard Campus, was established in 1976. Recognized by the Alberta Museums Association, the Museum’s artefact collection celebrates various aspects of Indigenous cultures, with a special focus on Métis peoples and the Woodland Cree of northern Alberta.

The Museum’s historical and contemporary collections serve to educate the public by depicting Indigenous lifestyles through exhibits of art, music, hunting, regalia, clothing, and more. The Native Cultural Arts Museum is owned and operated by Northern Lakes College with additional support and funding from the Alberta Museums Association and Big Lakes County.

The Delgamuukw decision: Putting the Wet’suwet’en conflict in perspective

(In a photo that may come to define the present conflict, Coastal GasLink employees dismantle a blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory as part of an RCMP raid on the camps. Images like this one spawned solidarity blockades across the country. Photo: Twitter)

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Satsan sat around the fire at a blockade at Sam Green Creek on the Babine River in the 1980s. He’d just returned to his community of Hagwilget Village in 1975 after attending a residential school and spending a couple years hitchhiking across the country.

Satsan dove head first into the struggle for First Nations land and human rights, a 150-year-old struggle going nonstop since the first fur traders and Christian missionaries arrived in lands the Crown would later claim as northern British Columbia.

Around the fire at that blockade, he remembers getting a vote of confidence from the Elders. They supported everything being done in defense of First Nations title, land rights, and jurisdiction.

“When you’re out there traveling, we’re with you,” the Elders said. “We see what’s going on. We see where you’re going and we do that to protect you.”

This struggle became “more urgent” in the ‘70s because of flooding resulting from the Nechako reservoir as well as the Kemano I dam. This was a hydroelectric megaproject established by Alcan and the B.C. government in the ‘50s to power an aluminum smelting facility in Kitimat. It impacted southern Wet’suwet’en territories and also flooded the lands of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, destroy- ing homes, sacred burial grounds, and culturally important archaeological sites.

Satsan and others opposed the proposed Kemano II dam, which they said would have flooded and destroyed more traditional lands. The B.C. forest service was starting to clear-cut as well. At that time, says Satsan, “our people were being charged for illegally fishing in our own fishing sites in our rivers, so we started defending those and winning those cases and started to get busy to exercise our rights on our territories and to protect our lands.” They began considering ways they could fight back and defend their rights. They knew the courts were always there as a last resort.

“We started looking at all the different avenues that were available to deal with it, and initially it was blockades and civil disobedience on the land to protect it and we did that through the mid-to-late ‘70s into the ‘80s.”

In the 1970s, the elected band council asked him to become the Hagwilget band manager.

“They brought me in and said that they needed my help on this whole issue. So even though I was hired as the band manager, I got involved with the chiefs on what was known as the ‘land question’ at the time.”

But Satsan became much more than the band manager.

He became the speaker on behalf of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en nations throughout the then-unprecedented legal action now commonly referred to as the Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision.

“Both the Gitxsan and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs agreed there needed to be just one voice. We needed to be really focused and we needed to be tight internally, so it was decided that there would be one speaker and that I was the speaker for both the Gitxsan and the Wet’su- wet’en, on one hand. On the other hand, I was also part of the team that put the case together and brought it forward.”

Satsan went to law school and studied Western law. He became one of the main strategists and helped devise the legal argument that earned a positive decision for Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan from Canada’s highest court in 1997 after a 1991 defeat in B.C.

Satsan is the hereditary wing-chief title for Wet’su- wet’en Kayex (Birchbark) House of the Gilseyhu (Big Frog) Clan. But Satsan – whose English name is Herb George – prefers to be identified as “just one of the chiefs.”

Despite that humility, he’s an encyclopedia of Aboriginal constitutional law who speaks eloquently about any court case you can name. He represented B.C. for two terms at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and now works with the Centre for First Nations Governance, whose predecessor organization he also founded.

He spoke with APTN News after a weekend of long talks in Smithers, B.C. resulted in a “draft arrangement” between the feds, the province, and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on rights and Aboriginal title.

“This arrangement for the Wet’suwet’en will breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision so that future generations do not have to face conflicts like the one they face today,” said
a joint statement from the hereditary chiefs, the federal government, and British Columbia.

Satsan wasn’t present for those talks. He, like many others, hasn’t seen the draft agreement.

The chiefs said they plan to bring it before their people for ratification in the Feast Hall, the central precolonial Wet’suwet’en governance institution. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart Scott Fraser agreed to return to sign the draft if it’s ratified.

Forty-five years after the Alcan dam resistance, more civil disobedience and another blockade – this time over a pipeline – forced the government to the table. The Coastal GasLink pipeline would carry natural gas from a hydraulic fracturing facility from Dawson Creek to a liquification facility in Kitimat.

The Wet’suwet’en pipeline resistance spawned solidarity demonstrations across the country. Now the blockades aren’t only happening on Babine River or logging roads. They halted passenger and freight train travel through one of Canada’s busiest industrial corridors. The country-wide movement forced the Trudeau administration into crisis management mode and ignited vigorous debate on Parliament Hill.

For Satsan – and others involved in the court case – all of this could have been avoided if the Crown took the Supreme Court’s advice and sat down to negotiate in good faith after Delgamuukw.

Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa in context

Satsan answers questions about Delgamuukw-Gis- day’wa – as he insists we call it – by saying “first of all, when you’re talking about the case, you need to put it in really clear perspective.”

Delgamuukw (Earl Muldoe) was a claimant for the Gitxsan, but he sued on behalf of his House and the nation. Gisday’wa (Alfred Joseph) was a prominent Wet’suwet’en claimant.

Out of those involved, few had a better perspective than Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Yagalahl of Spookwx House. She was a court monitor, liaison, and reporter throughout the case. She sat through all 374 court days that were spread out over four years.

She was present at the recent Smithers meetings too. She says she was “satisfied” with the draft arrangement, but remains tight-lipped until the nation can have a Feast to discuss it.

In her seventies now, she listened to her chiefs and Elders tell their sacred oral histories in court 20 years ago. Satsan refers to these histories as a “sacred history box” that many were afraid to open for a court they considered foreign and colonial.

Now Yagalahl tells stories like an Elder herself. She talks with fervid, emphatic enthusiasm that the written word fails to capture.

“Let me tell you, if you come to my house and you sit with me and have tea – I’m telling you – you get an earful. I don’t stop. I make a short story long,” she says, laughing, after telling one of those long stories.

She jokes but her message is strong. She served as elected chief of Hagwilget – which is a mixed Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en community – from
1994 to 2019. She was the only elected chief who rejected the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. She has no qualms about speaking out.
When you tell the truth, you aren’t afraid of anything, she says. But that jumps ahead. Like Satsan, Yagalahl places Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa within the context of an ongoing anticolonial struggle probably best described as an intergenerational land defense.

“Back in ‘59 they destroyed our fisheries here in Hagwilget,” she says. “The rock that they blasted out of a canyon destroyed our fisheries, so it took me all those years to get compensated for it.”

In 1959, the federal Department of Fisheries dynamited large boulders on the Bulkley River next to Hagwilget.

Yagalahl calls Hagwilget a village because it existed well before contact. But, she admits, it’s technically a reserve.

A rock slide exactly a century ago placed those boulders there. They obstructed the river in a way that made salmon easily accessible. When the feds blasted the rocks away it left Hagwilget without fish for 50 years. Yagalahl, known as Dora Wilson in English, was the elected chief in 2009 when Ottawa agreed to compensate them $21.5-million for that.

Floods, destruction of fisheries, and clear-cutting
were recent events for Yagalahl and Satsan. Roughly a century earlier in 1871, B.C. entered Confederation. In the same year, government made it illegal for First Nations to fish commercially. A smallpox epidemic hit First Nations communities in B.C. a year later and their right to vote in B.C. elections was simultaneously withdrawn.

In 1876, four years later, the Indian Act was passed.

The Act prohibited “Indians” from assembling in 1880, made the Feast Hall (potlatch) illegal in 1884, and established the Kuper Island, Kam- loops, and Williams Lake residential schools in 1890. Thirty years later – after rising tensions, increased settlement, and a 1918 Spanish Flu
epidemic – the Act made it illegal for “Indians” to raise money or hire lawyers to pursue land claims.

First Nations resisted these policies throughout. Nevertheless, due to those policies, epidemics, receding land bases, missionary activity by people like Father Morice – after whom much of the infrastructure remains named on the disputed lands – and other factors, the B.C. First Nations population reached its historical lowest point in the 1920s.

In the subsequent decades, government relaxed the most stringent bans. By 1951, “Indians” could once again fish commercially, conduct Feasts, and pursue land claims. First Nations kept organizing and looking for ways to assert land rights many had never ceded through treaty or willful surrender.

Pierre Trudeau’s government released the White Paper in 1969. The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was formed in response. A decade later, chiefs and Elders from B.C. sent a delegation to England to lobby for inclusion of Aboriginal rights in the repatriated Canadian Constitution.

They got what they wanted in the form of Section 35(1): “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby
recognized and affirmed.”

The ink was barely dry on that 1982 document when the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs decided they were going to take their fight into the courts.

Prior to Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa, no one knew for certain what Section 35 meant.

Yagalahl was the vice president of the Gitx- san-Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council when the evidence gathering began in the mid ‘80s. Both nations had not yet set up the individual offices they maintain today.

“The chiefs – when they were talking about this case that was going to be happening – they had decided that I was going to work with the chiefs as part of a liaison team, that was called the litigation team, to work with the lawyers, and mainly work with the Wet’suwet’en,” she says.

“Even though I’m Gitxsan, I speak Wet’suwet’en, and I know so many of the Wet’suwet’en. I worked with them mainly in them selecting their witnesses that were going to be on the stand. It was a very, very interesting process where the chiefs really showed me what they mean by respect. You know? They respected one another when they were doing their selection of the witnesses that were going to take the stand.”

The Houses met regularly to discuss strategy and goals.

“Everything that we did was strategic. When we were doing blockades, we were very, very clear about what we wanted to accomplish with it. And we were also clear when we were in a position where we weren’t going to serve our own purpose [through blockades] then we would back out of the way but just kept the pressure on,” says Satsan.

They knew “the last place we’ve got to go is the courts,” and they prepared for it.

“So, as we were doing all this the evidence gathering was happening, the research was happening to prepare for a title action, and ultimately that’s what our people agreed to do. And so we prepared our case and our argument and we went into the court system.”

No one knew for certain what they were getting themselves into when they stepped into a Smithers courtroom on May 11, 1987 – where the chiefs, lawyers, and elders would be handed a stinging defeat four years later.

Tears were shed after that. But there were also moments of humour and joy.

Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en laws came into conflict with Canadian laws in a monumental case for which there was no real precedent.

But for Yagalahl, even when they lost, they won.

Once all was said and done, the histories of their peoples were written.

“It was quite an experience that I will always
never, never regret,” she says.

“If I had to do it again, I’d choose to do it.”

A Tribe Called Red to headline 2020 Rhythm of the People Music & Arts Festival

Legendary DJ collective A Tribe Called Red

The Indigenous resilience in Music announced more headlines for the 4-day Rhythm of the People Music & Arts Festival, and Multi-Stream Program initiatives for 2020. The festival, which embodies reconciliation will take place in Calgary on August 13 -16th. Joining A Tribe Called Red on the bill are Soccer Mommy, Quinn Christopherson, CITIZEN, and more.

Indigenous Resilience in Music (IRIM) has also just announced their most anticipated programming to date, the renewed Rhythm of the People. Throughout 2020, this will unfold through three programs: a creative artist residency program focused on language revitalization, a youth music program hosted in Treaty 7 communities, and a music and arts festival housed at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

“IRIM is really focussed on building relationships, assisting Indigenous musicians in creating platforms that they can access, and creating better representation of Indigenous peoples in music and the arts,” expressed Curtis Running-Rabbit Lefthand, Executive Artistic Director of Indigenous Resilience in Music. “Currently we’re doing that through the Rhythm of the People Music & Arts festival that highlights Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians, and the positive relationships we can have together in a community.”

“The National Music Centre is thrilled to partner with IRIM on the multi-stream Rhythm of the People initiative and to provide a space for Indigenous voices to be amplified and recognized,” said Andrew Mosker, President and CEO of NMC. “This partnership is part of NMC’s ongoing commitment to presenting programs that foster reconciliation here in Treaty 7 and across the country.

The Rhythm of the People Music & Arts Festival is determined to embody reconciliation and building positive relationships, as the 4-day fest will be showcasing Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians spanning across several genres. As previously announced, founders of electric pow-wow A Tribe Called Red are set to play the fest. Joining them will be grunge-wave sensation Soccer Mommy, award-winning Athabas- kan/Inupiaq songwriter Quinn Christopherson, post-hardcore standalone CITIZEN, to name a few. There will also be a major visual arts aspect to this festival curated in partnership with TRUCK Contemporary Art, creating a decolonized arts space. This all will be taking place on August 13-16, 2020, festival passes are already on sale. Second-wave artist announcement will be on May 4, 2020, and all announcements leading up to the festival can be found on IRIM’s socials, Rhythm of the People socials, and website:

The Rhythm of the People Artist Residency focuses on the revitalization of Indigenous languages through song. Taking place from May 4-17, the chosen resident artist(s) will learn (or expand on what they know of) their ancestral language from a knowledge keeper. In the process, they will realize, write, and record music using only this language, and any kind of instruments they require. Once the residency is complete, IRIM will honour the hard work of the resident artist through a fully engineered, mastered, and produced vinyl record of their new music. The program will end with an invitation for the artist(s) to perform during the Rhythm of the People – Music & Arts Festival.

The Rhythm of the People Youth Program is dedicated to empowering youth musicians. IRIM will mentor and guide Indigenous youth to write and record one original song in a professional music studio setting. As an extension to this process, participants will plan and execute the production of a music video that will support the original song created. After the program is completed, the community and Indigenous youth will be invited to perform their written original song at our Rhythm of the People — Music & Arts Festival. This year, the Youth program will take place in these Treaty 7 nations from June – July 2020: Siksika Nation, and Tsuut’inaNation. https://www.irim. ca/youthprogram

IRIM is an Indigenous-led organization with a mandate to create space for Indigenous musicians and support them in mentoring Indigenous youth through music. The organization provides a space for Indigenous youth to reclaim their identity through workshops and artist residencies and a platform for Indigenous musicians to showcase their work.

Gabriel Dumont Institute 40th Anniversary

The Gabriel Dumont Institute is celebrating its 40th year in 2020. This milestone was the focus of a 2-day cultural celebration held February 7th and 8th in Saskatoon.  The event was preceded by a special ceremony at which 20 students received the Order of Gabriel Dumont – Bronze Medal following a keynote address from Duane Favel, a SUNTEP grad and current Mayor of Île-à-la-Crosse, SK.  The Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Medal honours GDI students and alumni who have distinguished themselves through leadership, community involvement, and overall performance.

“The Order of Gabriel Dumont is awarded by the Gabriel Dumont Institute to persons who have distinguished themselves with outstanding service to the Métis of Canada,” said Geordy McCaffrey, GDI executive director. “It is one of the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours, awarded to Métis and non-Métis individuals based on their achievements and lifetime contributions.”

Silver and Gold medal recipients were invested at the evening gala held February 7th.  Silver medal recipients were Glenn Lafleur and Norma Welsh. The Order of Gabriel Dumont Silver Medal honours those who have made significant contributions to the Métis.  Gold medal recipients included Jean Baptiste (John) Arcand, Clément (Clem) Chartier, and Lawrence J. Barkwell (Posthumous.) The Order of Gabriel Dumont Gold Medal recognizes lifetime of outstanding service to the Métis of Canada.  The honorees were celebrated with the music of a cadre of talented Métis performers which included John Arcand, Donny Parenteau, Jess Lee, Lucas Welsh, Tristen Durocher, Tahnis Cunningham, Angela Rancourt and Julianna Parenteau. They delivered a delightfully entertaining showcase at the gala.

The conference was highlighted with keynote addresses from renowned author, playwright, and activist Maria Campbell on Friday, and on Saturday from Jesse Thistle, researcher and author of his best-selling memoir, “From the Ashes.”  Their powerful keynotes were followed with over fifty break-out workshops and presentations that fit with GDI’s cultural and education mandate. These varied from hands-on workshops such as beading, finger weaving, embroidery, Red River cart building, jigging, and square dancing, to presentations by Métis researchers, academics, and knowledge keepers.

In its 40 years, GDI has provided over 1300 students with Bachelor of Education degrees, established services in 11 communities and created partnerships with the universities in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and the regional colleges. The Institute is the largest employer of Métis people in the province. 

“It’s pretty impressive to think about the impact we’ve had on Saskatchewan and the number of people we’ve trained.  Seeing alumni and all the people from the community who have supported GDI and recognized the importance of having a Métis controlled institution is overwhelming,” said McCaffrey. 

More about the conference can be seen at: 

Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Medal Recipients. Photo by Peter Beszterda, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Sophie McDougall, Maria Campbell, and Doris McDougall. Photo by Peter Beszterda, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Samson Lamontagne and Lyla Phillips presenting Michif Basics. Photo by Peter Beszterda, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Scott Duffee (middle) teaching finger weaving. Photo by Peter Beszterda, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Angela Rancourt performing with Donny Parenteau and band. Photo by Peter Beszterda, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Jess Lee and Tristen Durocher. Photo by Donna Heimbecker, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Warren Cariou, Greg Scofield, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt. Photo by Donna Heimbecker, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Audience for a presentation by Darren Prefontaine on Métis Road Allowances. Photo by Donna Heimbecker, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Leah Dorion presenting on Métis Ribbon Skirt Teachings. Photo by Donna Heimbecker, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Amy Briley and Greg Scofield leading a learn to bead session. Photo by Donna Heimbecker, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Ashley Smith being presented an Order of Gabriel Dumont Bronze Award. Photo by Julie Labrecque, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Gold and Silver Order of Gabriel Dumont Awards. Photo by Julie Labrecque, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Geordy McCaffrey, Norma Welsh, and Earl Cook. Photo by Julie Labrecque, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.
Tristen Durocher performs as the crowd joins in to jig. Photo by Julie Labrecque, © Gabriel Dumont Institute.

Outstanding BC First Nations artists celebrated with Fulmer Award

VANCOUVER – The BC Achievement Foundation (BCAF) celebrated the six recipients of the Fulmer Award in BC First Nations at The Roundhouse.

The recipients were recognized for their artistic excellence in traditional, contemporary or media art at the 13th annual awards in First Nations Art celebration on November 21, 2019.

“BC Achievement is honoured to showcase these artists whose respect for tradition directs and inspires their creative practices,” said BCAF chair Anne Giardini. “The 2019 awardees join 73 artists from the program’s past 13 years. Together, Fulmer Award alumni ensure British Columbia is a place filled with innovation and wonder,” she added.

In addition, Marianne Nicolson, Musgamakw Dzawada̱’enux̱w, received the 2019 Fulmer Award of Distinction which recognizes individuals who have made a profound contribution to their First Nations culture.

Gus Denny Cook

Gus Cook is a respected repoussé and chasing artist from the Namgis
community, which is part of Kwakwaka’wakw nation. Repoussé and chasing are ancient techniques which involve forms of sculpting 3-D pieces out of flat sheet metal by hammering both sides of the metal. From a young age, Gus was encouraged by his mother and father to work hard, be proud and take care of his surroundings. Mentored closely by his brother and fellow artist Rande Cook, Gus has combined skill and artistry with his work ethic, to create beautiful jewellery, frontlets, rattles, spoons and plates.

Henry Green
Wii Gwinaalth
Prince Rupert

Tsm’syen artist Wii Gwinaalth, (Henry Green), has an extensive record of multidisciplinary practices in a variety of mediums and has been involved in local and international exhibitions. Henry’s art embodies a spiritual process and his work is guided by blending Tsm’syen mythology with historical, ideological and modern references. He credits Haida artists Freda Diesing and her nephew, Don Yeomans, for stimulating his interest in the arts and in woodcarving. Henry’s artistic practice includes the training of over 400 apprentices and mentoring many young artists, therefore ensuring the continuance of Tsm’syen cultural knowledge and traditions for future generations.

Maynard Johnny, Jr.

Coast Salish artist, Maynard Johnny Jr., has been drawing portraits of his family and replicating comics since early childhood. His exploration of First Nations Art began at age 17 when he designed and created his first painting on a sevenfoot by three-foot door skin panel. Primarily self-taught, Maynard has been influenced by accomplished artists and has expanded his reach significantly, designing logo and identity pieces for organizations, movie sets and television series. An internationally recognized artist, Maynard’s work continues to share the beauty of Coast Salish art through graphic painting, wood, glass, large metal sculptures and precious metals.

Doreen Manuel
Canǂupka Kakin
North Vancouver

A member of the Neskonlith First Nation, Doreen learned traditional beading from her grandmother. Her mother was also an intricate bead artist who taught Doreen that she should learn to bead well so she could use her work, when necessary, to provide for her family. Now Doreen beads for her love of the art, carrying on the legacy of her traditions with future generations. Doreen is the sixth child of Grand Chief Dr. George Manuel and spiritual leader Marceline Manuel and comes from a long line of Indigenous oral historians and storytellers.

Michelle Stoney
Delgamaas from the house of Delgamuukw

The recipient of this year’s Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist Award, Michelle Stoney incorporates the traditions of her two distinct First Nations cultures: form line from her Gitxsan heritage and bright colours with black outlines from her Cree heritage. Recently painted murals in her hometown of Hazleton, as well as in Terrace and Vancouver reflect Michelle’s innovative painting style as well as her goal to create unique First Nations art. In addition, Michelle has been learning the fundamentals of jewelry-making from established artists and contributing positively to the future of First Nations Art.

Marianne Nicolson

Marianne is a well-known mixed media artist who utilizes painting, photography, mixed-media, sculpture, and installation to create modern depictions of traditional Kwakwaka’wakw concepts. As an artist of Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations descent, Marianne’s training encompasses both traditional Kwakwaka’wakw forms and culture and
Western European based art practice. She has exhibited widely in Canada and throughout the world since 1992 and has been vocal on issues of Aboriginal histories and politics arising from a passionate involvement in cultural revitalization and sustainability. Her work, A Lament for National Histories, questions the status of international agreements/treaties and the land jurisdiction these agreements reflect.

The 2019 CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature

To celebrate and to honour the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, CODE is proud to announce the shortlist in the new Indigenous language award category for young adult fiction. This is part of the CODE Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Young Adult Literature.

This is the first-ever Indigenous language award for young adult literature in Canada. The shortlisted titles in alphabetical order include:

– Inconvenient Skin by Shane Koyczan, written in English and Cree with translation by
Soloman Ratt. Illustrations by Joseph M. Sanchez, Jim Logan, Kent Monkman, and Nadya Kwandibens. Published by Theytus Books.
– Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston, translated into Inuktitut by Blandina Tulugarjuk. Illustrations by Toma Feizo Gas. Published by Inhabit Media.
– Three Feathers by Richard Van Camp, translated into South Slavey by Doris Camsell.
Illustrations by K. Mateus. Published by Highwater Press an imprint of Portage and Main.

The English language shortlisted titles in alphabetical order are:
The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson. Published by Second Story Press.
– Moccasin Square Gardens by Richard Van Camp. Published by
Douglas & McIntyre.
– Those Who Dwell Below by Aviaq Johnston, illustrations by Toma Feizo Gas. Published by Inhabit Media.

The shortlist was compiled by six Indigenous jury members who have extensive knowledge and understanding of young adult literature, literacy, education, and publishing. “This was an exciting mix of stories “from the past” that are still relevant for today’s reader along with more contemporary stories. We were wowed by the extraordinary writing, engaging content, and powerful life lessons.”

“CODE is thrilled to be able to share the 2019 shortlisted titles. Indigenous language revitalization is a powerful goal that elevates the important link between language, development, and reconciliation,” said Scott Walter, Executive Director, CODE.
The winning books will be announced in 2020. The Indigenous language award winner and translator will share the prize of $6,000.00. The English language winner will receive $6,000 and the Honour prize is $3,000.00 with the third English language book receiving the Honourable mention.
Publishers of the awarded books will be offered a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies. These books are then distributed to schools, libraries, community and friendships centres across Canada. This guaranteed purchase, combined with a book distribution program, is what makes this award program unique. It ensures that great books make it into the hands of young readers who need them the most, with new titles coming out every year!

Inconvenient Skin
by Shane L. Koyczan
Translation into Cree by Soloman Ratt
Published by Theytus Books
Joseph M. Sanchez (Illustrations),
Jim Logan (Illustrations),
Kent Monkman (Contributor),
Nadya Kwandibens (Photographs)

Inconvenient Skin is a collection of poetry written in English and translated into Cree. The poems aim to unpack the challenges of the dark side of Canada’s history and to clean the wounds so the nation can finally heal. Powerful and thought-provoking, this collection will draw you in and make you reconsider Canada’s colonial legacy. The cover features the art of Kent Monkman, and the interior features work by Joseph Sanchez, a member of the Indian Group of Seven.

Three Feathers
by Richard Van Camp,
translated into South Slavey by Doris Camsell.
Illustrations by K. Mateus.
Published by Highwater Press an imprint of Portage and Main.

Three Feathers explores the power and grace of restorative justice in one Northern community and the cultural legacy that can empower future generations. Written in English and translated into South Slavey by Doris Camsell, Three Feathers tells the story of three young men—Flinch, Bryce, and Rupert who have vandalized their community and are sent by its Elders to live nine months on the land as part of the circle sentencing process. There, the young men learn to take responsibility for their actions and acquire the humility required to return home. But, when they do return, will they be forgiven for what they’ve done?

Those Who Dwell Below
By Aviaq Johnston
Toma Feizo Gas (Illustrator)
Published by Inhabit Media

Those Who Dwell Below is the exciting sequel to Those Who Run in the Sky. Haunted by the vicious creatures of his recent past, Pitu tries to go back to a normal life at home after the other-worldly travels and near-death encounters of his recent disappearance into the world of the spirits. But Pitu knows that there is more work to be done, and more that he must learn in his new role as a shaman.

The Case of Windy Lake
By Michael Hutchinson
Published by Second Story Press

The Case of Windy Lake Book 1 in The Mighty Muskrats Mystery Series The Mighty Muskrats won’t let a mystery go unsolved!
Sam, Otter, Atim, and Chickadee are four inseparable cousins growing up on the Windy Lake First Nation. Nicknamed the Mighty Muskrats for their habit of laughing, fighting, and exploring together, the cousins find that each new adventure adds to their reputation.

Those Who Run in the Sky
by Aviaq Johnston,
translated into Inuktitut by Blandina Tulugarjuk.
Illustrations by Toma Feizo Gas.
Published by Inhabit Media.

Those Who Run in the Sky is a coming-of-age story that follows Pitu, a young shaman who finds himself lost in the world of the spirits. After a strange and violent blizzard leaves Pitu stranded on the sea ice, without his dog team or any weapons to defend himself, he soon realizes that he is no longer in the world that he once knew. The storm has carried him into the world of the spirits, a world populated with terrifying creatures.

Pitu must master all of his shamanic powers to make his way back to the world of the living, to his family, and to the girl that he loves.

Update on Speech from the Throne – National Chief Perry Bellegarde

On December 5, 2019, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to open the 43rd session of Parliament and outline the Government’s agenda.

The Speech included, for the first time, a specific section on Indigenous commitments entitled “Walking the Road to Reconciliation.” The section – and other parts of the speech – mirrored many of the priorities set out in the AFN’s Honouring Promises advocacy document, issued prior to the 2019 federal election. The commitments include:

  • action on climate change, including a commitment to the target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050;
  • action to co-develop and introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the first year of the new mandate;
  • new steps to ensure the Government is living up to the spirit and intent of Treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements made with Indigenous Peoples;
  • continuing work on safe drinking water and eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories by 2021;
  • implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
  • a promise to close the gap in infrastructure by 2030;
  • continue to invest in Indigenous priorities, in collaboration with Indigenous partners; and,
  • ensure that Indigenous children and youth who were harmed under the discriminatory child welfare system are compensated in a way that is both fair and timely

All of these commitments are important and, where necessary, we will work to get more details on next steps and ensure that First Nations are involved in initiatives that have potential to affect our lands, our lives and our rights.

I am encouraged by many of these commitments. First Nations declared a climate emergency in 2019 and there are many resolutions over the years calling for action on climate destruction. We are the first to feel the impacts, and we are first in leading the way to a cleaner, greener environment and economy. We must be directly involved in developing and implementing Canada’s climate plan.

Legislation on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a top priority. It will guide our work in so many other important areas. It is unfinished business from the last Parliament. The Liberals, NDP, the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois committed to it in their campaigns so there is a majority support for legislation. We will get it done. We are already working with all parties in the House of Commons to advance this initiative. Advancing our rights is paramount. We will move on the critical work of giving life to the spirit and intent of the Treaties and our original nation-to-nation relationship of partnership, respect, mutual recognition and sharing.

The commitment on child welfare is something we will watch closely. We want to see a related commitment from Canada to honour the rulings of the Human Rights Tribunal. We will push the government for full support and resources to implement the laws that impact the well-being of our children – the Indigenous Languages Act and the Indigenous Child Welfare Act.  A distinct First Nations approach, as determined by Rights Holders, to implement Bill C92 is the only approach that respects the Inherent Right of First Nations over children and families.

The Throne Speech highlighted some of the past successes of the government, many of which are the result of strong leadership and advocacy by First Nations. These include the elimination of 87 long-term drinking water advisories, more equitable funding for First Nations K-12 education, and the completion of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I commend you for your leadership, support and advocacy.

The AFN outlined its priorities Honouring Promises, which can be found here.

As National Chief, I look forward to working with you as we maintain momentum and progress on an ambitious agenda to make a stronger country for all of us through the implementation of First Nations rights, title, Treaties and jurisdiction.

50 Years Later– Celebrating the New Indian Problem

It’s been 50 years since the Government of Canada tabled the Statement of Indian Policy of the Government of Canada known now as ‘The White Paper’. It’s also been 50 years since the establishment of Indigenous Studies at Trent University. As the government was proposing to repeal the Indian Act and to narrowly interpret the treaties, seen then as historic relics inconsistent with a modern nation state based upon the principles of a just society, Indians, in collaboration with allies throughout Canadian society, pushed back and the policy of extermination and assimilation was withdrawn. 

At Trent University in Peterborough, the newly minted discipline of “Indian and Eskimo Studies” provided a site for a disciplined and passionate discussion of Indigenous rights, culture, tradition and knowledge that would lend support to a new Indigenous political consciousness emerging across North America. The program name was changed to Native Studies, then Indigenous Studies, and has contributed to the development of what I call ‘the New Indian problem.”

I was sixteen years old and living at Six Nations of the Grand River. I remember the fear and anxiety generated when the policy was tabled. My family did not know what would happen; we did not know what the future held; our homes were not secure nor was it clear what would happen to our community. This period was time of great uncertainty. I am constantly amazed at what has happened over the last half century and the foundation that has been built for Indigenous communities. None of the things that I see around me were contemplated at that time.

Since the arrival of Europeans and the establishment of governments in Canada after 1763, government officials have been trying to decide what to do with the Indians: each government over the years has had a particular view of ‘the Indian problem’ as it were.  At various times, the problem was whether or not we were human and had souls; how to make us into good Christians, how to live next to us, how to get our land, how to get us to enter into military alliances, how to civilize us, how to assimilate us, or how to get us to become an ethnic group as part of the multi-cultural environment of Canada. Each of these views of the Indian problem has led to a particular policy solution and a set of actions by government officials.

After half a century of effort to solve the Indian problem, what is the Indian problem at the early part of the 21st century, ie what is the new Indian problem?  Is it a problem of new Indians or a new problem about Indians?

There have been remarkable achievements over the last half century, in politics, in arts, in social services among other areas. And we often forget what we have achieved and how we have achieved it.  It has been achieved by Indigenous peoples speaking, organizing and pushing hard for their own ideas and winning in the public debates of courts, legislatures, policy fora and through the creative use of political allies: Indigenous support groups, Churches, academics, writers, etc. Trent Indigenous Studies’ graduates are leaders in all of these achievements, often at the forefront pushing the boundaries and proposing collaborative decision-making processes.

There is a confident, aggressive, savvy, educated, experienced Indigenous leadership that has emerged over the past two decades who know how to push hard and get what they want.  Behind them are more than 50,000 students who are in post-secondary education institutions across the country and who are moving into positions of leadership in many communities. These people are determined, well-educated, and courageous and want the world to be different for them and their children. 

These leaders and students see self-government within their grasp: they will have experienced aspects of it: in education, in health care, in economic development, in social work, in housing, in cultural programs, in language training and education. These students also understand their own cultures, traditions and histories, are learning their own languages and understand how Canadian society and power work as a result of their university studies. Trent’s embrace of Indigenous Elders and Indigenous Knowledges has contributed to cultural revitalization. 

One of the most difficult challenges will be fostering the development of positive public attitudes towards Indigenous peoples and their governments.  RCAP recommended that there be major public education effort aimed at helping Canadian citizens to understand Indigenous aspirations, cultures, communities and ways of living.

We forget that all the good work that Indigenous leaders undertake takes place within a Canadian context that has had a hard time coming to terms with a continued Indigenous presence, let alone a modern, educated Indigenous one that will challenge it and assert itself and insist upon its own place and possess the legal clout to achieve it. The Indigenous Studies program at Trent has educated more than 10,000 non-Indigenous students on Indigenous issues over the last half century. These students understand Indigenous peoples and the issues that we face and are advocating and working on solutions, oftentimes quietly and out of sight.

A new Indigenous ethos has emerged which I call ‘post-colonial consciousness.’ An individual imbued with this ethos understands what happened, why it happened, the impact of what happened and has the desire and skill to ensure that the damage is repaired and that what happened never happens again.

And so we come to the New Indian Problem.  The problem is what to do with the New Indians.  The New Indians have a post-colonial consciousness and the skills and knowledge to act upon it. Are Canadians ready to deal with the new Indians?

Join us in conversation on February 18 – 21, 2020, when the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies will host the 33rd annual CINSA conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Indigenous Studies; the 20th anniversary of the Indigenous Studies Ph.D. program and the 10th Anniversary of the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program at Trent University.

Trainers From Firefighters Without Borders Headed to Lac Seul First Nations this Month to Educate Residents on Fire Prevention & Ensure All Residents Have a Working Smoke Alarm

Firefighters Without Borders (FWB) has partnered with the Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services to help improve fire safety in the Northern First Nation Community of Lac Seul, located near Sioux Lookout, Ontario, as part of Fire Prevention Month (month of October).

FWB has enlisted Chris Miller and Jeff Jones, fire prevention officers with the City of Mississauga Fire & Emergency Services, to visit Lac Seul from Oct. 27-30 to help train Fire and Emergency Services volunteers on proper delivery methods of Fire Safety and Prevention information for households and schools.  In turn, the Lac Seul Fire and Emergency Services will then educate the 872 residents (including students) on fire prevention. They will also ensure each household has a functioning smoke alarm. Any alarms that aren’t functioning will be replaced by a First Alert 10-Year Sealed Battery Smoke Alarm.

“October is a time to raise awareness about fire safety in the home and to help ensure you are prepared in case of an emergency. We are very grateful for the volunteers traveling from Firefighters Without Borders to Lac Seul to discuss fire safety with our firefighters and our community,” said Lac Seul First Nation Fire Chief David Gordon. 

Russ Chalmers, Acting President for Firefighters Without Borders, said “Recent studies have shown that residents of First Nation communities are ten times more likely to die in a house fire than those living in the rest of Canada.  To us, this is a vital project, and we’re grateful that these highly skilled fire prevention volunteers from the City of Mississauga are helping to address the dire fire safety needs that exist in First Nations communities such as Lac Seul.” 

“We’re honoured to have these specialized fire prevention officers from the City of Mississauga donating their time to this important project, and to have a strategic partner like First Alert supplying us with much-needed smoke alarms to ensure the safety of all Lac Seul residents,” said Craig Dockeray, vice president of Firefighters Without Borders and project lead for Lac Seul. 

First Alert donated 200 smoke alarms and supplemented its donation with discount pricing to help ensure each resident is protected.

“We always include fire safety training in our projects,” added Dockeray. “However, this is the first large scale project by Firefighters Without Borders dedicated to public fire safety education and a Smoke Alarm Implementation Program.”

“Community risk reduction initiatives such as this are vital in ensuring all areas of the country are better protected from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. “Partners like Firefighters Without Borders are representative of the dedication we see throughout the fire service community, and we applaud their efforts.”  

This fire prevention education project in Lac Seul is the continuation of a project by Firefighters Without Borders to ensure Lac Seul First Nation is better equipped to deal with both fire prevention and emergency response. Earlier this year, a fire truck was generously donated by the City of St. Catharines and donated to Lac Seul First Nation with the help of Firefighters Without Borders.  In addition to the vehicle, firefighting equipment and vehicle instruction on the operation and maintenance were provided to the firefighters in Lac Seul First Nation.     

About BRK Brands, Inc. 
BRK Brands, Inc. (Aurora, IL), is a fully owned subsidiary of Newell Brands. For more than 60 years, BRK Brands, Inc. has been the manufacturer of First Alert®
-branded home-safety products, the most trusted and recognized safety brand in America. BRK® Brands designs and develops innovative safety solutions including Tundra™ Fire Extinguishing Spray, Onelink by First Alert smart home products, a comprehensive line of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders to protect what matters most.  Such products are also marketed under the BRK Electronics® brand, The Professional Standard for the builder and contractor audiences.  BRK Brands, Inc. products are found in more than 30 countries worldwide.  For more information, visit http://www.firstalert.com or  

About Newell Brands
Newell Brands (NASDAQ: NWL) is a leading global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands, including Paper Mate®, Sharpie®, Dymo®, EXPO®, Parker®, Elmer’s®, Coleman®, Marmot®, Oster®, Sunbeam®, FoodSaver®, Mr. Coffee®, Graco®, Baby Jogger®, NUK®, Calphalon®, Rubbermaid®, Contigo®, First Alert®, and Yankee Candle®. For hundreds of millions of consumers, Newell Brands makes life better every day, where they live, learn, work and play. 
Additional information about Newell Brands is available on the company’s website, 

©2019 BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504. All rights reserved. 
BRK Electronics® is a registered trademark of BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504. 
Nasdaq® is a registered trademark of The Nasdaq Stock Market, Inc.  

About Firefighters Without Borders
Firefighters Without Borders is a registered Charitable organization, dedicated to providing equipment, training, and support to firefighters around the world, including Canada’s remote and northern communities.  For more information, visit our website at

Harm reduction on the frontlines: The need for policy reform regarding accessibility and affordability of medical cannabis

It has never been more evident that we have more work to do as it relates to education about medical cannabis, as well as its potential as a tool to reduce harm in communities. As research trickles in, funding dollars are beginning to be directed towards novel research in cannabinoid therapy. Our focus must first be to our most vulnerable populations. Those living with addiction remain the most stigmatized population challenged by a chronic illness. Can you believe that, in Canada, one person overdoses on opiates every two hours? Let me repeat that: ONE person EVERY TWO HOURS in Canada dies of an overdose.

I am a physician who has worked in the area of addiction medicine providing opioid replacement therapy (ORT), and the adjuvants or “helper “medicines, for patients to access a clean supply of medication dispensed by a trained pharmacist. Patients are able to stabilize their day-to-day lives and maintain their health. The challenge with these programs and protocols is that patients often have a difficult time tapering off or reducing these medicines and, dependent on geography, they are not easily accessible. Ironically, the “helper” medicines can also be misused, or can be potentially fatal, if mixed with alcohol or other sedating medications. Most patients I see are taking more than four medications.

During patient assessments, which may take upwards of one hour to complete, I have found that many were using cannabis from the illicit/legacy market. In reality, many were using it to reduce their withdrawal effects and anxiety, to help with sleep, or to reduce pain. How was this working for them? Was it really working? And in the back of my mind I remember a patient telling me 10 years ago, “Hey, Doc, there’s weed out there that doesn’t make you high”, and I, with head hanging down, admit at the time, didn’t believe her. What I now know is that given that the overdose profile for cannabis is non-existent, I feel it is a safe option for my patients living with opioid addiction, and the science and evidence-informed data is proving this. After much reading of research, and with a few of my patients stable on opioid replacement therapy (methadone/suboxone), I began providing access to legal medical cannabis for these patients with surprising success. The result? Patients were able to reduce opioids and feel like they had more control of their health and of their lives.

Fast-forward to today, with data collected on almost 6,000 of my patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis, more than 80% are able to reduce opiates and other pain and sleep medications. Patients who have drug coverage and/or are able to cover the cost of cannabis do better and are able to maintain their care plan with medical cannabis. However, for those patients living with addiction who do not have insurance, including many of our Indigenous/Status patients and/or those on low or fixed incomes, financial challenge limits their ability to continue to receive the benefits that legal medical cannabis provides .

Professionally, it has proven to be an eye-opening and humbling experience to assist patients in navigating this legal cannabis system, warts and all. It has changed how I practice. It makes me question every single pill I prescribe and has helped me become a better physician. Additionally, it has turned my patients, for the most part, into willing scientists. I tell each patient as they trial cannabis, “We are doing science!” as they sigh and fill out their umpteenth questionnaire. For those patients accessing medical cannabis, a sharp line between the recreational and medical market is required to address accessibility and affordability. Could you imagine someone with diabetes having to get their drugs illegally? If the supply of insulin was not clean? In an environment where our national physician’s governing body does not actively support medical cannabis, and where those of us working on the frontlines see the benefit and possibilities of this plant, there must be more communication and bridge-building regarding its medicinal properties. Our pharmacy partners, who understand the complexities of medicines, must be involved in the care of our patients.

In a system where physicians are now encouraged to de-prescribe opiates and benzodiazepines (BZD’s), but are left with little else to offer the patient, the disconnect is evident. Current drug policy has yet to catch up with the science that supports safe-use sites, access to clean sources of opiates, and the reduction of deaths in communities in Canada. When building resilience amounts to little more than lip service as the resources supporting substance use and mental health services are limited and finite, it becomes challenging to offer and address the underpinnings of addiction. As a result, our efforts are not enough, and we must challenge the status quo. The advocacy work of all those on the frontlines, actively giving care, must be supported through research, and provincial and federal funding. Let us, on the frontlines, continue to do this work. On a broader scale, we all must focus our efforts and work together to drive the accessibility and affordability of medical cannabis for patients – it is promising as a medicine, for many, many patient populations and, most certainly, for those living with addiction.


Will be a featured Speaker at the national Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference, being held in Kelowna at the Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel. November 26-28, 2019
For more information and registration: