Posts By: First Nations Drum

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:

Alberta Indigenous Leaders Talk to Thunberg About Energy Transition; Finding Environmental, Economic Balance

Teenager climate activist Greta Thunberg with Chief Archie Waquan, Melody Lepine and councillor Calvin Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg continued her tour of Alberta’s oilsands region on Saturday, an Indigenous group says, conducting interviews that the group says will be part of an upcoming BBC documentary.

The Mikisew Cree First Nation says in a news release that Thunberg spent the day on the shores of Gregoire Lake near Fort McMurray with members of the First Nation, and that her interviews focused on environmental concerns over oilsands development and climate change.

Mikisew Chief Archie Waquan presented Thunberg with a blanket, stating in the news release that the First Nation was honoured to “join forces” with Thunberg as she leads the way in “protecting our planet from the climate crisis.”
Thunberg arrived in Fort McMurray on Friday night and met with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam, who said he told the 16-year-old to get Europeans to lobby oilsands investors for greener technology to extract Alberta energy.

Earlier Friday, Thunberg addressed thousand of people at a climate rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton.

Melody Lepine, who is the Mikisew Cree’s director of government and industry relations, says the First Nation agreed to participate in the BBC documentary some time ago, but only learned in the last few days that Thunberg would also be involved.
“That was pretty exciting,” Lepine said Sunday, speaking from Fort McMurray.
Thunberg has been making international headlines for criticizing world leaders who she accuses of letting down youth by doing too little to tackle climate change.
Lepine said when she was interviewed by Thunberg, she told the activist about the importance of the boreal forest as well as the impacts her community might see from climate change.

But like Adam, Lepine said her community isn’t calling for an end to oilsands development.

“I sort of said this is home to many people and it’s not fair to just put a stop to development here without any plan in place. These projects have been here for over 30 years, and some of these projects are planning to be here for another 30, or 50 or 60 years,” Lepine said.

“And so there’s a lot of work to do in decommissioning and cleaning and reclamation, so we talked about maybe diversifiying the economy here for making sure any transition off fossil fuels is not going to hurt the economic engine of Canada here.”
In March, the Mikisew Cree applauded the announcement of a new 16-hundred-square kilometre wildland park that was created after three energy companies returned oilsands leases to the province and a fourth company agreed to sell back its leases.

Teenager climate activist Greta Thunberg with Chief Archie Waquan, Melody Lepine and councillor Calvin Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation.

The First Nation also noted in its news release an Indigenous energy company is part of what it says is Canada’s largest off-grid solar project.

“I shared some of the success stories like that, that it is possible to reach a balance in environmental protection and economic development and industrial development in the region,” Lepine said.

Thunberg posted pictures on Sunday of her meetings with the region’s Indigenous leaders on Twitter, saying she was “honoured” to meet with them while in Treaty 8 territory.

She has said she plans to keep touring the Americas through a UN climate conference in Chile in December.

Reconnecting With the Land Restores Teachers’ Spirits After Hard Emotional Labour

Nancy Knickerbocker

Gathered under sunny skies on the shore of Kawkawa Lake, two dozen teachers listened in rapt attention to the renowned Stó:lō  historian and cultural advisor Naxaxalhts’i, Albert “Sonny” McHalsie, as he shared his deep knowledge of S’ólh  Téméxw, the beautiful lakes, rivers, and mountains within the unceded traditional territory of his people.

This special Pro-D and wellness day was the BCTF’s way of saying “thank you” for the important and difficult work they do as Aboriginal Education workshop facilitators. Along with a few non-Aboriginal colleagues, they were taking a day out of time, reconnecting with the land, learning place names and concepts in the Halq’eméylem language.

As the bus headed upriver, Sonny emphasized that he was sharing both sqwélqwel, true facts and personal histories, as well as sxwōxwiyam, the creation stories of Xexá:ls, the Transformers. 

He spoke of the origin of the great blue heron, of the mountain that looks like a man from upriver and a woman from downriver, of the once-overwhelming abundance of oolichan in the river now decimated due to overfishing downstream, of the beauty of the women’s fasting grounds high in the hills, now logged out. At the lakeshore, he told of the sacred mask from the time of the 1782 small pox epidemic, when up to 90 percent of the population perished. “Whole villages were wiped out. They found the people dead in their canoes, in their homes.” 

“The things we talk about in the classroom can be very traumatizing for people of Aboriginal heritage,” said Jesse Halton. “But that day, connecting with the land, putting my hands into the waters of Kawkawa Lake, was so reinvigorating! I could feel those lake people.”

In Hope, the bus turned into the Telte-Yet Campsite to view the site of a sqemel, a traditional pithouse. “Or, as the anthropologists would say, ‘a circular semi-subterranean winter dwelling’,” Sonny noted dryly, making air quotes as he indicated a deep round indentation in the earth.

He asked four teachers to stand in designated spots to show where the house posts would have been and explained how the pit houses were built to be cool in summer and warm in winter.

That was an emotional moment for Dani Pigeau and her father Harold Lock, who is a cousin of Sonny’s. The two men’s great-great-grandfather, Sexyel, also known as Captain Charlie, inhabited the very house that once stood there.  

“Standing on that place where my ancestors lived was overwhelming. It’s a sacred site that now is a commercial campground. They don’t know that’s where we lived and died. The sacred space is covered up, but you can still feel the spirit energy there,” Dani said. “I’m so grateful we still have our knowledge keepers. That day was big — a really big gift for me.”

For Brian Coleman, the trip evoked nostalgia overlaid with a tremendous sadness. “I have a lot of fond memories of driving that road through the [Fraser] canyon as a child, with my dad and my sisters. Dad would tell stories, but back then I never understood all the loss,” he said. “How full that land is! Yet so much is lost.” 

Just how much was lost, and when, and where, and by whom – these are among the hard lessons Canadians are beginning to learn, and teachers are mandated to teach.  To support members, the BCTF offers 12 different workshops on topics including the legacy of residential schools, infusing Aboriginal content, Indigenous perspectives, decolonizing, and much more.  And they are in high demand; of 296 workshops delivered in the 2018-19 school year, 94 were Aboriginal Education workshops. The facilitators are highly trained and deeply committed to this work, but it demands hard emotional labour.

“It’s like having PTSD and being triggered all the time. I live this history, I own it. So, retelling it is like ripping off a Band-Aid every time,” says Jacquie King. “At the same time, it’s super rewarding because people say thank you so much for sharing. People wouldn’t gain the same insights without our authentic voices.”

The facilitators expressed frustration at the continuing ignorance of some Canadians about this history, despite the lengthy hearings and massive reports by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry. 

“People say OMG! I didn’t know! But how could people still not know?” asked Peggy Janicki. “I’m not very empathetic to that position anymore. I’ve been teaching this history for 16 years now.”  

Still, it remains the fact that generations of Canadians learned absolutely nothing about the residential school system, the 150,000 children taken and the 6,000 who died, the hunger, the tuberculosis, the physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse. The true history is so shocking and brutal, it is often met with skepticism, crossed arms, and even eye-rolls.

“You get the fact checkers in the room, immediately opening their laptops or going on their phones looking up whether what I’m saying is true. It’s like, ‘I don’t believe that because I’ve learned something different my whole life’,” said Claire Akiwenzie. “A lot of people are giving their full attention, but there’s always someone who’s not having any of it. They’re totally walled up.” 

Nodding, Heather Froste added: “Last year I found the reaction to be a lot more of ‘Yeah, yeah, okay, just give me the lesson plans.’ People don’t want to do the work. They just want to check off the box. Residential school history—tick! But that’s not an act of reconciliation.”

Not only do some question the veracity of information, they challenge the very identity of the presenters. Carlo Pavan noted that all workshop presenters experience resistance from time to time, no matter what the topic. “But the difference is that we’re talking about us — our history, our lived experiences, our identity. So, when you experience resistance to your own identity, the emotional cost is much higher. You feel invalidated. I often wonder if the SOGI facilitators feel the same way.” 

Branden Peters agreed: “Some of the resistance is white fragility, because this history does unsettle people. It makes you feel things. Discomfort and guilt are two horns on the same goat.”

A middle-school principal once asked Peggy to “take it easy on the staff” because they had felt heartbroken after doing the Blanket Exercise. “Sorry, there’s no gentle version of this history,” she said. “It’s a pedagogy of discomfort.”

Unsettling as it may be, teachers are called to confront these uncomfortable truths. There have been significant changes to BC’s curriculum around infusing Aboriginal history and culture, and the BC Teachers’ Council’s new professional standard requires educators to “contribute towards truth, reconciliation and healing.” 

Jean Moir has been doing just that in her Grade 3-4-5 classroom, helping to pilot the BCTF resource “Gladys We Never Knew,” about Gladys Chapman, a little girl taken from her home in Spuzzum to Kamloops Residential School, where she died of tuberculosis at age 12.

“Visiting Gladys’s grave was one of the most profound learning experiences my kids ever had. It was an amazing opportunity for them to connect to her story with their hearts, as well as their heads,” she said as the bus passed the Chapman family cemetery near Spuzzum.

“Children are hard-wired for fairness, so when you teach them about the historical and current injustices, they are outraged and eager to take action. Now my students are going home and educating their parents about the true history of Canada.”

Jean urged other non-Aboriginal teachers to dive into this work with open hearts and minds. 

“It really is a personal journey and once you start engaging with this history it takes on its own momentum,” she said.  “You confront your own shame and discomfort and biases, but it’s all so worth it. When you acknowledge something difficult and go through it, you come out a better person.”

Native War Veterans Enlisted Even Though They Were Not Canadian Citizens

During the World Wars, thousands of Aboriginal people voluntarily enlisted in the Canadian military. It’s over 14,000 Aboriginal people served in the Canadian forces ( and American for some of them) during the conflicts, 1,600 of them dead in service.

They served in every major theatre of the war and participated in all of the major battles in which Canadian troops fought. Hundreds were wounded or lost their lives on foreign battlefields. Many Aboriginal people distinguished themselves as talented and capable soldiers and at least 250 were awarded medals for bravery and heroism.
On the eve of the First World War, Canada had no official policy on the recruitment of Aboriginal people. Although they were originally discouraged from enlisting, policy would shift during the war to become more accepting of Aboriginal enlistment and recruitment. In the early months of the conflict, Aboriginal people, eager to volunteer for service, were sometimes turned away, while others were permitted to enlist. High casualty rates and the need for more troops led to new policies regarding Aboriginal recruits. In 1915, military and government officials relaxed restrictions, issued formal guidelines and allowed Aboriginal recruitment.

By 1917, the government took a more active role in recruitment as a response to the need for more personnel. Indian agents held recruiting events on reserves to encourage more First Nations members to enlist. In August 1917, the Military Service Act instituted conscription, mandatory military service for all British subjects of age to serve. The Act made no exemption for Treaty Indians, who had expected to be exempt because they did not have the rights of citizenship that obligated Canadian citizens to serve. Some First Nations argued that promises made during treaty negotiations excused them from conscription in foreign wars. Conscription was an extremely contentious issue and the Department of Indian Affairs received letters from First Nations demanding an exemption for status Indians. Many non-Aboriginal people publicly supported the exemption of status Indians from conscription.

The sustained objection of First Nations people proved successful and on January 17, 1918, an Order-in-Council (PC 111) was passed that officially exempted status Indians from combatant duties. Status Indians could still be called to perform non-combat roles in Canada, but the legislation made it easier for them to claim deferrals for industrial or agricultural work.
At least 1,000 of them were conscripted during the First World War and despite all the precautions taken, there are some cases of conscripted Indigenous soldiers serving in combat.

For the most part, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal soldiers shared similar experiences during the war. The transition to life in the military was initially difficult for some Aboriginal men, as many came from remote areas of the country where they followed their own cultural traditions. They had little contact with Canadians outside their communities, and often spoke neither English or French.

Military restrictions conflicted with some Aboriginal traditions which made aligning with the military’s requests rather difficult. For example, some Aboriginal soldiers were discharged from the army for refusing to cut their hair. They also had a different approach to rank. Traditionally, there had not been sharp distinctions between war chiefs and warriors. The Warriors relationship with war chiefs was one of familiarity and equality. A warrior was allowed to question a war chief’s plans and if he did not agree with them, he was allowed to leave the war party. In contrast, there was a rigid military hierarchy in the Canadian Corps, which sharply distinguished between officers and other ranks.

A soldier’s life was one of waiting to engage with the enemy and enduring feelings of boredom and tension, anticipation and foreboding. Patience was an important quality for snipers to possess as they often had to wait quietly for the enemy to approach. Aboriginal soldiers’ descriptions of trench life were more positive than those of non-Aboriginal soldiers.

The most significant benefit of Aboriginal peoples’ war service was interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, which was not common in general Canadian society prior to the war. By serving alongside Aboriginal soldiers, Canadian soldiers came to better understand Aboriginal people, and to overcome many negative stereotypes. Aboriginal soldiers were seen as some of the most valuable and well-liked members of their units.

For decades, government policy had been to encourage Aboriginal people to settle on reserves and take up farming. The First World War brought a transformation of Canada from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Farming continued to be an important activity during the war and Aboriginal people on the homefront made significant contributions in this area. In 1917, Arthur Meighen, Minister of the Interior as well as head of Indian Affairs, launched the “Greater Production Effort”, a program intended to increase agricultural production.

The program aimed at providing incentives for Canadians to settle on land, take up farming, and produce food to feed the soldiers as well as the Canadian population at home. The project also encouraged both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to farm more extensively. The Greater Production Effort involved the use of so-called “‘idle’ Indian land”: fertile land on reserves that was not being used for farming. Such lands would be leased for up to five years to non-Aboriginal farmers for “proper use” or to establish Greater Production farms (federally managed agricultural experiments set up on western reserve lands). The Greater Production plan was publicly criticized by some non-Aboriginal people in Canada for not being in the interest of First Nations people. Furthermore, the Indian Act stated that reserve lands could not be expropriated for any purpose without the consent of the bands involved. To facilitate the implementation of the program, the government amended the Indian Act in 1918, eliminating the necessity of securing Indian consent. After the war, Greater Production farms continued to operate and were finally terminated in 1922.
Aboriginal men and women made important contributions to the war effort on the homefront during the First World War. Many Aboriginal communities and individuals made generous monetary donations to various war funds. Several communities established their own branches of the Red Cross and patriotic leagues through which they raised money for the war effort.

Miss. Miller Marion -World War II – Six Nations of Grand River

They also donated food, clothes and other goods to relief organizations and purchased Victory Bonds. Such patriotic contributions were viewed as an alternative means of support, made in lieu of military service, as some Aboriginal people were opposed to members of their community serving overseas but were still eager to aid in the war effort. Despite the everyday financial pressures of many Aboriginal families, they still generously donated whatever money they could to the war effort. By the end of the war, Aboriginal people had donated almost $45,000 to war funds. Canadians gradually began to take notice of these contributions and celebrated them enthusiastically. Newspapers and magazines across the country proudly reported on Aboriginal efforts during the war, especially in communities with a high Aboriginal population. Soon, Aboriginal donations became a source of propaganda in order to encourage non-Aboriginal people to donate to the cause. Not all Aboriginal people were supportive of the war or the wartime policies; some petitioned for the soldiers from their communities to be returned home, many were opposed to active recruitment on reserves and there was considerable opposition in Aboriginal communities to the introduction of conscription in 1917.

Facing labour shortages, employers were quick to hire Aboriginal people, so men who were too young or too old to enlist found employment in this expanding labour market. For example, in 1914 200 First Nations workers, male and female, were employed by the Anglo-British Columbia Packing Company, a fish cannery, accounting for 32% of its total workforce. By 1917, the number of First Nations workers rose to 550, 42% of its workforce.

With The Military Voters Act of 1917 did give one-time franchise to all Aboriginal people serving in the military. First Nations soldiers could vote without fear of losing their Indian status.

Many Aboriginal veterans returned with illnesses, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and influenza, which they had contracted overseas. Because mustard gas weakened the lungs, returning Aboriginal soldiers who had been victims of gas attacks were more susceptible to contracting tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses. Many unknowingly carried the deadly influenza virus back with them to their isolated and susceptible communities where it quickly spread. Sadly, many veterans died shortly after returning from the war as an indirect result of their service. Other Aboriginal veterans returned home injured and /or missing limbs which impacted their ability to provide for their families and communities. Some Aboriginal veterans turned to guiding non-Aboriginal tourists and hunters in order to provide an income for their families. Many Aboriginal veterans, continued to serve after the war, enlisting in local militia units or administering military training to young Aboriginal men and boys.
Like non-Aboriginal veterans, some Aboriginal veterans returned with an alcohol addiction that would cause problems for themselves, their families and their communities. Alcohol was often used by veterans to numb the physical and mental pain of the war experience, but it also contributed to health issues and social problems for all Canadian veterans.

Aboriginal veterans’ contributions in the war did not go unnoticed by government officials or the Canadian public. Through their service together, non-Aboriginal Canadian soldiers came to better understand and appreciate Aboriginal people, seeing them not in stereotypical terms, but as the men they suffered with in the trenches of Europe. Although their fellow veterans saw the Aboriginal veterans as equals, prejudice was still rampant at home.

The equal treatment that Aboriginal veterans experienced disappeared once they returned home to Canada. Veterans’ benefits and support from the Canadian government were put in place but the implementation of the programs on reserves was vastly different than elsewhere in Canada. The Soldier Settlement Acts of 1917 and 1919 were key government initiatives that attempted to look after veterans by providing them access to land and low interest rate loans for farming implements/improvements. The program was administered through the Soldiers Settlement Board, but when more land was needed and when Status Indian veterans expressed an interest in taking advantage of the program to farm on their own reserves, the Department of Indian Affairs became involved in the administration of the Act.

Receiving military decorations and commendations provided many with the confidence to speak for themselves and advocate for expanded rights and fair treatment in society for all members of their communities. Consequently, following the war, Aboriginal people began to organize politically with veterans leading the charge. In 1919, Lieutenant F.O. Loft, a Six Nations veteran who had served with the Canadian Forestry Corps during the war, founded the first national pan-Indian political organization in the country, the League of Indians of Canada. It sought to improve conditions on reserves and believed that a unified stance through a political organization could challenge the Indian Act that governed the lives of First Nations people.

12 Reasons to Learn Coding at School

Should we be talking about coding or programming in schools? 

The idea of teaching coding in school has generated unprecedented interest around the globe, with studies indicating that it is critically important, both educationally and socially, for students to learn how to code or program starting in Kindergarten. According to numerous research projects, the reason behind this is not simply to create a pool of skilled programmers to meet the needs of the job market; in fact, learning to code also enables children to use digital technology to develop their creativity. Furthermore, it helps students in our technology-based society to move from the role of ‘consumer’ to that of a ‘creator.’ In addition, students learn to develop algorithmic thinking which enables them to better understand, interpret, and assess the impact of such thinking on their lives. Some will even go on to take part in developing and guiding the use of algorithms in the world of the future. Coding also trains children to become independent citizens in a world where technology is ubiquitous. Finally, learning to code helps students better understand one aspect of the digital world in which we live and, in some ways, become better prepared for it. In short, this is why coding in school is important. Learning some coding basics at school now appears to be necessary to function in an increasingly digital world. 

The first thing to understand is that, for many years, there was no debate about the meaning of the verb “to program,” which means telling a machine, software program or Web page what to do – a feat that is accomplished invisibly by the mobile phones, computers and social media we use every day. Back then, only programmers knew how to program. However, with the growing popularity of digital technology in society as a whole and in schools, many individuals—some novices and some self-taught – began coding and calling themselves coders.

1. The first distinction to make between coding and programming is that, generally speaking, coders have no formal training in computer science. Coders are usually novices who learned coding on their own, or in elementary or high school. Job postings do not advertise for coders, they advertise for programmers

2. The second distinction that can be drawn between these terms is that coding is more closely associated with games and school (elementary or high school). Coding is fun; one often learns to do it at school or independently; one can code without being a real programmer; and one usually learns to code using applications designed for beginners, like Scratch Jr, Scratch, Swift Playground or Code Studio. 

Coding is thus the term more often used in schools. It appears less formal and more fun than programming, which could be seen as a more advanced, formal stage of this activity. 

Learning how to code: what are the key benefits for students? 

Research shows that teaching computer coding starting in Kindergarten generates many benefits for students. Here are 12 key benefits of learning to code at school: 


Generally speaking, it’s simple for any teacher or educator to reap the benefits of coding thanks to the availability of easy-to-use tools and applications. Here are a few examples of websites and applications for learning or teaching coding at school: 

11 Extraordinary Apps That Will Help You Teach Your Students How To Code is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities.

Kidscodejeunesse is  Canadian, bilingual, not-for-profit organization determined to give every Canadian child access to digital skills education, with a focus on girls and underserved communities.