Posts By: First Nations Drum

Passing On Indigenous Knowledge With The Drum

by Xavier Kataquapit

photo by Xavier Kataquapit The Traditional Drum is featured at many Indigenous events and Pow Wows across Canada. These traditional teachings surrounding the drum are being passed onto Indigenous youth. Here we see the Wabun Youth Gathering in northeastern Ontario that brings together Indigenous youth to learn about traditional teachings such as the drum.

When you take part in a traditional Pow Wow, the first thing you notice is the rhythmic beat of the drum.   It is difficult to miss the deep resounding pulse of the drumbeat.  When it is played, it fills the air with an energy that attracts people to move closer to the sound.  It quiets the noise of everyday life and takes over the environment and demands that everyone listen.  When a traditional group of performers are playing this ancient instrument, the beat is almost hypnotic.  It clears your mind instantly of any thoughts, worries and anxieties.  

    Traditional people describe the drum as representing Mother Earth and it is her heartbeat that is heard when the drum is played.  The traditional drum is also symbolic as the mother, as when we are infants inside a womb, the heartbeat of the mother is the first sound we hear.  The drum is a sacred object that is represented and respected as if it were alive.  It is described as having its own unique voice or sound and it is believed to have its own spirit.  As part of this belief, there are many types of ceremonies performed by different Native groups to ‘awaken’ the drum before it is played.  When the drum is used there are ceremonies and prayers that are given by the drum-keeper and the drummers before an event.  When the drum is not in use it is stored in a respectful manner and it is not treated as an object of admiration or status but rather as a symbol of spirituality.  

    The shape of the drum is also thought to hold great symbolism to traditional people.  The circle is believed to represent a great deal of spirituality as it is seen as a perfect shape.  The circle is represented through numerous traditional teachings such as the circle of life, the cycle of the seasons and the shape of heavenly objects such as the sun and moon.  

    The drum in human history is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments that has ever been created by man.  This instrument is common in many traditional cultures and it is often one that is rooted in deep history when societies were once closely connected to the land and the elements.  

    In many early cultures the drum was used as a tool of war.  The drum was used a means to drive fear into the enemy and to excite and give energy to a marching army.  It was also thought to be a way of spreading communications in the midst of a noisy battle.  A drum could be heard by everyone and it was used to direct forces to move forward, retreat or conduct other maneuvers.  Through the culture of war and its use as a military weapon, the drum was turned into an instrument of competition and so it developed into newer forms where it could be represented in many different ways.  The English, Scottish, Irish and other European countries developed many types of organized music based on the sound of the marching drum.  

    In other cultures all over the world, the rhythmic sound of the drum or the beating of a percussion instrument is the basis for just about every type of music.  Whenever someone is singing or a group of people are playing several instruments, they are following a single beat in the background that is guiding their playing.  The beat may change or vary but is always there to lead the other instruments.  

    In recent years, the basic drumbeat seems to finding its way back to people from all sorts of backgrounds.  In cities and towns all over, I see groups of people coming together to hold communal drumming sessions in parks or public places.  These sessions are great stress relievers and events that allow people to come together to perform a simple task that is self-satisfying and easy to do.  Physically, the energy that is felt when drumming actually activates natural biochemicals that provide many positive effects to the body and mind of a person.  

    There is nothing like the feeling you get when you are standing near a drum played by a group of traditional First Nation drummers.  When an experienced group is playing, they can move and direct your feelings in so many ways.  At first, it captivates you, then it may surprise you or bring a simple calm to your soul but all the while it leaves you mesmerized and relaxed as the rest of the world diminishes.  

    Sometimes as I fall to sleep, I can hear the pulse of my heart in the silent dark.  It reminds me of the drum and it makes me realize how such an instrument has become so powerful in our lives.  What better way to represent music than by imitating the sound of our own hearts.  It is a sound and an idea we can all relate to.  It is a beat we can all dance to.  In that way it brings us all together.

FCC ready to work with customers impacted by avian flu

Regina, Saskatchewan, May 13, 2022 – Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is prepared to work with customers concerned about financial hardship due to the impact of avian influenza, a devastating disease for poultry operations.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and talking with our customers to let them know we are prepared to help them overcome any short-term financial issues that might arise as a result of this highly contagious and deadly bird flu,” said Michael Hoffort, FCC president and CEO. “That’s why we’re offering flexibility for customers experiencing financial pressure as a result of avian flu.”

To date, the virus (H5N1) has been detected in several poultry farms across Canada. This affects live birds, bird products and by-products impacting chicken, turkey, ducks and egg sectors, as well as poultry input suppliers and processors. FCC is prepared to help customer poultry operations directly affected by the disease or by bans placed on farms in the proximity of infected farms, which could potentially lead to cash flow problems.

FCC will consider additional short-term credit options, deferral of principal payments and/or other loan payment schedule amendments to reduce the financial pressures on producers impacted by avian flu. FCC will also offer flexibility and even a combination of options based on the individual needs of its customers, since each farm financial situation is unique.

“We are ready to help our customers through these circumstances that are beyond their control,” Hoffort said. “By working together, we can all play a part in helping poultry producers overcome this challenge. It’s the right thing to do.”

Customers impacted by avian flu are encouraged to contact their FCC relationship manager or the FCC Customer Service Centre at 1-888-332-3301 as soon as possible to discuss their individual situation and options.

FCC is Canada’s leading agriculture and food lender, with a healthy loan portfolio of more than $44 billion. Our employees are dedicated to the future of Canadian agriculture and food. We provide flexible, competitively priced financing, AgExpert management software, information and knowledge specifically designed for the agriculture and food industry. As a self-sustaining Crown corporation, we provide an appropriate return to our shareholder, and reinvest our profits back into the industry and communities we serve. For more information, visit

VFS Partners with Blackbird Interactive, East Side Games, and Timbre Games for $200,000 Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games Fund

The four scholarship winners will receive full tuition to study at VFS and will also receive mentorship & a paid internship from Blackbird Interactive, East Side Games, or Timbre Games

(Vancouver, BC) May 9, 2022 – Vancouver Film School (VFS), in partnership with Blackbird Interactive, East Side Games, and Timbre Games Studio is pleased to present the 2022 Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games, including mentorship and a paid internship.

The scholarship fund, valued at over US$200,000, is open to applicants 18 years of age and older who identify as First Nations (status or non-status), Inuit, or Métis, and who are looking to enter the game industry as developers. The deadline to apply is June 8, and winners will be announced on National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21.

The Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games is a collaborative initiative between VFS and Vancouver-based game studios Blackbird Interactive (Homeworld 3, Hardspace: Shipbreaker), East Side Games (The Office: Somehow We Manage, RuPaul’s Drag Race Superstar, Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money), and Timbre Games Studio (part of The Sumo Group).

Three full-tuition scholarships for VFS’s Game Design program and one full-tuition scholarship for the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program will be awarded and may be applied to either the October 24, 2022, or January 3, 2023 intakes. Winners will be selected directly by top-tier AAA studios Blackbird Interactive, East Side Games, and Timbre Games, the latter of which will also select the winner who will enrol in the 3D Animation & Visual Effects program.

Additionally, all winners will receive private mentorship by design professionals from Blackbird Interactive, East Side Games or Timbre Games, as well as by their instructors at VFS. Upon graduation, these winners will also receive a paid four to six-month work contract at their respective studio.

Finally, each of the winners will be provided with a laptop for use during the program and to keep. The winner chosen by Blackbird Interactive will also receive a $5,000 housing stipend while studying at VFS.

“Blackbird Interactive (BBI) is honoured to be collaborating with local gaming studios and VFS on the Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games,” Says Rob Cunningham, CEO & Co-Founder at Blackbird Interactive. “We are working to create impactful opportunities that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students can explore, fulfilling their creative technology aspirations in meaningful ways. An education from VFS helps open the door to careers in film, games, 3D animation, and VR/AR design, among other fields. We believe that actions speak louder than words and that young people are the future. There is a lot more that needs to be done, but this is a small and important step for just one of our many local industries.”

“Communities thrive on diversity. Whether we’re talking about games, entertainment, or film, we need to ensure we’re including voices and perspectives representative of the community around us. The Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games through Vancouver Film School can do just that,” says Josh Nilson, Co-Founder, Studio Head and General Manager of East Side Games. “As a member of the Métis community, it is an honour to be able to support a program taking a step in the right direction towards a more inclusive creative landscape. While there’s much work to be done, this is a good start.”

“At Timbre Games, our mission is driven by the idea that ‘culture drives creative’. The opportunity to support and collaborate with VFS, Blackbird Interactive and East Side Games on the Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games is a small first step to removing systemic barriers in entering the game industry for the Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people,” says Joe Nickolls, President and Co-Founder of Timbre Games. “All of us at Timbre are thrilled to be a small part of creating space in the games industry for these communities. I believe these students will play a significant role in the world of interactive entertainment in the years to come and we are grateful to have the opportunity to support their careers along the way. There is more hard work to be done in this space and Timbre is committed to listening and learning as we embark on our own journey.”

“It is a pleasure for VFS to be joining forces with three outstanding Vancouver studios to offer the 2022 Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games. This scholarship aims to foster more diversity and more inclusion in the game industry with the aim to have more Indigenous developers actively designing the next generation of games,” says Christopher Mitchell, Head of Game Design and Programming for Games, Web & Mobile at VFS. “At VFS, we are proud of the many Indigenous graduates from our programs who now have successful careers both in Vancouver and globally, and this scholarship is Vancouver Film School’s privilege and opportunity to play a role in emerging Indigenous developers building their creative careers.”

Vancouver Film School is committed to fostering and growing Indigenous representation in the video game industry. Indigenous artists, performers, and storytellers are a foundational thread in the fabric of the Canadian narrative, continuing to grow stronger as key voices within our country’s multidimensional creative landscape.

For more information about the 2022 Indigenous Scholarship in Video Games, or to apply, visit To stay in the loop on all things Vancouver Film school, follow along on social media at @vancouverfilmschool/@vfs or visit their website at

Departments of the Interior and Justice Take Important Step in Addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Crisis

Not Invisible Act Commission set to begin active advisory role in combatting violence against Native people

WASHINGTON — Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will recognize National Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day with a virtual event to highlight the Not Invisible Act Commission. During the event, panelists will discuss the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis and the importance of the Not Invisible Act Commission in the collaborative efforts to address the crisis.

The event will be livestreamed at 2:30 PM ET today on the Interior Department’s website.  

The Departments of the Interior and Justice are working to implement the Not Invisible Act, sponsored by Secretary Haaland during her time in Congress. The law established the Not Invisible Act Commission, a cross jurisdictional advisory committee composed of law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and most importantly — survivors. Today, the Departments announced the Not Invisible Act Commission members.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, but a lack of urgency, transparency and coordination have hampered our country’s efforts to combat violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “As we work with the Department of Justice to prioritize the national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, the Not Invisible Act Commission will help address its underlying roots by ensuring the voices of those impacted by violence against Native people are included in our quest to implement solutions.” 

“The Justice Department is committed to addressing the crisis of missing or murdered Indigenous persons with the urgency it demands,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That commitment is reflected in the strength of our partnerships across the federal government, including with the Department of the Interior as we take the next steps in launching the Not Invisible Act Commission. The Commissioners announced today will play a critical role in our efforts to better meet the public safety needs of Native communities. The Justice Department will continue to work alongside our Tribal partners with respect, sincerity, and a shared interest in the wellbeing of Tribal communities.”

The Not Invisible Act Commission will make recommendations to the Departments of the Interior and Justice to improve intergovernmental coordination and establish best practices for state, Tribal, and federal law enforcement, to bolster resources for survivors and victim’s families, and to combat the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people. 

Among its mission, the Commission will:

  • Identify, report and respond to instances of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples (MMIP) cases and human trafficking,
  • Develop legislative and administrative changes necessary to use federal programs, properties, and resources to combat the crisis,
  • Track and report data on MMIP and human trafficking cases,
  • Consider issues related to the hiring and retention of law enforcement offices,
  • Coordinate Tribal-state-federal resources to combat MMIP and human trafficking offices on Indian lands, and
  • Increase information sharing with Tribal governments on violent crimes investigations and other prosecutions on Indian lands.

The Commission has the authority to hold hearings, gather testimony, and receive additional evidence and feedback from its members to develop recommendations to the Secretary and Attorney General.

Indigenous Fashion Arts Announces Runway Lineup for Biennial IFA Festival

Third Edition returns June 9-12, 2022  with Runway Presentations from Indi City, Amy Malbeuf, Lesley Hampton, EMME Studio, D’arcy Moses, Maru Creations, Section 35, Arctic Luxe, Evan Ducharme

Indigenous Fashion Arts (formerly Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto) is pleased to announce this year’s runway programming under its new name, with its website launch today at The biennial Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival will take place June 9-12, 2022, at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

The Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival offers ticketed and free programming, including four theatrically-produced runway shows with 25 designers, a marketplace with over 60 exhibitors, plus academic-focused panels and hands-on workshops open to the public. The IFA Festival will also present free Digital & On-Demand content during the festival dates and throughout the year, including live-streamed runways and panels, available at

We are thrilled to be back in-person and welcoming audiences to the third biennial IFA Festival!” says Executive & Artistic Director Sage Paul. “Our curated programming represents diverse Indigenous expression in fashion from across Canada and internationally. This year’s theme, Walking With Light recognizes the relational undercurrents of the visionaries, stewards, knowledge keepers and connectors we value in our community. The theme materialized from the runway designers’ collections and artist statements and is further developed by storytelling of sky world with Grandmother Pauline & Luanna Shirt with their friend Joseph Sutherland and his mother, Mary Moose. We look truly forward to walking this fashion journey with you.

The Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival Runways will include four shows with 25 designers, curated by Wanda Nanibush (Anishinaabe and Indigenous Art Curator, Art Gallery of Ontario), Melanie Egan (Director, Craft & Design, Harbourfront Centre) and Sage Paul (Denesuline and Executive & Artistic Director, IFA).  

Opening the Festival is Eternal Imaginaries on June 9. The showbrings together a diverse group of artists and designers who assert visionary, queer Indigenous world views through fine craftsmanship, clever patternmaking and bold materials. Eternal Imaginaries features Amy MalbeufEvan Ducharme, Robyn McLeod, Michel Dumont, Indi City, and Curtis Oland

Sovereign Matriarchson June 10 features a multigenerational group of designers and celebrates the legacy and stewardship of our matriarchs’ labour and teachings through tradition, material and motif. Featuring qaulluq, Niio Perkins Designs, Swirling Wind Designs, Celeste Pedri-Spade, Lesley Hampton, and EMME Studio (USA).

Time Weavers on June 11 brings together an exquisitely skilled Canadian and international group of artists and designers who harness and sustain generations of knowledge. The practices in trapping and fur design, weaving and material culture methods in this show feature Janelle Wawia, Livia Manywounds, Maru Creations (New Zealand), MAWO (Argentina), Ix Balam, Kadusné (USA), and D’arcy Moses.

The closing night show, A Letter From Home on June 12, is an enveloping memory of “home.” This show celebrates family and place, featuring a broad group of designers who create ready-to-wear fashion and jewellery.  Their collections connect wearers to the land and their relatives through modern utilitarian Indigenous design, featuring Margaret Jacobs (USA), Anne Mulaire, BIBI CHEMNITZ (Greenland), M.O.B.I.L.I.Z.E, Arctic Luxe (USA), and Section 35.

In addition, an IFA Video Collection accompanies the runway shows. Exclusively online, this program features short videos shot and directed by each runway designer using the new Apple iPhone 13 Pro. IFA will broadcast each video online before each designer’s show, viewable through IFA social media and website. The videos are edited and produced by the IFA team, under the consultation of director Shane Belcourt (Métis), with a music score by composer and musician Cris Derksen (Cree).

Indigenous Fashion Arts sustains Indigenous practices in fashion, craft and textiles through designer-focused initiatives, public engagement and sector innovation. Their primary activity is the biennial Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival. IFA’s programming and initiatives illuminate and celebrate Indigenous people and cultures. 

With a commitment to Indigenous women, non-binary and trans people in leadership, IFA strives to nurture the deep connections between mainstream fashion, Indigenous art and traditional practice with amplified visibility.

Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival
June 9-12, 2022
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay West in Toronto, Ontario

Tickets On Sale Now

Oẏateki Partnership brings together three leading institutions to transform education and employment systems for Indigenous Youth

SASKATOON, SK, April 29, 2022 – The Oẏateki Partnership is a unique and unprecedented collaboration among three leading post-secondary education institutions in Saskatchewan designed to transform education and employment systems to support success for Indigenous youth. 

Join founding partners the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), and the University of Saskatchewan (USask), and Indigenous youth and community members, to celebrate the launch of this bold initiative on May 3, 2022. 

Date: May 3, 2022
Time: Afternoon program 1-4 pm, evening program 5-8 pm
Location: Wanuskewin, RR #4, Penner Road, Saskatoon, SK
Itinerary: Engaging, entertaining and educational events and presentations will be ongoing throughout the afternoon and evening, with representatives of all institutions onsite. 

Committed to supporting 32,000 First Nations and Métis youth on their path to post- secondary education and on to meaningful livelihoods, the Oẏateki Partnership seeks to create more dynamic, integrated, ‘wholistic’, and responsive education and employment systems that meet the needs of Indigenous youth and involve them directly in decision-making.  

In partnership with the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV program, which aims to support Indigenous youth in their pathways through education and on to meaningful work, Oẏateki is enabling Indigenous young people in Saskatchewan to lead in their communities and to contribute to self-determination. This work is part of the Foundation’s commitment to building a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper, with sustained efforts to enable young people in Africa and young Indigenous people in Canada to access quality education and meaningful livelihoods aligned with their values and aspirations. 

The concept of Oẏateki as a symbol of this collaboration was gifted to the partnership by Kunsi Connie Wajunta of Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. Oẏateki is a Dakota word meaning: all people together and leaving no people behind. 

Pauktuutit issues statements on aspects of the federal budget

The following statements were issued by Gerri Sharpe, President of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, after the Government of Canada tabled its 2022-23 budget yesterday.

“Inuit women face stark social and economic inequities compared to other women in Canada. For example, the rate of violence experienced by Inuit women is 14 times the national average. Most Inuit women do not have access to culturally informed mental health or midwifery services in their communities.

“Pauktuutit is pleased to see the federal budget recognizes these unacceptable realities by investing in co-development of health strategies with Inuit that are culturally appropriate. We are also encouraged to see new funding for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.”

General Comments:

“Budget 2022-23 must be backed by timely action to improve the safety and well-being of Inuit women. Pauktuutit is ready to do the hard work to achieve concrete progress on new Inuit specific shelters and transition housing, on increasing access to Inuit midwifery services across Inuit Nunangat, as well as on empowering the voices and leadership of Inuit women and gender-diverse people at the community, regional and national levels to help end gender-based violence.”

Shelters and Transition Housing & Progress on MMIWG:
“More than 70 per cent of women and children fleeing domestic violence across Inuit Nunangat do not have access to emergency shelters in their communities. Increased investments in infrastructure for Inuit communities must include new funding for shelters and transition housing. With a recent federal commitment for five new Inuit-specific shelters in 2021, we are seeing some concrete progress, but there is still a long way to go.”

“While this year’s budget did not specifically reference measures addressing the Calls for Justice in the final report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Pauktuutit is focused on working with Inuit partners to implement the Inuit Action Plan, based on the federal government commitment of $2.2 billion over five years in last year’s budget, to end this tragedy, including for Inuit. However, there needs to be more concrete
action to achieve progress on the goal shared by the federal government and Pauktuutit to address the 46 Inuit-specific Calls for Justice in the National Inquiry’s Final Report.”

Community Mental Health Services:

“Pauktuutit is pleased to see proposed investments of $227.6 million over two years for a distinctions-based approach to mental health ‘that is developed and delivered by Indigenous peoples.’ For Inuit women and gender-diverse people, there is an urgent need for healing and counselling services that are culturally informed by our values, traditions, and language, and delivered in our communities by Inuit such as our Elders. Moving ahead, we will continue our focus on supporting immediate progress in this area.”

Access to Inuit Midwifery Services:

“Increasing Inuit midwifery education and services as Pauktuutit has recommended is a crucial way to reduce anti-Indigenous racism encountered by Inuit women forced to leave their communities to give birth in central Inuit Nunangat communities or the south. We will continue our work in this area to advance co-development of new distinctions-based Indigenous health legislation and to improve access to high-quality, culturally informed midwifery services for expectant mothers and their newborn babies.”

Empowering Inuit Women’s Leadership:

“Pauktuutit will continue to work to ensure that both a GBA+ (gender-based analysis plus) lens and evaluation metrics are applied to all areas of implementation of the federal government’s UNDRIP legislation, including justice and policing reforms, food sovereignty initiatives, and the impacts of climate change.”

Vancouver Canucks celebrate First Nations Night

By Kelly Many Guns

This week the Vancouver Canucks celebrated the 4th Annual First Nations Night at the Rogers Arena when the Canucks hosted the St,Louis Blues. Although it was a close 4-3 loss to the Blues the night was a special evening highlighting the Orange Shirt Society and remembering the survivors of the residential school survivors and those who did not survive. 

The evening also honored Indigenous business and services in Vancouver and recognized the traditional territories of three Local First Nations: the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. 

Performer included headliners The Halluci Nation (previously known as A Tribe Called Red), Michelle Heyoka, Coastal Wolf Pack, DJ Kookum, Faith Sparrow-Crawford (Musqueam) and Teshawna Sihata (Spuzzum)

Look for complete coverage in the upcoming April 2022 issue of First Nations Drum

Indigenous Student Awards for Post-Secondary Education

“Listening to learn, rather than to respond is one of the greatest lessons I learned from my grandparents”, says Indigenous Student Award recipient Jamie Coukell who is European from her father’s side and First Nations from her mother’s side. Raised in Nanoose Bay, she had the privilege of being neighbours with her grandparents who integrated Jamie into their culture. Jamie’s grandparents were an important part of her life and as Jamie took care of them this experience motivated her to pursue a career in Health Care. 

Winning this Indigenous Award encourages her to pursue her dreams of continuing a post-secondary education. “It is an honour to be selected for this award, encourages me to continue my journey of learning and also motivates me to give back to my community”, says Jamie. 

Since high school, Jamie has been involved in many extracurricular activities like soccer, and even now at UBC she is part of the intramural soccer team.  Jamie also enjoys music and was a member of a band – she plays the saxophone.  Jamie believes that sports and music can be strong tools in maintaining good health.  She believes in her own life the two activities have offered an “escape from a busy school schedule and allowed me to set aside time to be active and creative” – both effective means of maintaining good overall physical and mental health.Jamie’s ability to sympathize with others is one of her strong skills. She is easy to talk to and that helps people to trust her. Patience is a virtue and Jamie says that she learned to be patient from her grandfather. “I try to make a comfortable environment for everyone”, says Jamie hoping that these skills will help her in her chosen health care profession.

Currently, Jamie is a member of the Black and Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) Committee, where she works alongside other students to create a more inclusive environment for BIPOC students within the Faculty of Kinesiology at UBC. “Taking my culture into my living is important for me. Joining the BIPOC committee has helped me to understand the importance of equity and inclusion.  Jamie is hoping to work in Physiotherapy and rehabilitation helping Indigenous communities as a health care worker that creates an equal and safe environment for everyone.

Xaanja Free is currently taking a Master’s in Library and Information Studies specializing in First Nations Curriculum Concentration at the University of British Columbia’s School of Information.  She recently received a $5,000 Indigenous Award in support of these graduate studies.

Xaanja shared with us that there are only a small number of Indigenous Librarians in Canada, and she is hoping to work for one of the few when she graduates from her master’s program in the Spring 2023.  

She was motivated to choose her course of study  and career when reflecting back on when she was a foster child, for it was in the library that she found refuge and answers to questions that most children ask of their parents. “While in foster care, I did not feel like I belonged anywhere, I did not feel loved or supported to achieve anything.  I had to learn to love myself for what I can achieve, and to appreciate what I can do on my own is my strength and my power. Over time, education became my mother and my father; I realized that research and learning is freedom –so becoming a librarian is where I was  meant to be.”

In her studies at UBC, Xaanja is passionate about supporting the construction of positive Indigenous identity to combat negative stereotypes.  Xaanja created a video that is shared on the UBC library website entitled Rethinking the Canon: A Contemporary Response to the Indian in the Cupboard. “My video discusses how a library can support positive Indigenous identity by seeking out books that include derogatory/negative descriptions of Indigenous peoples and shelving the book with a companion text written by an Indigenous author to provide readers an alternative to consider.  

This book pairing responds to questions and assumptions in the problematic text and serves as an alternative to banning or removing a ‘bad’ book from the stacks.  When Indigenous identity is formed by one who is non-Indigenous, we need to be mindful of what is being portrayed and how that portrayal is affecting how we consider one’s culture and peoples represented.” Xaanja encourages other Indigenous students to apply for scholarships and awards – like the Indigenous Award she received from the Irving K Barber BC Scholarship Society. She noted that the Award easy to apply for and that the renewal process is straightforward.  [Students can receive renewals of their Awards for up to four years.]   She further commented that unlike a debt, awards do not need to be repaid.  She closed by say, “Receiving this award is truly an honour!  My family and I are very grateful” Xaanja is a wife and mother of four children, she is a graduate of the University of Victoria where she previously earned a degree in Art History with a Minor in Education.

Education as a Vehicle for Empowerment and Sovereignty

A member of the Bigstone Cree Nation, Janine Nanimahoo was born and raised in Wabasca. An alumni of the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP), Janine was impressed by the Northern Lakes College commitment to accommodating parents. As a woman raised with her culture’s traditional dedication to family, Janine appreciated NLC’s parent-positive atmosphere.

“We had a newborn in our class,” Janine reminisces, “and everybody was fine with that. If I was a new mother and I had hundreds of students in the class with me, no way would I be able to bring my baby,” says Janine, comparing the NLC experience to that at larger universities. It was these nuances that created a welcoming environment.

The main reason Janine chose NLC was its proximity to home; a key, Janine believes, in empowering many Indigenous and rural students. “Being able to study close to home gives students that sense of family and security. We need to be able to travel home from school that same day to care for those who depend on us. Many of our people don’t want to leave the reserve, but education is part of moving a person forward. It helps you further yourself, and then you bring that education back to your people.”

And bring her skills home, Janine did. Upon graduating in 2008, Janine was hired by the Bigstone Education Authority to teach grade five at the local school. After five years in the classroom, Janine and her family moved to Edmonton. In 2016, she graduated with a Master in Education specializing in Indigenous Peoples Education from the University of Alberta. Despite this achievement, Janine knew her educational journey wasn’t over.

“My heart is in protecting our treaties,” Janine explains. “For so long, our people have been told what to do under the Canadian government, but now more and more of us are getting educated. Now it’s like, ‘No, we chose how we live, how our ancestors lived. We have our own laws and, as Cree people, we have our own lives.’ That’s where I want to go. I want to protect our sovereignty.” 

With this spirit of determination, Janine applied for both a doctoral program and law school. She was accepted into both, and ultimately chose the U of A Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge program, with the goal of building a career within the legal system and, eventually, entering into politics. 

A model of inspiration, Janine urges others to continue working towards their full potential. She explains, “Education helps you grow as a person. It instills pride. It instills that ‘Hey, I can do this,’ belief, and NLC supports that attitude. And we can do this! Our people should be running, operating, and doing everything within our Nation. NLC supports us in that effort – or at least it gives people a little push towards a fuller life.”

Janine currently lives in west Edmonton, 15 minutes away from where she teaches elementary school in Enoch Cree Nation. She begins her legal studies in September 2021.

Northern Lakes College continues to offer a variety of partnership degrees, including the Community-Based Bachelor of Education with the Werklund School of Education, UCalgary.