Posts By: Kelly Many Guns

A True Water Protector

Though Autumn Peltier just turned 13-years-old, this young girl has already made quite the impact with her views on the environment, especially her passion for Canada’s water.

Autumn is from the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario and has been interested in the environment her entire life.

Her advocacy for protecting water began at 8-years-old when she entered a writing contest in her community.

Stephanie Peltier is Autumn’s mother, said Autumn entered and won a Odawa/Ojibwe language native speaking contest.

“She chose to write on ‘water’ and the essay was received well enough for her to win that contest,” said Stephanie Peltier, who works full time with Raising the Spirit Mental Wellness Program. “From there, she won another writing contest, which eventually caught the attention of organizers of the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, where she was invited to attend.”

Peltier says she is very proud of what her daughter is accomplishing and supports her 100 percent.

“She is very deserving of it. This is her passion. She is always writing about water and the environment,” said Peltier. “Like the other day, I asked her, ‘Do you mind me asking what you’re writing about?’ and Autumn said, ‘I just had a thought and an idea, and I want it write it down.’”

As a parent, Peltier says the attention her daughter is receiving is overwhelming, but her priorities are being balanced when it comes to Autumn. Of course Peltier does tell Autumn there are people out there who do not share the same views as hers.

“She does not have access to social media, so she’s not fully aware of the impact she is creating,” said Peltier. “I want to steer her away from some of the negative comments that some people post on social media, and at the same time share with her the positive feedback.”

Autumn was eight years old when she gave her first speech about the universal right to clean drinking water. Since then, she has worked as an advocate for protecting natural water resources.

Her efforts include working toward the treaty signing against the expansion of oil sands to lobbying world leaders for water protection at the Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden.

Autumn is now in the running for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is the only Canadian up for the prestigious award where the top ten finalists will be chosen November 10th. Then, on December 4th, the Peace Prize will be awarded to the winner in Amsterdam,


When I had the opportunity to chat with Autumn I learned she is an intelligent and well-spoken young girl, and asked for her thoughts on being considered for the Peace Prize.

“If I do win the award, I will use that as a platform to further educate people about the current state of water and continue my advocacy on the issues of water and environment protection,” Autumn said. “When I think about how polluted the water is, I think of future generations. Will they even have clean drinking water? Water is alive and has a spirit, and like water is so sacred.”

Autumn also spoke about meeting Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

“I was only supposed to present him with the water bundle as a gift,” said Autumn. “But at that moment when I met him, I took the opportunity to tell him that I was very unhappy about the broken promises he has made towards our people and discouraged about the pipeline and how unsafe they are towards our environment.”

Autumn said that the Prime Minister told her, “I understand that and I will protect the water.”

Autumn said her 8th grade classmates at Waase Abin Pontiac School watch her sometimes on livestream and they support and share her views on protecting the water. Autumn said she is grateful for their support.

Among her many accomplishments, she recently addressed the Assembly of First Nations and told the First Nation leaders her sadness over the state of water, not only in Canada, but around the world.

Autumn is the middle sister of three. Her older sister is named Naomi and is 19. Her younger sister is Ciara, and she is 11.

Autumns’s favourite subjects are literature and mathematics, and she plans to attend law school and study political science.

“My dream one day is to be AFN National Chief and Minister of Environment,” said Autumn.

The Road Forward—A Film Receiving Rave Reviews for Its Honesty and Compelling History

The Road Forward is a powerful musical documentary by creator and filmmaker Marie Clements about the Native Brotherhood of BC and their struggles and tribulations to get their voice heard. The film has received rave reviews after sold-out screenings at Vancouver’s York Theatre.

The Road Forward

The Road Forward


The Native Brotherhood of the BC formed in the 1930s when it was illegal for native people to meet in a gathering or group. The Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood of BC were powerful organizations working towards the same cause. They brought the First Nations together as one.

This Aboriginal Blues and Rock-n-Roll film takes viewers on the journey of the struggles and determination of the characters as they fight for their Native Rights being oppressed by the government. Filmmaker Marie Clements said in the North Shore News she thought it was important to celebrate the investment needed to create change and the ensuing victories because Aboriginal people need to celebrate these as they don’t often read about Indigenous victories and celebrations.

“We don’t often hear about it, and also I think it’s important to look at issues that we’re still dealing with in a truthful way, a contemporary way,” said Marie Clements.

Clements first thought of the idea to create the film when she came across an issue of the The Native Voice – a newspaper that began publishing in the 1940s and became the official voice of the Native Brotherhood of BC. The newspaper served as the platform for the Native Brotherhood to promote their issues and voice their concerns from a native perspective.

The film educates viewers on heroes many are unfamiliar with, and offers a compelling insight and wonderful narration about events that have affected Aboriginal people. These include the Right to hunt, discrimination, the protection of Aboriginal language and culture, residential schools, the Constitution Express, the White Paper, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Behind the scenes – Indian Man
Photo: © Rosamond Norbury


In the scene where Cheri Maracle leaves home to find work, she faces the brutal reality of the 1940s for an Aboriginal woman. She experiences racism, job refusal because of her skin colour and is unable to even check into a hotel until an unexpected stroke of kindness and opportunity. The Road Forward honours those who came before and created positive change while recognizing issues like the Murdered Indigenous Woman that still need to be resolved.

The cast includes actors, singers and narrations by Michelle St John, Russell Wallace, Cheri Maracle, Thomas Berger, Evan Adams, Leonard George, Doreen Manual, and more.

Clements has created a powerful film that must be seen to understand struggles, victories, and legacies Aboriginal people faced in the past and still confront today. Find more information on The Road Forward at

Upcoming Screenings:

  • Saturday, September 30, 5pm. The Civic Theatre 719 Vernon Street Nelson BC
  • Monday, October 16, 5pm. AGH BMO World Film Festival, Hamilton ON
  • Theatrical Release at Winnipeg Cinematheque on Saturday, October 21, 3pm; Friday, October 27, 7pm; Saturday, October 28, 7pm; and Sunday, October 29, 3pm.
  • Sunday, October 22, imagineNATIVE Closing Gala, Toronto ON
  • Tuesday, November 21, Port Hardy Civic Centre, 7440 Columbia Street, Port Hardy BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Gate House Theatre, 11-1705 Campbell Way, Port McNeill, BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON
  • Friday, November 29, Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square Edmonton, AB
  • Friday, January 19, 2018, 7:30pm, Eden Mills & District Community Club, 104 York Street, Eden Mills, ON

First Lady Hoop Dancing Championships

This past August 26th, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships were held and the event was a huge success. The first competition of its kind, ever, included 42 dancers from the United States and Canada. The one-day event consisted of two rounds to determine the ladies hoop dancing champion.

(Right to left) Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation and Sandra Yellow Horn of the Piegan Nation

(Right to left) Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation and Sandra Yellow Horn of the Piegan Nation


Sandra Yellow Horn of the Peigan Nation won first place at the inaugural competition, while Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation took the runner-up trophy. The event was held at “This is The Place Heritage Park” in Salt Lake City, Utah,

I had a chance to ask Violet John, former Miss Indian World 2006, about the competition and her thoughts on hoop dancing. John said she was happy to see this competition take place because it will draw attention to women in hoop dancing.

Violet John prepares her daughter for competition

Violet John prepares her daughter for competition

“It’s very rare to see female hoop dancers and to have this first ladies hoop dancing competition is so good for the women and young girls to get involved in this beautiful dance,” said Violet. “Three of my daughters are hoop dancers and this event will only encourage them and other young girls to start dancing in the future. It was so nice to travel to Salt Lake City and compete here.”

Hoop dancing has a long-standing tradition. This unique dance can involve the use of more than 50 hoops. Hoop dancing communicates individual and tribal stories using hoops to create symbols and depict animals or other life found in nature. The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and change of seasons.

It is not clear which tribe founded traditional hoop dancing because many tribes have a history of the practice in various ceremonies. Traditional hoops were made from wood of a willow tree, whereas modern-day hoops are made from reed and plastic because of the durability of the material when travelling.

The hoops are then decorated with tape and paint to symbolize the changing colours of each season. Traditional hoops are still used on rare occasions. Native hoop dancing is traditionally a male-only dance, but over the past few decades women have picked up the dance. In 1994, Jackie Bird from South Dakota became the first woman to compete in the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.

Future Hoop Dancing Champion

Future Hoop Dancing Champion


Saanii Atsitty, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships organizer says judges are looking at precision, timing, rhythm, craftsmanship, creativity and originality. For the ladies’ competition judges also look at grace and elegance. The two rounds of competition for the ladies consisted of 5 minutes and 7 minutes in the final round dancing to Northern Drum, White Bull, and Southern Drum, Southern Soul Singers.

“I think the first go-round went well and created great interest and excitement,” said Atsitty, organizer of the hoop dancing competition. “We are glad to create a space and platform for these beautiful women and girls to showcase their dancing. We are looking forward to the 2nd Annual next year.”

Maori All Blacks to Invade BC Place Stadium, Play Against Host Team Canada


The Maori All Blacks is one of the most successful sporting team in any sport. The New Zealander rugby team has a winning percentage higher than the likes of Manchester United and Golden State Warriors.

On August 10, Rugby Canada and the New Zealand Rugby Union announced they will host the second ever Senior Men’s Fifteen match at BC Place with Canada taking on the world-famous Maori All Blacks.

Presented by AIG, as both teams prepare for their respective November Internationals in Europe, the All Blacks will play the Canadian men’s rugby team at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on November 3.

In the past four years, ten of the Maori All Black players progressed to play for the New Zealand national team – winners of the last two Rugby World Cups – while 18 have “bounced” between the two teams at various times. Twenty countries compete in the Rugby World Cup tournament, which is one of the world’s biggest sporting event outside of North America.

The All Blacks have been a YouTube sensation with their “Haka” traditional war dance – a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Before every game, the All Blacks perform the traditional Maori war dance the New Zealand natives used before going into battle. The dance is also used as a form of respect when groups come together in peace.

The All Blacks have defeated teams with players from different nations – international opponents – including the British & Irish Lions, a team with players from England and Ireland.

Look forward to our next issue when we speak to representatives of both the All Blacks and the Canadian Men’s Rugby teams.


Aboriginal Centres Help Students Succeed

As the weeks draw closer to the first day of class at universities and colleges across the country, we look at services provided to Aboriginal students. I had the chance to connect with Sarah Noel, the communication officer/recruitment and communications for the University of Sudbury, and she shared information on the assistance provided by their institution.

University of Sudbury-Aboriginal Centre

University of Sudbury-Aboriginal Centre


“The are many services the University of Sudbury provides Aboriginal students offering cultural, academic and individual support. Such services include the department of Indigenous Studies; a lounge for Indigenous students; access to Traditional Resource People; and a student group called Indigenous Student Circle, to name a few,” Noel said.

Noel said as members of the Laurentian Federation, students can access services offered by the Indigenous Student Affairs office as well as the Indigenous Sharing and Learning Center located at Laurentian University. Programs and courses are also offered by the University of Sudbury directly onsite or via video-conferencing in the communities of the James Bay Coast, which include Moose Factory, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan.

“The University of Sudbury is dedicated to making education financially accessible by providing numerous scholarships, bursaries and awards to their students. Among the financial aid available is bursaries, scholarships and awards specifically for Indigenous students,” said Noel.

The unveiling of the University of Sudbury’s arbor, Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg (where Indigenous Knowledge is), will take place on Thursday, September 14, which is soon after classes resume. Noel said Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg will be a place to sit with your ancestors, seek the wisdom of elders, receive teachings and explore your place within creation and share in peace, understanding and thoughtful contemplation. The arbor will be available for class time, workshops, ceremonies, teachings and other gatherings.

I asked Noel if she thought these kind of services for Aboriginal students helped them with their studies in terms of giving a sense of belonging, to inspiring them to achieve their program goals.

“Yes, these kinds of services definitely help in giving Indigenous students a sense of belonging. The University of Sudbury provides a safe, inclusive, supportive and nurturing academic environment that allows students to reach their goals,” said Noel.

Noel added she definitely feels Aboriginal Centres are a welcoming place that provides guidance and supports for student success on both a personal and academic level.

“Providing an atmosphere of identity, a place of belonging and being connected with one another eases the transition between home, community and school, and significantly enhances Indigenous culture and way-of-life,” said Noel.

As a former student of Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, I would most definitely agree with Noel that Aboriginal Centres gives students a sense of belonging and encouragement. When I attended Grant MacEwan from 1999 to 2002, I completed the Native Communications Program, aka, NCP, and the Journalism Diploma Program.

Relying on the Aboriginal Centre as a place to go and study, chat with other students and counsellors and experience positive vibes, and sometimes gain inspiration, I remember on many occasions chatting with then Grant MacEwan University Aboriginal Centre counsellor Jane Woodward, who was a great person to speak with and always had encouraging words, making it easier to finish that next assignment.

I have spoken with many former students and they all agree post-secondary institutions need both Aboriginal Centres and their services. In our next issue we’ll look at new programs that are in development, like Alberta announcing a $665,000 grant to train Indigenous language teachers.

For more information visit

Blackfoot Actor Embracing International Recognition for Role in ‘Wonder Woman’

Cast of Wonder Woman

Eugene Brave Rock is the Blackfoot actor from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta, who is enjoying world-wide recognition for his role as “Chief,” a.k.a. “Napi,” in Wonder Woman, one of the highest grossing films of 2017. I had the chance to talk with Brave Rock and discuss how his latest role has given him international recognition, including a recent “Headdress Honour Ceremony” bestowed upon him by his own First Nation.

First, we have to include some of his film and TV acting accomplishments like The Revenant, Big Thunder TV series, Blackstone, Tin Star, Klondike and Timeless. Originally, Brave Rock began work in the industry as a movie and TV stuntman but has embraced his acting chops and grown into a fine actor.

The role as “Chief” in the DC Universe Wonder Woman came out-of-the-blue when he was on vacation and his agent contacted him to audition for a role at Warner Brothers studios. When Brave Rock asked his agent details on the part he was told the studio would give him the lines for the character when he arrived in Hollywood for his first reading.

This would be his first film audition with a major Hollywood studio and Brave Rock said he was a bit excited. Not knowing for which film he was reading made the experience even more nerve-wracking.

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as The Chief

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as “The Chief”

“I was pretty overwhelmed. I was going to the Warner Brothers studios,” Brave Rock said. “I totally blanked when I read off the script and I thought, ‘Oh well, I screwed that one up.’”

Casting told him he “nailed it” in the audition. Brave Rock said he was surprised they would say that. “Well, I thought, ‘Oh, they were just being nice and that’s probably the last I would hear from them,’” said Brave Rock.

It turned-out Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins liked something in Brave Rock and a second audition was requested and he was offered the role.

“I was completely shocked that I got the role. I then asked what the role was for but they would not initially tell me because it was ‘top secret,’” said Brave Rock.

Eventually he was told he would be “Chief” in the upcoming movie version of Wonder Woman, but that he couldn’t tell anyone he landed the role in the big budget film, not even his wife.

Brave Rock said he enjoyed working with Gal Gadot, the actor who landed the coveted role as the Amazon Princess turned Wonder Woman.

“You know she was amazing, down-to-earth, and it’s so nice to see someone in that position to be just one of the guys and spend time with all the actors; the whole cast had such an awesome time and there was a lot of good vibes on set during filming,” said Brave Rock.

Filming took over seven months in England and other locations in Europe, with four months of straight shooting. Brave Rock says he flew over the Atlantic Ocean ten times to re-shoot scenes but there were no complaints as he enjoyed the process. Plus, he wanted to get his character performance right.

In the film, when Wonder Woman and Chief first meet one another, they talk to each other in the Blackfoot language – Brave Rock’s traditional language and the original language of over 40,000 Blackfoot people from the Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Peigan Nation, and from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. It was the director’s idea to introduce Chief in his Blackfoot language and they both agreed they did not want to stereotype the character even though growing up, when someone called Brave Rock “Chief,” he said “those were fighting words.”

Blackfoot is the only non-English language not subtitled in the film as it is purposely left-out by director Jenkins for dedicated fans to uncover. It didn’t take long. Certain viewers revealed that during their introductions Chief introduced himself as “Napi,” a Blackfoot demi-god.

Napi is the culture hero of the Blackfoot tribe (sometimes referred to as a “transformer” by folklorists). He is a trickster, a troublemaker, and sometimes a foolish person, but he is also responsible for shaping the world the Blackfoot live in and frequently helps the people. Brave Rock revealed on his Twitter that Napi was an actual part of the script.

Is this a big deal? Of course it is. Not only for the character, but also for the overall DC Universe (DCU). It means several things. For starters, it means that Greek Gods are not the only “real” mythological deities in the DCU. Just like in the comics, there are several pantheons out there.

Second, it means that as a demi-god, Chief is ageless, much like Wonder Woman, and could show-up again in a future Wonder Woman film, or maybe another part of the DCU.

In a compelling scene, Wonder Woman asks Chief why he isn’t fighting on either side of the war and Chief replies he doesn’t have anything to fight for. When Wonder Woman asks about that, Chief says that Steve’s people (the white man) took it all from him.

In Hollywood, First Nation people are often portrayed as one of three stereotypes: the savage, Pocahontas, or, the medicine man. However the film industry is beginning to embrace a new kind of First Nation character: authentic, real and still here. Films like Smoke Signals, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Fast Runner are embracing the authentic First Nations people. Chief in Wonder Woman is just the beginning.

When asked for the most challenging part of the role, Brave Rock said the role itself was not challenging because he enjoyed every minute of the production, but then added, “The most challenging part was being away from my family; I missed the birth of my son. The attack in Paris, that was a bit scary and tough.”

Brave Rock has always wished to one day be an actor and starring in this blockbuster is something special to him.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid on the reserve to be an actor. There are so many stories of our culture that we can share,” Brave Rock said. “I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ve lived in Forest Lawn (Calgary neighbourhood), Bannock Street in Lethbridge, and of course Kainai (Blood Tribe).”

Now the question is: Will the franchise decide to bring back the character of Chief in Wonder Woman 2 or any other DCU production? This is a question Brave Rock couldn’t answer since there is so much secrecy involved with a sequel.

As for the future, Brave Rock will be in post-production as a stunt performer in an upcoming film. He is enjoying the amazing response to Wonder Woman and how it has ignited his acting career.

“I will take every opportunity that is there, there are so many stories out there,” said Brave Rock.

Angry Inuk: Looking into Impacts of Seal Hunt Bans

In 1983, after animal activists groups like Green Peace were able to convince the European Union to ban products made from whitecoat harp seal pups, everything changed for the worst for Inuit people in the Canadian arctic. If that wasn’t enough, yet another ban in 2009 by the European Union caused even more hardship for the Inuit people who rely on their seal hunt to sustain their livelihood, their culture and economy.

“Angry Inuk,” a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, enlightens viewers by providing background on the reality behind the anti-seal hunt demonstrations and those using whitecoat harp seal pups as their slogan. By portraying the helpless baby white seal as their poster darling, animal activists have been able to, time and again, convince world governments and the public that hunting seals is “evil and cruel” and unnecessary.

Arnaquq-Baril is narrator for the compelling documentary, which was filmed over a seven-year period beginning in the spring of 2008. The film shows the pristine landscape of the Nunavut Territory in the Canadian Arctic and looks into the Inuit people and their way of life. It explains how the seal hunt is so much a fundamental part of Inuit culture.

In one scene, Aaju Peter, a seal skin designer and a lawyer for Inuit Seal Hunting Rights, is admiring a picture of two children with their faces smeared with seal blood while enjoying eating seal. Peter explains, “To other people, this probably looks scary. But to us, this is cute.”

After the 1983 seal hunt ban was imposed, most Inuit people had no choice but to move away from their traditional grounds and into town because the price of seal skin completely crashed. Most Inuit had to find odd jobs creating carvings and perform whatever other jobs they could find. But the Inuit still had to hunt seal for food.

Arnaquq-Baril said the 1983 ban was their “Great Depression” as it was a life altering event for the Inuit. Within a year of the ban the suicide rate spiked even higher and has risen to rank among the highest globally ever since.

“Suicide was once a rare thing in the Inuit community. As a result of traumas from residential school abuse, forestry relocation, and other destructive government policies, Inuit people began taking their lives at alarming rates,” narrates Arnaquq-Baril in “Angry Inuk.” “In 1983 it was yet another layer of stress on our communities causing widespread hunger and hardships.”

In 2009, the filmmaker followed a group of Inuit representative who traveled to the European Union Parliament to voice their opinion on banning the seal hunt. The viewer will see their efforts were futile and did not change world leaders’ minds on the vote.

“Angry Inuk” is a film worth watching and may even change your thoughts on the Seal Hunt Ban lobbied for by Green Peace – an organization responsible for successfully implanting the erroneous image of the “evil and killing of the baby white seal” in the minds of those not educated to the facts of Inuit life.

UBC Faculty of Medicine Aboriginal Admissions Program Celebrating 15 Successful Years

UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Aboriginal Admissions Program 2017 graduates. Alex Sheppard, back row center, James Andrews, right of center back row. Photo credit: Kevin Ward

The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine Aboriginal Admissions program is on track to graduate over 100 med students by 2020 says, James Andrews, University of British Columbia (UBC), Aboriginal Student Initiatives Coordinator. “This year is our 15 year anniversary for the program, and as of May 2017, with seven new med students graduating, we have reached 71 Aboriginal graduates,” Andrews said.

Interest in the program has grown since it began in 2002, the year they received seven applicants, of which two were admitted. Designed to increase the number of Aboriginal medical students and physicians in British Columbia, the program now averages 20 to 25 applicants per year.

Academic success of Aboriginal students is contingent upon early educational engagement. Programs such as the pre-admissions workshop (conducted by the Division of Aboriginal People’s Health) introduce science and medical career role-models to young Aboriginal students where academic success is fostered by early engagement and recruitment. Aboriginal MD students also serve as mentors to applicants in the pre-admissions stage and forge strong relationships and a system of peer support.

Andrews explained many individuals praise the Aboriginal medical program and hope it continues to thrive. “My response is, we still have decades to go and we need at least 300 Aboriginal physicians in B.C. in order to make an impact on our Aboriginal people’s health; we aren’t even a quarter of the way there yet. In Canada we need 3,000 Aboriginal physicians, but the best guestimate is 300 and our work isn’t close to being done,” said Andrews.

About 60 per cent of the program’s Aboriginal graduates have trained and are training to become family doctors, while the remaining graduates are in surgical specialties and other specialties like psychiatry. Aboriginal med graduates are choosing to practice medicine in the community, such as one graduate who is now a family doctor with a practice in Vancouver’s Lumar Housing complex.

As graduates help meet the need of more family doctors in B.C. and throughout Canada, the program continues to improve its curriculum in Aboriginal health. Alex Sheppard, Cree and Metis from Alberta, and one of the seven graduates this year, said she would definitely recommend the UBC Aboriginal Medical program to Aboriginal students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

“I think they are a leader in Canada for Aboriginal medical education with a separate Aboriginal admissions process and support for Aboriginal students during our four years of training,” Sheppard said. “All of the Aboriginal medical students also had the opportunity to take part in an Aboriginal orientation week before first year started, where we all got to know each other and take part in a number of cultural activities. We also had yearly Aboriginal retreats that allowed us to stay connected to one another and to our heritage.”

Sheppard plans to move to Newfoundland for two years for a residency in family medicine. She is in a program called NunaFam, which involves spending six months of second year training in Iqaluit. “I’m really looking forward to being immersed in rural generalist medicine and to further cultivate my interest in Aboriginal Health,” said Sheppard.

Sheppard said there are a number of health disparities facing Aboriginal communities across Canada today and she thinks, in general, there is a lot of room for improvement in how they deliver healthcare to the unique Aboriginal populations. “As a general practitioner, I hope to be able to work in these communities and have some opportunity to make changes on a systemic level,” said Sheppard.

During her time in medicine, Sheppard said she has been lucky enough to meet amazing Aboriginal residents and doctors who’ve taught her a great deal and inspire her every day. “I know what I have learned from them will inform my practice for many years to come,” said Sheppard.

I asked the UBC Aboriginal Student Initiatives Coordinator what students interested in gaining admittance into the Aboriginal Medical Program need to do to qualify. “Because the Undergraduate MD program is a professional degree, we require students to excel in their academic and non-academic endeavors,” Andrews said. “Academically, they should have strong marks, grades, and a relatively good MCAT score (Medical College Admissions Test). Non-academically, students should have demonstrated they can work with people through their volunteer and or work experiences.”

Siksika Nation Teen Impresses Top Alberta Hockey Coach

Mandi Running Rabbit (mom), Anson McMaster, and Trevor Running Rabbit (dad)


Anson McMaster from the Siksika Nation recently helped Team South win the Alberta Cup Bantam Hockey Championships in a tournament held for the Top 160 bantam hockey players in that province.
“The Alberta Cup Championships takes place a week before the hockey drafts and is a higher level than the Bantam AAA which involves the top 160 hockey players in Alberta,” said Jamie Steer, head coach for Team South.
“They are split into eight teams and this year Alberta South won the championship!”
Steer named McMaster the team’s assistant captain for the hockey tournament at the first try-outs. “It was fairly easy because Anson is one of the best. He skates really well both forward and backwards, and he works really hard,” Steer said. “He’s a quiet leader, a front-of-the-line player. One thing I noticed as the tournament progressed is he got better. I always tell my players if a team gets better every game, they’ll win the tournament.”
At the team’s awards banquet, the 14 year old, 6 feet 4 inch tall, 175 pound McMaster won Defensemen of the Year, Top Scorer, and Most Valuable Player, plus the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League chose him as Top Defensemen of the Year for the South Division.
I asked McMaster what he thought about winning the Alberta Cup with Team South, and his recent awards and recognition while playing for the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
“It was a pretty good experience playing with the best hockey players in the province, and winning wasn’t bad as well,” said McMaster.
During the Alberta Cup, McMaster was chosen Game Star for one of the games as Team South went on to defeat Team Northwest 5-1 in the championship game.
Among his most recent achievements, McMaster was just drafted 23rd overall in the WHL bantam draft by Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. His parents, Mandi and Trevor Running Rabbit, are very proud of their son and instill education as a top priority.
“We are so proud and happy for our boy. He’s worked so hard through training five times a week and also keeping up his school average to 85%,” Mandi said. “We as parents have always told our kids that if they keep up with their education they can do anything they want, and for Anson that is to make it as far as he can in hockey, plus getting his schooling done along the way.”
McMaster appears to be listening to his parents as he told First Nations Drum he’s just finishing Grade 9 at the Crowther Memorial Junior High School in Strathmore, Alberta.
“Math is my favourite subject with an 85 percent average. I would like one day, maybe after hockey, possibly being a scientist.”
His favourite NHL player is Shea Webber, and if he had a choice to play for an NHL team it would definitely be his favourite team to cheer for, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
McMaster is on his way toward a bright future, and coach Steer thinks the same.
“So far he`s heading in the right direction. He’s 6 – 4, he needs to gain more body weight, needs to get stronger, and with his growth spurt he’ll continue working hard on his hockey skills. Anything is possible with this kid,” said coach Steer.

JunoFest Indigenous Showcase Features Buffy Sainte-Marie and All Juno Aboriginal Nominees

When the 2016 Juno Awards came to Treaty-Seven Blackfoot Territory, Tsuu T’ina Nation welcomed all of the inspiring artists to the area with an honouring ceremony during a special JunoFest Indigenous Showcase a few nights before the awards. The legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie stood amongst other Juno-nominated Indigenous artists including Black Bear, Armond Duck Chief, Don Amero, Cris Derksen, and Derek Miller. All of the nominees were invited to perform for their brothers and sisters at the Grey Eagle Events Centre, and it was here that they shared their unyielding passion for their craft and culture.

The night started off with the resonating cultural sounds of Black Bear, an Atikamekw drum group from the community of Manawan, Quebec. Their Juno nominated album Come And Get Your Love: The Tribe Session Powwow indulges in the tribal spirit of their ancestry. The group sang in their native tongue over traditional Atikamekw drumming, bringing the audience into the atmosphere of a powwow.

2016 Juno Aboriginal Album of the Year nominee Armond Duck Chief

2016 Juno Aboriginal Album of the Year nominee Armond Duck Chief

The next act was Armond Duck Chief, a country singer from the Treaty-Seven community of Siksika Nation. “It’s awesome that the Juno’s this year is where I grew up” he told First Nations Drum. “I’m on cloud nine right now, and to just have my name amongst the other Juno nominees—that in and of itself is rewarding. They’re all top notch and have been grinding it out for so long.” Duck Chief performed an acoustic set for the audience, featuring three songs from his Juno nominated album The One. He swept in two awards at the last Indigenous Music Awards for the same album, but had no luck at this years Juno’s. With the expected release of another album in early 2017, it is hoped that Duck Chief will have a chance to rope in an award next year.

Don Amero followed Duck Chief, bringing to the audience his own style of strumming strings to heartfelt ballads. During his uplifting performance, Amero shared music from his Juno nominated album Refine. His album’s theme centres on the removal of toxic impurities in order to create a better sense of self. He spoke to First Nations Drum about how Canada’s community can remove it’s own impurities to create a better tomorrow. “Above all, it is important to have honest relationships with each other,” he says. “Being able to progress is about developing a community and trying to get people to realize that it’s not about government programming. It’s not about saying ‘Hey, here’s some money to help you with your situation.’ It’s about saying ‘I want to walk with you. I want to become a brother. I want to become a cousin. I want to become a friend.’ I think that this is not happening enough, and I think a lot of people in the non-Indigenous community are saying ‘Alright, well we need to fix this problem; I hope the government gets on that.” My mission is to change people’s mind and say ‘It’s not up to the government—It’s up to you.” Although Amero did not win a Juno this year, his vision and voice are vital to have in music.

Next up was half-Cree Albertan musician Cris Derksen, a cellist who captivated the audience with her multi-dimensional performance. She started off with a live improvisation that embraced the acoustics of her cello, creating heavy bevies of beautiful sound by weaving her bow masterfully along its strings. Within her Juno nominated album Orchestral Powwow, Derksen braids traditional powwow singing and drumming together with new-age electronic manipulation, creating unique textures that overlap and culminate in genre-defying arrangements. As for the rest of her performance at the showcase, she decided to share songs that she will be putting onto her upcoming album, including a piece that was written in respect for the missing Indigenous women across Canada. Unlike the other Aboriginal Juno nominees, Derksen was nominated in the category of Instrumental Album of the Year. While she didn’t win the award, she hopes her next album will be nominated for another Juno in 2017.

2016 Juno Aboriginal Album of the Year nominee Derek Miller.

2016 Juno Aboriginal Album of the Year nominee Derek Miller.

Blues guitarist Derek Miller of Six Nations in Ontario hit the stage next, belting out songs from his Juno nominated album Rumble. Receiving a Juno in 2003 and 2008, Miller was well-seasoned in his performance at the showcase. With a band accompany him, he rumbled the auditorium with heavy guitar riffs and rocking blues songs. He even did a cover of “Come And Get Your Love” by Redbone, adding his own flare of grittiness and snarling vocals.

Above all, though, Buffy Sainte-Marie was the standout performing artist of the evening. Accompanied by her band, she sang multiple songs from her Juno nominated album Power In The Blood, as well as many others from her past records including “Darling Don’t Cry,” “Universal Soldier,” and “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.” On Juno award night, Sainte-Marie received not only Aboriginal Album of the Year, but was also recognized for her work’s thought-provoking lyricism and received the award for Songwriter of the Year. During her acceptance of the awards, Sainte-Marie shared a spoken word segment of her lyrics from the closing track on her album Carry It On, which she also shared at the JunoFest showcase.

“Hold your head up,” she said. “Lift the top of your mind, put your eyes on the Earth. Lift your heart to your own home planet–what do you see? What is your attitude? Are you here to improve or damn it? Look right now and you will see, we’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is, so take heart and take care of your link with life. It ain’t money that makes the world go around, that’s only temporary confusion. It ain’t governments that make people strong, it’s the opposite illusion. Look right now and you will see, they’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is, so take heart and take care of your link with life… Life is beautiful if you got the sense to take care of your source of perfection. Mother Nature, she’s the daughter of God and the source of all protection. Look right now, and you will see she’s only here by the skin of her teeth as it is, so take heart and take care of your link with life.”

All of these artists exhibit the strength of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, especially through a shared connection to culture, tradition, Mother Earth, and community. Check out these Juno nominated albums to see how our indigenous culture is being represented in the innovative music of today.

2016 Juno Award winner Buffy Sainte-Marie takes home Contemporary Roots Album of the Year and Aboriginal Album of the Year for _Power In the Blood_.

2016 Juno Award winner Buffy Sainte-Marie takes home Contemporary Roots Album of the Year and Aboriginal Album of the Year for Power In the Blood.