Posts By: Kelly Many Guns

Nicole Robertson Reflects on Her Role in the Media

Donald Trump is known for dishing it out, but not too many people who are willing to challenge him back. Especially to his face. Nicole Robertson (above) heard Trump toss off a racial slur before a press conference in Bismark North Dakota in July of 2016. Trump, then on his presidential campaign referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” to that, Robertson, who was one of the journalist at the press conference, called him out and shouted, “Offensive.” To which Trump replied, “sorry.”

Women across the globe will be honored for their accomplishments and achievements on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2019, with the theme, #balanceforbetter.

One such First Nations woman who’s inspired her generation and future generations is Nicole Robertson. Nicole is a Media Specialist and President of Muskwa Productions & Consulting. Muskwa Productions brings 18 years of experience in the media.

She specializes in media relations, training and video production. Her business services also include educational and commercial videos.

Nicole is the youngest of her two siblings and is from from the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba.

First Nations Drum talked with Nicole and discussed her role in the media.

When did you start Muskwa Productions, and what gave you the idea to start your business?

“Muskwa Productions which is now Muskwa Media turned into an idea when I was working as a journalist in television, radio and print. In those 10 years, what happened is, I realized a lot of our First Nations people were in a place where they did not know the full story and the media was painting a picture that wasn’t basically the truth for First Nations in this country. A lot of the news coverage was based on stereotypes and based on the negativity and not based on the reality. I was trying to change the narrative. Also you have to realize this was pre smart phones, the internet, and social media. I have a passion to educate Canadians and the world about who we are as Indigenous people and essentially improve communications with our neighbours in our own country and abroad.”

What are the main challenges you face with your business?

“I know that people hire me for me, so I am a brand in itself. I realize that trying to take on too much is not a good thing, because I just do not have enough time because I am a single mom. I have a daughter and I need to have a balance. I don’t want to miss important milestones in my child’s life and at the same time I don’t want to miss on major events and news in Indian country that the Indigenous community wants me to help share in the media, so it’s a very delicate balance. Of course my daughter is my main priority, so yeah there is challenges.”

So far in your career, what are some of the achievements that stand out?

“I would say, being recognized by my peers who nominated me for Alberta Chambers of Commerce in 2018 and I won the Indigenous Entrepreneur Woman of Distinction. Also working with the youth, inspiring them and at the same time they inspire me. Having the opportunity and the honour in speaking at different events across the country. Of course another huge inspiration is my own daughter, and being told by her that I am one of her role models.”

How has the business landscape changed since you began your business?

“The Internet, smart phones, and social media. I remember owning the very first blackberry, long story short, I am so glad technology has improved because when you look at the media, a lot of what we do is based on technology. Another change is the willingness of our people to speak out is a big change. Before there was a reluctancy for many First Nations and leadership to open up to the media, now it’s reversed to consistently share our stories, so that is something that has changed massively.”

What are your thoughts on current Liberal MLA, Jody Wilson-Raybould controversy?

“I would say I am on team Jody, she is one of the woman I look up to.  Jody has been, I would say, thrown under the bus by her own party. She is a woman of integrity, I’ve known her when she was the regional chief of British Columbia and she’s paid her dues and has been working in this area for many years. She basis her integrity on her indigenous roots and speaking the truth and I think people will know a lot more about that integrity in the future.”

Your advice for Indigenous women who want to own their own business?

“You must do your research and follow what you’re passionate about, first and foremost. Because if you’re doing what you’re passionate about, then what you’re doing doesn’t really feel like work.  It is something you wake up to every morning and say, “wow, I’m humbled and I enjoy what I’m going to be doing today.” So it is important to know your gifts and how you’re going to share this with the world.”

Nicole added to end our interview that she wanted to mention that on the day of this interview, Thursday, February 21, 2019, that she  shared a picture on social media, about her longtime friend, Jennifer Podemski.

“She has been a friend of mine for the past 25 years and this is the first year that she is not going to be directing the Indspire Awards.  We have come such a long way as Indigenous women in media and television and film, and I realized we are paving the way for the younger generation, and it’s important for me to have that legacy and respect.”

Osoyoos Chief to be Inducted into Business Hall of Fame

Clarence Louie, Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band will be inducted into the 2019 Canadian Business Hall of Fame on June 19, 2019. Mr. David Denison, Chancellor of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame says the 2019 Class of Companion Inductees is a very special group which recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of Canada’s most distinguished business leaders.

“The Canadian Business Hall of Fame is honoured to recognize their enduring contributions to the business community and our country,” said Denison.  “We will have the great privilege of highlighting their excellence in business leadership, outstanding professional achievements and dedication to bettering Canada’s social fabric.”

Clarence Louie, the first Indigenous person inducted into the Business Hall of Fame was born in 1960 and raised on the Osoyoos Indian Band by his mother. Due to high unemployment, many adults on his First Nation community had to work as transient labourers on fruit orchards in nearby Washington State. Louie was forced to be self-sufficient during his childhood years. At age 19, he left BC and enrolled at the First Nations University in Regina. He then completed native studies at the University of Lethbridge. After receiving his degree, he returned to home to Osoyoos.

At 24 years of age, Louie was elected as chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Louie has won every election but one since 1985. The band has 540 members, and controls 32,000 acres of land. He started the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation (OIBDC) in 1988. Through the corporation’s efforts, the previously impoverished band started or acquired nine businesses, including tourism, construction, and recreation companies. The band now employs 700 people including non-First Nations. A high-profile business started by the OIBDC during Louie’s tenure is Nk’Mip Cellars, the first aboriginal-owned winery in North America.

First Nations Drum had the chance to speak with Clarence Louie and discuss his induction into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

When did your interest in business start?

“I guess when I was first elected chief back in December of 1984 because you quickly realize in order to create self sustaining jobs on the reserve you have to be in business affairs, there aren’t enough jobs in the band office for every band member; and the biggest employer should not be the band office. The only way to create jobs is to get involved in economic development and business.”

One of your main goals was to hire band members, was this difficult, and how did you go about getting members trained and qualified for their positions?

“Well any band’s main goal is to employ band members, of course you can’t always do that, because you need experienced people and you need to hire qualified people for those jobs whether that be in finance or any position. I know many First Nations who hire white people or whoever because you need people to keep the ship running. This is why you need to set aside money for training, and the money that comes from Indian Affairs for Education is never enough, so you have to create your own revenue to cover and employment & training. Leasing revenue pays for everything around here at Osoyoos Indian Band. Not all band members want to work for their band, so you have to hire non-band members, and it’s no different here at Osoyoos. Every band has some capacity building to do, so we set aside money to send band members to go get their education and training, whether it’s in Canada or the U.S., so they have an opportunity to manage some of our businesses.”

You are the first Indigenous business person to be inducted into the Canadian business Hall of Fame, what are your thoughts?

“Well again I’m not the original entrepreneur here, as elected chief, I don’t own any of these companies here in Osoyoos. So I find it strange that I’m being singled out, because I didn’t put any of my money in these companies, they’re owned by the band, so it should be the band recognition because this was a team effort, not only one person. I played a role in Osoyoos accomplishments and success, but there’s council, and band members that have to agree in the business ventures and land leases, so it’s a recognition for the Osoyoos Indian Band.”

What are some of the achievements that stand out?

“Well all the jobs we’ve created. We now have more jobs than we do band members. Every First Nation can’t say they’re independent if they can’t create their own money, it’s a simple reality. If your money comes from Indian Affairs, then you’re a dependent First Nation, if the biggest employer on the First Nation is the band office, then that’s wrong. You can’t be independent if you don’t create your own revenue.”

You have been elected chief of the Osoyoos since you were 24 years old, how has the business landscape changed for you, since 1984?

“No, I ran for chief 17 times and  been elected 16 times since 1984. Well of course I’ve learned  a lot, I have a lot more business contacts, experience. We’ve done some stupid things, and we learn from those mistakes. When I was first elected, we only had 2 council members and now we have 5 council members and a Chief, plus our population has grown. We have more mouths to feed, more demands, therefore we have to make more money and create more jobs.”

It seems you started from scratch to your current business and investments (including a vineyard and winery, a four-star resort, and a 9-hole golf course) what were the main challenges you faced?

“Well it always boils down to money and that is the main obstacle.  We need money to seek out good advisors to create proposals and grant money. We also needed to change our mindset that we can’t always depend on Indian Affairs for money and we have to start creating our own economy and become more business minded and we need better finance people, number crunchers, better business minded individuals, and hire business advisors. We need to move forward and get on our economic horse.”

The welfare rate on First Nations in Canada is quite high, what is the rate, if any on Osoyoos Indian Band?

“In every community you have people on welfare, some have good reason, cause of their health, or maybe a disability, single mothers raising children and of course we have our group of ‘lazy ones,’ I think every community has their ‘lazy ones. 80 per cent of my people or more are employed compared to many First Nations that have 50 per cent of their people unemployed. We have a membership of 540, but like every band, not all our members live on our First Nation, we have members scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada, but the majority live on the reserve, and we’ve had members move back to Osoyoos because of the opportunity of jobs. But we have more jobs then we do have band members. Is everybody working, ‘no.’”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders are saying they have authority over the territory and the elected band councils have authority over the band reserve, would you like to comment on this issue?

“We don’t have hereditary chiefs in the Okanagan First Nations, so we don’t have to deal with this issue here, but all people on our reserve still have a say on decisions that are important to Osoyoos. My understanding is the First Nation is owned collectively not individually.

What are your thoughts on current Liberal MLA, Jody Wilson-Raybould controversy?

“I have too many other issues to deal with on my reserve, that’s a national issue, we have a national chief, and of course you have your provincial AFN (Assembly of First Nations) chief, and Union of BC Chiefs, so we elect them them and they get paid to keep their focus and eyes and ears on national issues.”

Tina Keeper Discusses “Through Black Spruce”

Tina Keeper (producer)

Tina Keeper (producer)

 

Through Black Spruce, a project produced by Tina Keeper is a movie that touches on issues that relate to Canada’s Murdered and Indigenous Women. The film has received rave reviews in screenings across Canada and at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

Keeper, a Cree actress, producer, activist, and former member of parliament and is best known for her role as, Michelle Kenidi, the RCMP officer in the CBC 1990’s television series, North of 60. Keeper optioned the book in 2012 and began looking for funding and someone to direct the book into a movie. Keeper was looking for a director that could interpret and bring to the screen Indigenous issues that tell the story of a First Nations family coping with their missing daughter. After looking at many potential directors, Keeper hand-picked Don McKeller, a Canadian director, writer and filmmaker with such credits as The Red Violin, and the critically acclaimed, Last Night.

The story is about Annie (Tanaya Betty) who searches for her sister Suzanne who disappeared while modelling in Toronto. The film also centres around Will (Brandon Oaks) the uncle also dealing with the disappearance.

Keeper says the novel was very personal to her and wanted to work closely with the writer, Joseph Boyden in the creation of the movie.

“The book really spoke to me because it was set in the Treaty 9 territory where my late mother was originally from,” Keeper said. “Plus in the book, the Bird family, who are a intergenerational family of the residential schools.”

Through Black Spruce lead actors, Tanaya Betty (Annie) and Brandon Oaks (Will)

Through Black Spruce lead actors, Tanaya Betty (Annie) and Brandon Oaks (Will)

I asked Keeper about the experience working with the two main characters, Tanaya Betty, who plays Annie and Will played by Brandon Oaks.

“They are genuinely nice kind people, very considerate, measured artists and very thoughtful on how they’re performing,” says Keeper. “Both of them came to the project and made filming a beautiful experience. They each brought their own visions to the characters and they were always prepared. I was really impressed with both of their performances which were just Steller!”

The film also features veteran and respected actors Tantoo Cardinal and Graham Greene. Both actors are best remembered in the 1990 blockbuster, Dances With Wolves, where they played man and wife.

“We were so thrilled to have both of them (Cardinal and Greene), they were a dream to work with, and I’ve worked with them in the past as an actor. They brought incredible life to the characters. Their roles are a reference point of the film and they’re both such master crafters.”

The movie explores how a young Cree woman’s disappearance traumatizes her family in two communities, the remote Northern Ontario community of Moosonee, where she fled from years ago to the city of Toronto where she vanishes.

“One of the elements of the story in the film is about the setting in the town of Moosonee. We were honoured to work with local language dialect coaches, for the northern Cree language and cultural advisors,” Keeper said. “Through the experience of working with the people of Moosonee, we saw the resilience of the people in that community, and that is what this film is about, the resilience of the Bird family.”

Don McKeller, told Breakfast Television in Toronto, that in the book, the character Suzanne, works as a model in New York, Toronto and Montreal, but in the film we scaled it down to Toronto.

“As an outsider I heard stories of the troubles in communities like Attawapiskat, but I never been up there, so when I read the script, I immediately got into theses characters,” McKeller said. “I could feel the family, and the repercussions of what they were going through.”

Keeper says the reaction to the film, in terms of the film festivals, they’ve had near sell-out on all the screenings, and have been getting good feedback.

“What I hope audiences will take away from this film is that they remember the family portrayed in the movie and remember this region which most Canadians don’t ever get to see. I just really hope people take away some knowledge of the culture of the Northern Cree. Also how the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women affects people and families, because they say this is a national tragedy and we try to honour their stories as best we can in this project.”

The film opens on March 22, 2019.

 

Indigenous Soldier Database Lists Over 150,000 Names

Yann Castelnot is a former resident of Vimy, France, who immigrated to Canada 13 years ago. Over the past 20 years, he’s been researching Indigenous people who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the US Army. He’s an amateur historian who’s done his investigation voluntarily, and collected the names of over 154,000 veterans to date.

Castelnot’s efforts earned him a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation in 2017, an award given to those who’ve contributed to the remembrance of
the contributions, sacrifices, and achievements of veterans.

I had the opportunity to interview the historian, Castelnot, who said he’s always been fascinated with North American Indigenous people.

“It started with a passion for the North American Indigenous people during my childhood, I was like a lot of French, very curious about this culture, and I started to read a lot on the subject, to attend exhibitions, to enter associations,” said Castelnot. “In 1998, I saw an article about Sioux in the trenches. At the time, the internet was not as developed as today, and the subject of Native American veterans was not addressed anywhere. There were some vague documents, but nothing more.”

He began by looking for information about Native soldiers that enlisted in both world wars, and then created a list of these soldiers.

“It had to be a temporary project since I thought it would be too difficult to find information and names. I started by creating the list of Native Canadians during the world wars – easier for me because of the proximity of the military cemeteries,” Castelnot said. “I later added the names of those from the USA, than those of Korea, and finally I decided to look for all those who served after the date of December 29, 1890, the date of the massacre of Wounded Knee and the official end of the Indian wars.”

6/07/2018 Québec, Québec, Canada Her Excellency presents the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers to Yann Castelnot. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented honours to 26 recipients during a ceremony on July 6, 2018 at the Citadelle of Québec. Credit: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall, OSGG-BSGG

 

In 2013, he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and it triggered him to search for other wars. “Would those who served in the Boer War, or the War of 1812 also have the right to be honored?” said Castelnot.

Yann uncovered a lot of interesting information beyond well-known soldiers like Francis Pegahmagabow, Tommy Prince, Thomas Longboat, Joseph Brant, and Henry Louis Norwest. He said we could add to that prominent list the names of Sgt. Jerome Frank Narcisse – a recipient of three military medals, Captain Smith Alexander – Military Cross and recipient of the Order of the Black Star of Poland, and a woman from the Six Nations named Krystal Lee Anne Giesebrecht Brant – Master Corporal, and descendant of Joseph Brant.

When it comes to Native veteran history, it’s also necessary to include the lack of information, the errors often conveyed, and the historical oversights, Castelnot pointed out.

“We forget that more than 11,000 Natives fought alongside their British friends during the War of 1812,” said Castelnot. “We forget that nearly 30,000 of them fought with the French or English during the colonial wars because they had established military, political, and economic alliances with newcomers. North American history is not only about massacres.”

Indigenous men, young and old, volunteered for the same reasons as other Canadians, and they were respected by their brothers-in-arms.

“There are some cases of racism, but it’s marginal,” said Castelnot. “They did not have an easy life when they returned from the front, for a majority of them, yet they massively reengaged during World War II.”

Restoring data is important. For example, before starting his research, Castelnot heard there were 7,000 to 12,000 enlisted during the two world wars, and 500 dead; whereas in reality, more than 14,800 Indigenous served in the Canadian army, resulting in 1,600 deaths. The database includes information and stories about the United States’ first code talkers; on Admiral Clark, who served during the two World Wars, and Korean War; Walkabout Billy, who was one of the greatest heroes of the Vietnam War; the first Native American officers during the War of 1812; and completely Native American units during the American Civil War who fought for the south. In each war there is a special case to tell.

I asked Castelnot if it was true that most Indigenous soldiers never received farmland and money that was promised to them when they returned from World Wars I and II.

“The story is a bit more complicated. It is necessary to go back to the context of the time: Reserves were administered by Indian Affairs, and those who lived there depended on the Indian agents. Money and land were controlled by these agents,” said Castelnot. “It should be noted that there were a few instances where these agents actually worked for the good of people in their reserves, and thereby did encourage young people to go out of the reserves and live ‘free’ with their own money and property.”

It must also be remembered that the First World War had an impact. Native people are no longer perceived as a savage, but as a brother in arms (within the war) who has done his duty. Most of the soldiers send money to their families still on the reserves, where they were no longer enfranchised. As a result, the money belonged to the reserve and not to the family, and that is the same for the lands, so they mostly disguised their aboriginal status in order to obtain off-reserve property.

When you look at the Indian Affairs reports of the time, you realize that more than half the Aboriginal soldiers hired did so without declaring their status, and the Indian officers actually learned by chance that these men (and women) were enrolled. The majority of Indigenous soldiers lived on reserves and did not own property – land and money to come back to without any benefits from their wartime efforts.

But in summary, this remains a minority case.

“In fact, in the Indian affairs archives (RG10 de bibliotheque and archives Canada) there are nearly 2,500 document references for land transfers for Aboriginal veterans on reserves (at least those known to date), this is small compared to the 8,300 who served,” said Castelnot.

In 2003, the federal government offered a public apology and compensation to Native veterans.

Castelnot’s database is one of the largest collection of Indigenous soldiers’ names, and provides a way to learn more about Indigenous men and women’s contributions to Canadian, and American forces.

Luc O’Bomsawin, founding president of the Aboriginal Veterans of Quebec Association, told CBC News that the database has shed much-needed light on history that’s often forgotten or “put aside.”

“His work is essential, and there’s not too many people that did the same kind of work with that dedication,” said O’Bomsawin, an Abenaki veteran from Odanak, Que.

O’Bomsawin said he was surprised by the new information Castelnot uncovered, such as the number of soldiers who received decorations, and even just the sheer number of soldiers from both sides of the border who served in various conflicts.

“We were told different numbers, but nobody really had something to base their assumptions on,” said O’Bomsawin. “With him going through the records, and newspapers, and whatever he’s searched, he managed to change these figures. The figures that he puts on are a lot more serious than what I’ve seen up to now.”

Castelnot’s database is at NativeVeterans-en.e-monsite.com.

 

National Film Board looking forward to final year of National Cinema Tour


Donna Cowan is a networking agent for the National Film Board of Canada, and she spoke with
First Nations Drum about the Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) tour, a must see for communities and educators wanting to view films made by Indigenous film makers.

“The Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) collection is comprised of NFB films that have been made by Indigenous directors,” Cowan said. “Currently there are almost 250 films, and that number continues to grow as the NFB has committed 15 percent of its production budget to Indigenous-made films.”

Nearly 1,100 screenings of the Aabiziingwashi film collection have been held across Canada since 2017. Many Canadians have sat in dark theatres, community centres, church halls, and schools to learn about treaties, policies that created residential schools, Sixties Scoop, the current child welfare system, and their devastating effects.

“Through these films and the powerful discussions that follow, people are better understanding this dark history and the systems that are still in place today resulting in many Canadians demanding more of themselves, and of their government, with respect to Reconciliation,” said Cowan.

Cowan says screenings have also taken place in small, remote First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities across Turtle Island. From Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to Kivalliq Region in Nunavut to Lennox Island First Nation on the East Coast, Indigenous-made NFB films have brought communities together to hear ancestors speak their language and to learn more about their history and cultural traditions.

Children watching a film on a screen made of snow.

 

“Our community partners across the country have also been very creative,” Cowan said. “In Ottawa at the Asinabka, festival films were shown on screens made of snow, in Vancouver they screened in a longhouse, and in Toronto the audience watched a 40 foot blow up screen as they sat under the stars.”   

I asked Cowan, how have audiences reacted to the selected films across the country?

“The response to the Aabiziingwashi (Wide Awake) Indigenous Cinema tour has been very positive so far. We will continue to offer these films for community screenings as well as for individual viewing on our website at NFB.ca/Wideawake. Educators can use these films in classrooms by subscribing to CAMPUS, our educational website.”

The film collection dates back to 1967 when the “Indian Film Crew” was formed as part of a community engagement initiative to use film as a tool for change by training Indigenous filmmakers to tell their powerful stories from their point of view.

The first film created was The Ballad of Crowfoot, by Willie Dunn. Recent releases include Alanis Obomsawin’s Our People Will be Healed, a story about the new school in Norway House; We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice, which followed Cindy Blackstock as she challenged the Canadian government and fought for the welfare of Indigenous children on reserve; Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk is a film showing the devastating effects on the Inuit communities after the ban on the commercial seal hunt; Tasha Hubbard profiled Betty Ann Adam and the reunification of her siblings as they deal with the after effects of the Sixties Scoop in Birth of a Family; and Marie Clements’s musical documentary The Road Forward examines the connection between Indigenous nationalism in the 1930s and First Nations activism today.

For the last 26 years Cowan has focused on festivals, film screenings, comedy theatres, filmmakers, and actors. As vice president of operations at Second City in Chicago, she increased sales, and improved morale. In 2004 she joined the National Film Board of Canada’s marketing department, becoming integral in the launch and distribution of most of the top films the NFB launched in the last decade.

“It is films like these from our collections that have helped Canadians to understand the issues a little bit better, and provide thoughtful insight into the images they see on the nightly news,” said Cowan.

Persons and organizations interested in booking a film can discuss their interest with the NFB team who will provide suggestions and help curate local screening for their particular audience.

 

Tsuu T’ina Nation Hosting National Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference

Hemp plant

The Cannabis Act has created a monumental economic opportunity for Canada but it also brings unprecedented social and political concerns for Indigenous communities. These concerns and opportunities are on the agenda at the 2018 National Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference. In an open letter posted on the conference website – nichc.ca – Chief Lee Crowchild of the Tsuu T’ina Nation says legalizing recreational cannabis has created debate within First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities, and that the social, economic, and health benefits will have an impact on each community for generations to come.

“This will be the first cannabis conference to feature leading experts from the medical, legal, and business communities with proven experience in cannabis and hemp,” said Crowchild. “It is important that we are all fully informed as to how the legalization of cannabis will affect our communities, from health and safety, to economic benefits, to our treaty rights and sovereignty; the opportunities for Indigenous communities are boundless.”

The conference is designed to address these questions and provide a valuable networking opportunity for Nations looking to enter into business relationships with other Nations and with industry experts. The conference will feature 24 expert speakers, a trade show, and 18 workshops that include social responsibility, the business of hemp, retail opportunities, “Cannabis & Hemp 101” and more.

Conference Chair Howard Silver reiterated concerns raised at the recent BC Assembly of First Nations cannabis meeting with Health Canada that the legislation was passed without providing Indigenous communities “the opportunity to be compliant” within the current federal framework.

“Without adequate engagement and consultation, Indigenous communities have been left unprepared,” said Silver. “The issues behind Bill C-45 and First Nations become that much more complex once sovereignty, land and treaty rights, self-government, community wellness, economic development, jobs and training, policing and enforcement, etc., come into play.”

Late last month, Health Canada issued a license under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations to Seven Leaf Med, which became the first licensed producer located in a First Nations community.

Health Canada spokesperson André Gagnon says, in New Brunswick, the Listuguj First Nation entered into a partnership with Zenabis, a federally licensed producer that has established a facility near the community that is providing access to employment, and other opportunities.

“Health Canada is currently considering 19 license applications by organizations that are either Indigenous-owned and operated, or have close Indigenous affiliations,” said Gagnon “There is growing interest on the part of some Indigenous governments, communities, and organizations in ensuring that Indigenous peoples can enter and benefit fully from the new cannabis industry.”

The Cannabis Act and its regulations have set out an open and fair federal licensing process that would allow a diverse industry for the production of cannabis to emerge. Several Indigenous-affiliated organizations already participate in Canada’s cannabis for medical purposes industry. Currently, there are seven federally licensed, Indigenous-affiliated producers of cannabis for medical purposes.

Health Canada is providing a navigator service to help guide applicants through the licensing process to better support Indigenous participation in the production and manufacturing of cannabis.

“Self-identified Indigenous applicants are referred to a licensing professional that is dedicated to working with Indigenous applicants, who will reach out and be their guide throughout the licensing process,” said Gagnon.

The 2018 National Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference is hosted by the Tsuu T’ina Nation, and takes place November 18-21 at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary.

 

Siksika Teen Crowned Calgary Stampede First Nations Princess

Astokomii Smith of the Siksika First Nation

Astokomii Smith of the Siksika First Nation

Astokomii Smith of the Siksika First NationAstokomii Smith of the Siksika First Nation has been crowned 2019 Calgary Stampede First Nations Princess. The 19-year-old Astokomii, which means “Calling Thunder” in Blackfoot, competed against contestants representing other Treaty 7 First Nations – Blood Tribe, Peigan First Nation, Tsuu T’ina Nation, and Stony Tribe.

Astokomii began dancing at the age of four, and has always danced Fancy Shawl. She was in complete disbelief when her name was announced as the winner among six candidates.

“I thought I was hearing wrong when they announced my name, mostly because the five other girls were so friendly, positive, and such good role models, plus I was the youngest of the group.” said Astokomii. “The most challenging part of the pageant I think was initially putting my name forward, it took a lot of courage in me because at times I still doubt myself, but this is something I really wanted to do, and I’m so glad I did.”

This is the first year the role has taken on the new “First Nations” title after officials last year changed it from “Indian.” The First Nations Princess will make hundreds of appearances locally, nationally, and internationally to educate people about Indigenous culture, and their ties to the Calgary Stampede.

Many factors played in her decision to run for the Calgary Stampede First Nations title.

“My main drive was my anxiety, which is sort of ironic because for years my anxiety held me back from so many things, but I’ve learned to cope a lot better,” said Astokomii. “I wanted to show that even with dealing with internal struggles such as anxiety that I could still be a princess. I want others to know that anxiety is not a weakness, and you could still do big things. Anxiety is something we all experience in our lives, and I figure with such a big platform such as the Calgary Stampede First Nations Princess, it will allow me to talk about it in a positive way.”

Vanessa Stiff Arm, former Calgary Stampede Indian Princess and current program coordinator for the Calgary Stampede Elbow River Camp, said that Astokomii plans to bring awareness to people suffering from mental illness.

“She will also educate people on the rich culture of Treaty 7 First Nation culture throughout Calgary, Canada, and the world, and be spreading western hospitality wherever she goes this year,” said Stiff Arm.

Over a two-and-a-half week period, six candidates were judged on their public speaking, personal interviews, their traditional dancing, and how well they mixed and mingled with different groups of people. They were also judged on their knowledge of the Calgary Stampede, and Treaty 7.

Astokomii is looking forward to representing the Calgary Stampede.

“Among many other things, the Calgary Stampede has always shown that we really are ‘Greatest Together,’” said Astokomii. “Personally, I have never seen an event of such big influence work together with so many people. It’s done amazing at representing not only Western heritage but Indigenous heritage as well. To me, the Calgary Stampede truly shows how well people of many different backgrounds can work together, and learn from each other.”

Astokomii is a recent graduate from Siksika Outreach where she earned the Governor General’s Award for Highest Academics, and she is the Indigenous Liaison for the Town of Strathmore. Her family background includes the Yellow Old Woman, Red Gun, Many Guns, and Larocque families. Astokomii’s parents are Gisele Backfat and Cassius Smith, and her grandparents are Darlene Yellow Old Woman and Cody Munro.

“This year we had three ladies from Siksika, one from the Stoney Nakoda, one from Tsuu T’ina, and one from Piikani,” said Stiff Arm. “It was a big group this year, and I hope to see some of them at next year’s pageant.”

 

SKOOKUM Music Festival Draws Huge Crowd Despite Monsoon Rainfall

Headliners The Killers performing on final night | Photo by Johnathan Evans

Headliners The Killers performing on final night | Photo by Johnathan Evans

 

SKOOKUM Music Festival Draws Huge Crowd Despite Monsoon Rainfall

By Kelly Many Guns and Laura Balance Media Group

An estimated 50,000 music lovers were enchanted by over 50 stage performances involving some of the world’s most famed artists during the inaugural SKOOKUM Festival, held September 7 to 9 at iconic Stanley Park – one of the biggest urban green recreational areas.

Festival director Paul Runnals said when his organizing team envisioned SKOOKUM, their goal was to create an event that was accessible, inclusive, and sustainable. “Our team wanted to produce a festival that would be unlike anything done before in this region, successfully incorporating food, art, culture, and of course music. The response we had throughout the weekend was overwhelmingly positive,” said Runnals.

Incessant weekend rain showers couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of festival-goer’s on hand there to see headlining acts The Killers, Florence + The Machine, the Arkells, Metric, and many others. Aboriginal artist Murray Porter, the Mohawk piano player from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, played his country blues. Porter’s soulful voice sang contemporary stories about Canada’s Indigenous people, and also on the universal theme of love.

Performing before a hyper crowd at one of the smaller meadow stages on Saturday evening was The Snotty Nose Rez Kids, the hip-hop duo from the Haisla Nation of the Haislakal-speaking people. Recreating their identities within their own contexts, they aim to reclaim their voices and share them with a wider audience.  

Crystal Shawanda of the Wikwemikong First Nation belted out a country rock and blues-filled set under a Sunday afternoon monsoon downpour. Though Shawanda’s parents raised her on country music and taught her how to sing and play guitar, it was her oldest brother who introduced her to the blues. He would hang out in the basement cranking out Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Etta James, and Crystal would sit at the top of the stairs straining to hear those soulful sounds.

The renowned, award-winning recording artist, educator, and visual artist Buffy Sainte-Marie performed on the Forest Stage as the rain came down. Sainte-Marie said she was honoured to be invited to play SKOOKUM and be surrounded by so many diverse musicians.

In 2017, she released Medicine Songs, a collection of songs about the environment, alternative conflict resolution, Indigenous realities, and greed. Part rhythmic healing, part trumpeting wake-up call, Medicine Songs is the soundtrack of the resistance.

Also well received was the SKOOKUM After Dark Program, which included 11 well-attended shows at various Vancouver venues.

More than 15,000 people attended opening night on Friday, with a crowd of 18,500 and 17,000 Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The majority of attendees were from the lower mainland and approximately 18 percent were from outside of region, resulting in a significant economic impact for the community.  

“An event of this magnitude doesn’t happen by accident,” said Runnals. “We have an incredible team at BRANDLIVE and hundreds of volunteers, all of who went above and beyond to deliver a world class event.”

Many festival attendees took advantage of transportation challenges associated with holding an event of this magnitude in Stanley Park by utilizing the SKOOKUM shuttle service, public transit, and EVO’s free valet service.

Along with reminders to recycle and compost, SKOOKUM Festival-goers were encouraged to reduce their environmental footprint by bringing their own reusable drink containers – and in large part they embraced the opportunity.

The Festival had no reports of major incidents, or medical-related issues.  

Event organizers pan to return to the Park Board and Local First Nations to seek a multi-year agreement that will bring back the festival in 2019.

 

BC Sports Hall of Fame Set to Unveil Indigenous Sport Gallery

The BC Sports Hall of Fame newest exhibit will recognize Indigenous athletes who have made an impact on British Columbia’s sport history

On September 25th, the BC Sports Hall of Fame will unveil an exhibit celebrating and recognizing Indigenous athletes who have made an impact on British Columbia’s sport history.

The Indigenous Sport Gallery celebrates the rich history and many contributions to sport by First Nations and Métis athletes, teams, coaches, builders and volunteers in BC, and attempts to remedy the fact that Indigenous athletes and teams have not been properly celebrated and honoured over the course of our province’s history.

Jim Lightbody, Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, says the sport in the Indigenous communities has forever been intertwined.

“The new Indigenous Sport Gallery at the BC Sports Hall of Fame is another step towards celebrating the Indigenous athletes, coaches and builders who have made positive impacts on sport in BC and will educate future generations of these important accomplishments – both in our province and on the world stage.”

Released after a five-year cross-Canada consultation process, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued 94 Calls to Action in order to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” Call to Action #87, calls upon all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history. Together with its partners, the BC Sports Hall of Fame advances this Call through the new Indigenous Sport Gallery.

The Indigenous Sport Gallery will feature over 1,000 square feet of permanent exhibit space, including: information about traditional Indigenous games; artefacts and memorabilia from Indigenous athletes in all levels of sport; a feature on the North American Indigenous Games; and a dedicated space, the Circle of Champions, which honours the Indigenous athletes that have been formally Inducted to the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Lara Mussell Savage, Director of Sport for the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (I·SPARC) and a Trustee of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, says the Indigenous communities of BC have had a massive impact on sport in our province, and it is great to see the BC Sports Hall of Fame and its partner organizations recognize this through the creation of a new Indigenous Sport Gallery.

“We hope the Gallery will inspire the next generation of Indigenous athletes and teach all British Columbians about the incredible stories of Indigenous athletes and leaders.”

The Indigenous Sport Gallery Exhibit is open to the public beginning, September 26, 2018 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.  The location: BC Sports Hall of Fame is at Gate A at BC Place. For more information about the BC Sports Hall of Fame, please visit: www.bcsportshalloffame.com

2018 Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly-Election for National Chief

Perry Bellegarde and Kelly Many Guns

The 2018 AFN Annual General Assembly was held on July 24 to July 26 at the Vancouver Convention Centre amid cruise ships and the beautiful Burrard Inlet’s picturesque setting.

A total of 522 chiefs attended the Assembly, along with their proxies, to vote for a National Chief. It took a second ballot to declare incumbent, Perry Bellegarde ultimately came out as the winner of this year’s election. There were five candidates who ran for national chief, including Kathryn Whitecloud, who did not go onto the second ballot because she secured the fewest votes in the first round of voting. The national chief must secure 60% of the votes to be declared the winner:

  • Perry Bellegarde — 328
  • Sheila North — 125
  • Miles Richardson — 59
  • Russ Diabo — 10

Controversy swirled at the convention centre as the voting took place.  Candidate Russ Diabo, a policy analyst from Kahnawake in Quebec, accused Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett of “political interference” on the Wednesday after she met with a group of chiefs on voting day.

Diabo told CBC News that, “This is the first time I have seen a Minister come in to influence chiefs on voting day,” said Diabo. “I see that as political interference.”

A statement from Minister Bennett’s office read, “In no way did the Minister interfere in the electoral process for National Chief. This is a decision for First Nations to make without outside interference.”

The Ministers office also said that “the Minister was invited by Regional Chief [Marlene] Poitras to listen to the regional concerns of Alberta Chiefs this morning.  ‎At no point was the election for national chief ever discussed.”

After the results revealed that Perry Bellegarde was elected national chief, Diabo addressed his closing statements to the convention centre, “You’ll suffer the consequences” in reaction to election results. A chorus of boos erupted during Diabo’s closing speech.

Carolyn Bennett addressed the Chiefs on July 26th to a half empty convention centre, as most chiefs returned home after the June 25th elections.

Also speaking, were the families and representatives of Colten Bouchie, urging the national chief and leaders to end the injustices.

Carolyn Bennett speaking