University of Sudbury Indigenous Studies – since 1975

The University of Sudbury (UofS) is a bilingual and tri-cultural university committed to promoting the culture, values, perspectives and realities of Indigenous peoples. It is located on the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and the Wahnapitae First Nation.

The UofS offers programs in Indigenous Studies, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Folklore and Journalism.

Indigenous Studies
This long-standing department promotes an understanding of Indigenous peoples, their ways of being and knowing, aspirations, rights and contributions. It welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and is inclusive of First Nations, Inuit and Métis perspectives. It is a leader in providing quality education in Indigenous knowledge and practice, within traditional and contemporary contexts. Key areas of study include:

Health and wellness – examines contemporary health problems that Indigenous peoples face.
Politics and law – encompasses Indigenous and treaty rights, governance and decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty and settler relations.
Social justice – examines issues in family and community life, from the perspectives of social policy and family law.
Traditional environmental knowledge – takes a traditional approach to global environmental challenges.
Culture – focuses on the interplay of traditional values, identity, spirituality and the language;
Courses on Nishnaabemwin and Cree are also offered.

Currently, all classes are offered in a distance format. Normally, delivery options include: In-class, distance, part-time

Nishnaabe-gkendaaswin Teg Arbour (“Where Indigenous Knowledge is”)
This is a sacred outdoor space to sit with ancestors, receive teachings, explore one’s place within Creation, and share in peace, understanding and contemplation. It is mainly used by the students and faculty of the UofS, but available to others for appropriate ceremonies and occasions.

Fiancial Aid
The UofS is dedicated to making education financially accessible by providing many scholarships, bursaries, and awards. Some of those offered specifically to Indigenous students:


With the help of donors, the UofS is pleased to offer substantial continuing scholarship opportunities ($5,000 to $7,000 yearly, per recipient) to Indigenous students.

Visit to learn more!

College of the Rockies announces winter semester plans

College of the Rockies’ focus remains on ensuring students get the education they need to prepare for their futures, while keeping health and safety as the priority.

Therefore, the College’s winter semester will look very similar to the fall’s, with most programs being delivered online. On-campus learning, including a blend of online and face-to-face, will continue for programs which require hands-on learning, delivered under enhanced health and safety protocols, as directed by the Provincial Health Officer.

“Most students will complete their courses online, however programs like health, trades, and science labs do require some on-site participation,” said Paul Vogt, College of the Rockies President and CEO. “Any on-campus classes will take part in small groups, with physical distancing and other public health guidelines in place.”

In the fall semester, 40 per cent of students took part in either face-to-face (f2f) or blended (both f2f and online) learning. The College anticipates a similar look to the upcoming semester.

All College campuses remain open and will continue to operate in a different way. Students with a current student ID can access the Library, Campus Store, Enrolment Services, some computer labs, and quiet study spaces. The gym and weight room will also be available to support student health and wellbeing. Services like academic advising and counselling are being delivered virtually.

The College’s Indigenous Education team, consisting of Resident Elders, Student Navigator, Student Mentors, Indigenous Education Coordinator/Advisor, and Director of Indigenous Strategy and Reconciliation, are also available through virtual appointments. This team can assist with funding applications, financial supports, awards and bursaries, applications, advocacy, academic planning, and more.

With more than 20 years of experience in offering classes, and even full programs, online, College of the Rockies faculty are well-prepared to meet the learning needs of students.

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Decolonizing Justice: Case Comment on R. v. Turtle

In the face of oppression, racism and physical violence, Indigenous peoples across the country are demanding protection of their ancestral lands and recognition of their Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

As part of these efforts, the role of the criminal justice system in upholding the status quo and undermining Indigenous interests is also being challenged.

In R. v. Turtle, 2020 ONCJ 429 the Ontario Court of Justice confronts this issue head on, highlighting the colonial roots of Canada’s justice system and its persistent failure to “serve and protect” Indigenous peoples.

What is it about

Pikangikum First Nation is a fly-in, Treaty #5 community located in Northwestern Ontario, 225 kilometres northeast of Kenora. 

Six Pikangikum women, all mothers residing on reserve with their young children, pled guilty to drinking and driving offences that carried mandatory minimum jail sentences of not more than 90 days. Under the Criminal Code, the women could request to serve their sentences intermittently, likely on weekends. However, because of the reserve’s remote location, with the nearest jail located in Kenora, the women argued that it would be financially and logistically prohibitive for them to travel to and from the jail to serve their sentences intermittently. 

The Pikangikum members brought an application alleging that their inability to avail themselves of an intermittent sentence as a result of their residency on reserve violated their section 15 equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, they requested a constitutional exemption from their sentences.

Photo credit: Richard Foot

What the Court said

The Court held that the practical unavailability of an intermittent sentence for the Pikangikum female applicants as a result of their status as on-reserve band members discriminated against them and unjustifiably violated their section 15 equality rights.

In his reasons for judgment, Justice Gibson described the negative implications for the applicants of having to serve a continuous sentence, emphasizing the overcrowded conditions of the Kenora jail and the destabilizing effects of removing the applicants from their children and the community for extended periods of time. 

The Court declined to offer the applicants the constitutional exemption as requested because the Crown had undertaken to transport, at its expense, all the applicants back and forth to the jail until their sentences were served. Justice Gibson did, however, encourage the Crown to consult with Pikangikum about the administration of justice in its community.

Photo credit: allaboutgeorge

Why it matters

R. v. Turtle is an important reminder of the damage that results when Indigenous peoples are forced to rely on legal regimes grounded in inherently discriminatory practices that have no understanding of or respect for Indigenous realities. 

In coming to its decision, the Ontario Court of Justice commented extensively on the “corrosive effects of colonialism” experienced by Pikangikum members, particularly in the context of the justice system.

Pikangikum members and Elders presented evidence before the Court explaining that, prior to colonization, Pikangikum relied on its traditional practices and legal processes to keep peace within the community, which it exercised in accordance with its own inherent jurisdiction and understanding of justice.

Over time, the disruption to Pikangikum’s traditional way of life as a result of the Crown’s colonial and racist policies gave rise to high rates of criminality, alcoholism and suicide within the community. According to Pikangikum Chief Dean Owen, “Being forced to adopt the ways of others was not what our ancestors intended when they entered into Treaty with the Queen.”

Despite this, the imposition of foreign laws on Indigenous peoples without any recognition or regard for the existence of their own legal systems is a common theme of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country. 

As demonstrated by the response of law enforcement to Indigenous rights defenders across the country over the past year, concerns about the application of Canada’s criminal justice system to Indigenous peoples extend beyond the particular provision of the Criminal Code at issue in this case.

Whether it’s the violence perpetrated by police in Wet’suwet’en and Haudenosaunee territory or their non-response in Mikmaki, the message seems to be that the protections promised by Canada’s legal system are unavailable to Indigenous peoples.

When we consider this history of violence, broken promises and continuous denial and degradation of the rights of Indigenous peoples, is it any wonder that Indigenous peoples lack confidence in Canada’s justice system? How can Indigenous peoples be expected to put their lives in the hands of a system that has persistently failed them and more often than not been used against them?

In this regard, the Court’s decision in R. v. Turtle is a clear call to reform Canada’s justice system.

Photo credit: Jason Hargrove

Looking ahead

Pikangikum has indicated that it intends to pursue negotiations with the Crown to reclaim and revitalize its own legal system in a manner consistent with its Anishinaabe laws.

Pikangikum is not alone in its demands to reform the justice system. Earlier this year, the BC First Nations Justice Council and the Government of British Columbia signed the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, aimed at transforming the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the justice system.

In other parts of the country, Indigenous groups, tired of waiting for government reform, are exercising their inherent jurisdiction and seeking to develop their own strategies to take control of their legal systems.

The significance of this work cannot be overstated. This is not about devolving certain administrative powers to Indigenous governments. This is about breaking down legal regimes that have consistently failed Indigenous peoples and rebuilding them in accordance with Indigenous laws and priorities. This is about decolonizing the justice system by enabling Indigenous peoples to reclaim the legal processes that traditionally served their communities.

Angela D’Elia Decembrini is a lawyer at First Peoples Law Corporation.

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Over 12,000 Indigenous people have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Members of Indigenous communities in Canada overcame many challenges to serve in uniform, whether it was learning a new language, adapting to cultural differences, or undertaking the lengthy travel from remote communities just to enlist. Some even risked losing their status to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, as was the case with Second World War Veteran Francis Blankenship Nahumpchin.

Francis Blankenship Nahumpchin was a member of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, but later gave up his status to join the CAF. He came back from the war physically healthy, but suffering from PTSD.  Although he had been forced to give up his Indigenous status to serve in the military, at his return he was welcomed by the Band as one of their own. He died in 1978 and was buried under a simple wooden cross until the Last Post Fund, in collaboration with researcher Carol Holmes from the Upper Nicola Band, found his grave and installed a military headstone to mark it. To honour Francis’ Indigenous ancestry, his family included his traditional name, Nahumpchin on the inscription.

In keeping with the spirit of the ongoing Reconciliation process and to honour the legacy of Indigenous Veterans, the Last Post Fund launched the Indigenous Veterans Initiative (IVI) in March 2019 to help commemorate and honour those Indigenous Veterans who may have been forgotten.

The Last Post Fund is a charitable organization that has been ensuring dignified funeral and burial services as well as military gravestones to Veterans since 1909. Thanks to researcher Yann Castlenot’s list of over 12,000 names of Indigenous Veterans in Canada, the Last Post Fund already had a starting point for its Indigenous Veterans Initiative.

The Initiative relies on partnerships with community researchers to locate and identify unmarked Veterans’ graves. Once the Veteran’s identity is verified, the Last Post Fund then places a permanent headstone on the site. Additionally, the Indigenous Veterans Initiative offers to inscribe traditional names on existing headstones previously placed by the Last Post Fund.

In the program’s first year, 68 unmarked Indigenous Veterans’ graves were identified, and 36 headstones placed in locations across Canada. Families were given a choice of symbol for the headstone; many choose an eagle carving, or their Nation’s symbol, while some chose a Christian cross. The Indigenous Veterans Initiative also saw the inscriptions of traditional names from four distinct Indigenous language groups: Algonquin, Inuktitut, Interior Salishan, Saulteaux.

For example, in the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation in Québec, 6 military headstones were placed, and 7 traditional name inscriptions added to existing headstones of Anishinabeg Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces. Among them was Ajawajawesi, known as Gabriel Commanda, one of the founders of the town of Val d’Or, Québec and a Veteran of the First World War. These headstones all feature an engraving of an eagle in place of the cross.

A special research project for Métis Veterans is currently underway in Alberta, spearheaded by researcher Bobbi Foulds, member of the Last Post Fund Alberta branch. Thanks to her efforts, a first headstone was installed in Lloydminster, a town bordering Alberta and Saskatchewan, for WW1 Métis Veteran George Loyie, and engraved with the Métis symbol.

If you are interested in getting involved as a researcher, or if you or a family member are a Veteran and you would like more information, you are invited to contact the Indigenous Veterans Initiative Program Coordinator, Maria Trujillo by email at or by phone: 1-800-465-7113 ext: 222.

Métis Nation Second World War Hero’s spouse to receive Recognition Payment in Edmonton, Alberta

On October 7, 2020, WWII, Métis Veteran Walter Calahaisn’s spouse Myrtle Calahaisn received thanks from the Métis Nation and inheritance of $20,000. President Audrey Poitras of the Métis Nation of Alberta personally presented the recognition payment to Myrtle Calahaisn on behalf of Métis Nation Veterans Minister David Chartrand.

“75 years ago, the young sons and daughters of our Nation answered the call to defend a country they did not know, in the name of a country that did not respect them. Canada promised opportunity and prosperity upon their return home from the war. A promise that was never kept – until now. It is important to ensure that our WWII Métis Veterans take their rightful place in Canadian history. Métis Veteran Walter Calahaisn and all Métis Veterans must be honoured and respected for their sacrifice in protecting freedom and liberty,” states Minister David Chartrand.

The $20,000 Recognition Payment is part of the Métis Veterans Legacy Program established in partnership with the Trudeau government to commemorate forgotten Métis soldiers. Mrs. Calahaisn will be the tenth spouse to receive the Recognition Payment since Métis Nation Veterans Minister Chartrand announced on June 29, 2020. The policy is now inclusive of all surviving spouses and common-law partners of Métis Nation WWII Veterans regardless of when their loved one passed.

“The importance of family remains the essence of the Métis Nation,” states Minister David Chartrand. “Our WWII Métis Veterans who have passed would want to take care of their families and ensure their future and prosperity. We now have the ability to help the families of our Veterans heal, and take comfort, knowing their loved one is being honoured as a Hero of this country. Our Heroes Today, Tomorrow and Forever”.

“Today, we thank Walter Calahaisn for his years of service and remember all he accomplished as a Private and as a Métis citizen,” said President Audrey Poitras. “Myrtle was by Walter’s side for 50 years, working with him, caring for him, and I am so glad to present her with this recognition cheque today. For too long, the dedication and bravery of Métis veterans like Walter went unrecognized. Métis across the Homeland sacrificed much in defense of their country. Now, through the Métis Veterans Legacy Program, we are able to give them and their spouses the acknowledgement and compensation they deserve.”

Métis Veteran Walter Calahaisn was born on October 16, 1922, and passed on August 24, 2000. Veteran Calahaisn was a Private and served in Canada, United Kingdom, Continental Europe and the Central Mediterranean Area. The Department of National Defence employed Veteran Calahaisn as a building maintenance man. Veteran Calahaisn and Myrtle owned and operated a janitorial business and an Indigenous gift shop. Veteran Calahaisn enjoyed playing baseball, horseback riding, dancing and playing guitar.

He married Myrtle on July 28, 1950, and raised nine children. Myrtle is a member of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women. In 2009 she received an ESQUAO award that recognizes Aboriginal women who have positively impacted Alberta’s Aboriginal communities. Myrtle is also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“Our Heroes Today, Tomorrow and Forever”


For more information, contact:

Albert Beck

Métis National Council

c: 613-447-7216

The MNC represents the Métis Nation in Canada at the national and international levels. The Métis Nation’s homeland includes the 3 Prairie Provinces and extends into the contiguous parts of British Columbia, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and the United States. There are approximately 400,000 Métis Nation citizens in Canada, roughly a quarter of all Aboriginal peoples in the country.

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UNDER THE NORTHERN SKY Ignoring The Rules Like Playing Russian Roulette

Covid-19 has changed all of us. We have not had a normal life for about six months now. We have all been trying our best to follow the rules from all of the medical experts and governments but it has not been easy. Most of us have not been visiting family and friends, we are keeping our movements to a minimum, shopping more carefully in stores while wearing masks, maintaining a three meter safe distance from others and washing our hands like crazy.

For some time our efforts have proven successful but still many thousands have passed away in Canada and many more thousands have been sick with this virus. Now with the fall approaching and children back to school, the experts are warning us that there may be a huge rise in numbers of cases and deaths. This is an airborne virus that can infect others through microscopic droplets that people release when just talking indoors. So if an asymptomatic person is not wearing a mask in an indoor space with others, then there is a good chance that the contagion will spread to many people.

Due to the fact we are not doing sufficient testing, epidemiologists and virologist are suggesting multiplying the number of cases by 10 or perhaps even 20. This provides us with a more realistic idea of just how many people are infected and although most are centred in highly populated areas, infections are now starting to creep into our northern remote Native communities. The James Bay coast recently reported their first positive case of Covid-19 in Moose Factory. The remote coastal First Nations to the north, including my home community of Attawapiskat FN, have all taken precautions to lock down their communities to prevent the spread of any potential infection. Our northern communities have to stay extra vigilant as any new infectious disease has the possibility of creating many more problems than the rest of the country due to the nature and situation of these remote regions. Over crowded housing, less than adequate health care, insufficient health care resources and rampant poverty is fertile ground for a new infectious disease to cause a widespread health crisis.

Even in the face of these dangers, there are many right wing groups spreading messages on social media that Covid-19 is a hoax, that the government is staging this pandemic and that wearing masks somehow impedes our right and freedoms. If you want to protect those you love and those you care about, do not fall for this propaganda or spread these dangerous rumours because doing so will cost lives in the end.

Many business interests are also focusing on the economy and some of that concern is driving the messaging to people to get back to normal with no restrictions. It is understandable that the people who work in these industries want you to think that you can get back to normal quickly but the reality is not supporting that view.

If we don’t follow the rules to protect ourselves we will be getting sick, making other people sick and there will be people we care for who end up passing away. Over the next few months we will be seeing a huge increase in numbers across the board and that is evident by what is happening in other parts of the world.

Now that we are approaching the cold season and we will be heading indoors more often, I encourage everyone to become more vigilant in wearing masks, practising safe distancing and washing hands. I encourage my family and friends in the north and in every remote First Nation out there to minimize or stop any travel outside their community if they can. Everyone should do their best to not to visit family and friends casually inside their homes or your own home while not wearing a mask. The virus spreads through tiny droplets that can hang around the air inside a room for hours so if someone is visiting without a mask there is always the chance you could end up with Covid-19 if they have the virus. We need to get by the next few months and we will know very well in that time just how bad things are going to progress or if in fact we have better treatments and possibly a vaccine. There are thousands of unsuspecting people walking around with this virus and you are playing Russian roulette if you think you can ignore the rules and all of the efforts everyone has made for months.

Just stay the course and look towards a brighter spring.

Under the Northern Sky

Xavier Kataquapit

I come from a large family with eight siblings. My mom Susan and my dad Marius certainly had a lot of challenges in caring for such a large group of children. These days as I find myself with some time during this pandemic I drift back to an earlier time when I was a child at home in Attawapiskat and I think about all the work my parents had to do to raise us.

Life for my parents when they were growing up was hard as they lived mostly on the land, with little education that came with the trauma of attending the residential school system and living at home in conditions that were less than perfect. Mom worked for many years in the kitchen of the local hospital and she learned some skills that made her a great cook. Dad was always a hard worker and although he had ventured out from the community for a time here and there working mostly on the railroad and in forestry, his love was doing his own thing. He was always coming up with a new project as part of his work in building, fixing, transportation and construction.

I have enough trouble caring for myself so I can’t imagine what a huge job it was for my parents to provide for such a huge family. I recall mom washing clothes every day. We had a huge home built hamper in the house and it was always full of our dirty laundry. I rarely saw the bottom of that hamper as mom worked every day to do the washing and keep us in clean clothes. She also had to cook all our meals, clean the house, tend to shopping and arranging for supplies and making sure we were all behaving. She was a supermom no doubt about that.

I wonder these days what she and dad would have thought if they had lived long enough to experience this pandemic. It occurs to me that disease, discomfort, critical life challenges and hardship was something they were very accustomed to and they might see this pandemic as just another turn in the trail of life. Somehow, even with all of the hard work and challenges my parents had to face in their lives I know that most of the time they were happy. They felt they had a purpose in life and they went to work every day to provide for their family and to be good friends and neighbours.

These days many of us are complaining about having to deal with the dangers of Covid19 and the challenges we have to live through every day. Many of us are upset we have to wear masks in public, we don’t want to understand that we have to stay two meters from others, we are fed up with washing our hands and not being able to move about freely. However, at the same time our governments are helping us financially, we are mostly in the comfort of our homes, we have all kinds of devices we can use to communicate with others and we can be entertained by all kinds of media 24 hours a day. Most of us in Canada are eating well, staying employed to a great degree and we know that if we do get sick with this virus that we have a health care system that is open to us all.

I think my mom and dad if they were still living would advise us all to just take this pandemic seriously, follow the rules set out by expert virologists and keep our family and friends safe. They would remind us to be thankful for all that we have and for the fact that we are living in a free and democratic country. I am sure they would give anything to be able to come back and enjoy life no matter what the challenges are. They would love to see their children, grandchildren, family and friends and to breath the fresh northern air. To be alive and well and to wake to the sounds of birds, a good breakfast, enjoying family and friends would be just fine with them even with the challenge of dealing with this pandemic.

My parents understood how precious life was and how short it could be and I remember their teachings on being aware of this and to be thankful for every day, even with all the challenges that come along. Soon enough all of us will be gone and this magic we call life will be no more. It is us up us to remember how wonderful life is while we are in this world. Pandemic be damned.

Standing and Acting against Racism

All Our Relations

We mourn the members of the Black and Indigenous communities who have lost their lives as a result of racist violence by police: Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Rodney Levi, Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Jason Collins, Elshia Husdon, D’Andre Campbell, Randy Cochrane, Sean Thompson, Machuar Madut, Greg Ritchie, Chad Williams.

We stand and act in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all those who resist racist abuses of power. We stand and act in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are living with deep-seated colonization and racism, manifested in Canadian society and globally. The lives of the original inhabitants of this continent and the newcomers, whether coming here voluntarily or involuntarily have been and remain connected.

For half a millennium, greed and racial superiority have dominated the relationship between European newcomers, Blacks and Indigenous peoples. Blacks were forcibly removed from their indigenous homelands, transported across the ocean, forced into labour and lives filled with unspeakable cruelty, promised better lives and have not seen the promise fulfilled. Indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their lands, confined to the edges of their former territories, were subject to aggression and violence and then asked to live well with the settlers who came to dominate the continent.

We see the effect of insatiable greed and racism upon our lives, our societies, and our hopes and dreams for the future. The pandemic has rendered visible the structure of power and dominance in North American society. We see systemic racism and its effects clearly even though those in positions of power often do not. We see systemic racism at work in the inequitable treatment of people of colour by the police.

As the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, mindful of the history of colonialism and racism that sits at the centre of Canada, we continue, as we have done for the last half century, to work for relationships that are just, equitable and enable us to live well with all our relations.

Confronting systemic racism is challenging and dangerous. As academics and university staff, we use our minds and our words to understand the damage and its cause. We use our minds to understand how to repair the damage. We use our classrooms to help our students understand the forces that influence and shape their lives. We help to develop tools that enable our students and our colleagues to confront racism and colonization. Our stories, our teachings, our traditions, our values form the foundation for building strong and resilient societies.

All our relations.
The Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies June 8, 2020

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Trad circle Sappa Dawn Janet and Don McClouds Yelm Washington photo by Danny Beaton 1993
Trad circle Sappa Dawn Janet and Don McClouds Yelm Washington | Photo by Danny Beaton 1993

Every day, across Turtle Island, our Ceremonial Elders maintain the Good Mind. Many of our people are like-minded, always aware of the natural life that surrounds us, aware of the life-giving forces that permit our existence on our Sacred Mother Earth.

Our way of life is no different than any other Indigenous People in the world who follow their way of life. We share a commitment to live according to our traditional values, loyal to our original truths, original teachings, and original culture.

These principles are rooted in respect for all natural life and those laws that allow all life on this Mother Earth to be healthy and be one with the Great Web of Life – an ethic repeatedly evoked by Chief Dan George in ceremonies and speeches to his Great Squamish Nation.

Indigenous people must take every opportunity to create positive energy, healing, and unity. When Canada says we will celebrate Indigenous Day on June 21 of every year, using our Good Mind and being the kind-hearted people that we are, we need to take advantage of the ceremony as an avenue to support our children’s future.

The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we maintain our way of life of sharing and Thanksgiving by socializing in a way that does not spread the sickness to others in our communities, neighborhoods, and cities too – we must not forget that many of our people are urban Indians. Though some of our people have contracted the virus on Reservation or Traditional Territories, most became infected here in Canada.

National Indigenous Peoples Day could not come at a better time. For hundreds of years, our Spiritual leaders have warned our non-native brothers and sisters what would come if we continued to cut down and destroy all the old-growth forest and plant life in the name of commercial logging.

During the Industrial Revolution, our Elders watched as they took everything from Mother Earth’s body, burned it, and put it in the sky. Today, Canada is still one of the world’s worst polluters. Her Alberta oil and tar sands pollute the Athabaskan and Mackenzie Rivers. The Indigenous Environmental Network cannot stop this atrocity to Mother Earth’s body. Our life species are suffering as much or more than human beings.

Our Elders, Chiefs, Clan Mothers, and Medicine People know that our sacred ceremonies, prayers, songs, and thinking can be very powerful, bringing unity to those of us outside of the circle. We, on the outside of the circle, support those conducting the ceremony from within the inside. Even though we may be in our backyard burning our tobacco, or a sacred fire alone in our backyard or alone in the bush, we are all giving Thanksgiving to Our Sacred Mother Earth.

Even if we are giving Thanksgiving from our living rooms, Mother Earth can hear us. All of creation can hear our prayers and songs. If we all start thanking Brother Sun, Grandmother Moon, the winds of the four directions, the water, Mother Earth, and the life species, everything in our way of life can hear us.

Our Elders teach us that the grandfathers can hear us, and that the stones and everything that is on Mother Earth is alive and is medicine. The wolf is medicine, as is the bear, the eagle, the turtle, and the bumble bee. Everything can hear our voice, sacred thinking, and ceremonies.

Our way of life is one with all life, our ancestors, the spirit world, and four protectors. If we use our thinking with the Solstice Day on Indigenous Peoples Day, we can send a message to Mother Earth that we care for her and love her for all that she gives human beings. The coronavirus cannot stop our sacred thinking at any time. We have a sacred duty from our ancestors to uphold and maintain our way of life, which I believe is our sacred healing.

Because it is such an important day of significance for Indigenous People of Canada, we can send a message to the world that it is a time for healing and sharing, all for our children’s future. Our Elders and Spiritual Leaders knew this virus was coming, and many of our people were waiting for this disaster to come to society. We can say we do not want to create negative energy but the world is out of balance, and now we need to nurture positive energy more than ever.

We need good thinkers, we need The Good Mind, we, the Indigenous People, need positive Elders who want unity for all life on our Territories and Homeland. We have the right thinking if you look at what Idle No More did, if you look at the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, and Wetsuweten to stop the pipelines: these are historical times because Indigenous people are saying, ‘no more rape!’”

Our Spiritual Elders on Six Nations are saying that we will pay a consequence if we do not defend Mother Earth now, before it is too late. Everything our Elders have said and are saying is real and the truth.

We must focus on the Summer Solstice, we must focus on National Indigenous Peoples Day because it is a chance for Indigenous people to use our thinking and ceremonies to send a message to the world that our Sacred Mother Earth is life.

We want to take the time to thank all the people who stood up for Idle No More, Tyendinaga Mohawks, Wetsuweten, and others who prayed for protection and peace during these struggles.

We want to thank all the caregivers who are taking care of the sick throughout the year and during the Covid-19 epidemic. We want to thank all ceremonial leaders and Clan Mothers, ancestors, and Pipe Carriers for keeping our people strong after all these years of injustice.

Chief Oren Lyons, Danny, Alicja Rozanska, John Mohawk, Rigel Rozanska Photo by Brian Danniels 1995
Chief Oren Lyons, Danny, Alicja Rozanska, John Mohawk, Rigel Rozanska | Photo by Brian Danniels 1995

Mike Mitchell, Mohawk Former Grand Chief Speaks Out

My name is Kanentakero. I am the former Grand Chief of the Akwesasne. I’ve served my community for over 30 years. The reason I was asked to come and speak is my long history in politics. I’m also a faith-keeper in the Mohawk Nation Longhouse. Protector of our ceremonies, songs, and spiritual life. So when you balance your culture and your language and your spiritual ways, it’s very important not to be just a politician but a human being.

I want to share a message about the Tyendinaga community. I want it noted that Tyendinaga is the Mohawk name of Joseph Brant. The British asked Joseph Brant to ask the Haudenosaunee if they could be allies in constructing a new country called Canada. I put emphasis on “allies” because they had to face confrontations with the French and Americans. As it stands today, we are still allies with Canada.

Tyendinaga is the birthplace of a peacemaker. One that brought us the Great Law of Peace. A very spiritual man, Tyendinaga was born at a time when there was great violence and turmoil amongst the 5 Nations: Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Seneca. He approached each Nation and convinced them to do away with warfare.

This is significant because of where he was born. He went across Lake Ontario to Haudenosaunee country and he was able to stop the warfare and the killing, and turn it into a great union by providing them with a constitution based on peace.

This is the time for us to remember what his message of peace was about. It’s always easy to go the other route. Peaceful or not, it’s our choice. We are at the crossroads. We must invoke the message of the peacemaker if we are going to have lasting peace, security, and wellness in our communities.

And that goes both ways. Canadians at large are just beginning to learn something I’m well aware of: that there’s a lot of hatred in this country, and it’s directed at First Nations. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can react, or we can sit down and consult with one another based on the message of peace left by the Peacemaker.

Story and Photos by Danny Beaton Turtle Clan
Mohawk |
In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

I would like to encourage Indigenous women, from my brief story, that you should never give up.

Stella and her husband Norman when she was at the
University of Regina in 1987

June is National Indigenous History Month. It is a good time for me, from my heart, to share my story in hopes of empowering other Indigenous women.

I come from the Gabriel family of Skownan First Nation. In 1973, I tragically lost my parents and older sister, who attended Brandon University. I have memories of my sister saying that she is going to be a chief. My surviving siblings and I were brought into care with Children’s Aid Society.

My father taught me to work hard. He used the illustration of a pen and book. He would hold it up and say, “This will get you somewhere, my children.” I recall that my grandparents at the Rez were the first ones to get a T.V. We children were allowed to watch it to learn English. In those days, it was instilled in children that they must speak English or they will not amount to anything. Moreover, we couldn’t speak our Native language. It was a life that was extremely difficult then, with poverty.

There was a lack of transportation. Parents walked to the store. Welfare funding was limited for families. I know my dad worked hard for his children. He put food on the table by fishing, trapping, digging Seneca root, hunting, planting gardens, sugar beeting, and picking berries. In the winter months, he would use his dog sled to take us to school.

What helped me was a T.V. commercial with chiefs who identified themselves as Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (MIB). Their message was very straightforward: “If you need help, call MIB.” I will always remember this commercial throughout my life because my sister would have been one of the chiefs in the future.

I remember my grandma’s teachings. She told me, “Don’t let anyone take your Saulteaux language.” Today I am fluent in my language. It came handy at one time when I was being interviewed by the late Chief Raymond Swan. Chief Swam asked every question in his native language, and I answered back in Saulteaux. Chief Swan was grateful for that.

Moreover, I also developed a support network of educated ladies from the University Club. And when I encounter challenges, I pray to God. Though going to school was difficult for me – at times I wasn’t able to concentrate due to emotional trauma of the loss of my parents – I managed to graduate.

I earned a Certificate of Social Work from University of Regina, and from Brandon University, Native Human Services. In 2007, I earned a Bachelor degree of Social Work from University of Manitoba.

For June 2020, National Indigenous History Month, I would like to encourage Indigenous women, from my brief story, that you should never give up. You too can make it. Don’t be ashamed of your history, culture, and language.

Stella J Woodhouse, BSW