Topic: Today’s News

AFN National Chief Calls on Canada to Recognize Unceded Unsurrendered Algonquin Title of Indigenous Peoples Space in Ottawa

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde supports the Algonquin Nation in their work to secure title to lands within Algonquin territory. This includes the future Indigenous Peoples Space – a property at 100 Wellington Street and adjacent properties, across the street from Parliament Hill in Ottawa announced by the Government of Canada in 2017 as a centre for Indigenous peoples.

“The space at 100 Wellington Street and the adjacent property will be an important space for all First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders, governments and organizations to  conduct intergovernmental business and strengthen relationships,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  “I support the Algonquin peoples in pressing for the Government of Canada to recognize that this future space is on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory.  This will show a true act of reconciliation and acknowledgement of the important original relationship of partnership and sharing – that the First Peoples never gave up their rights in their traditional territories. This acknowledgement would set out the right approach for a space that will develop and grow based on the vision of the Algonquin peoples and all First Nations, Métis and Inuit.”

In a May 14, 2019 letter to federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, National Chief Bellegarde urged the Government of Canada recognize the title of the Algonquin Nation and that it should do so in a manner that reflects and respects the protocols of the Algonquin Nation and meaningful engagement with First Nations.  This is consistent with AFN Resolution 29/2017 passed in July 2017.

“Indigenous Peoples have an inherent right to self-determination throughout our traditional territories,” said National Chief Bellegarde.  “The recognition of Algonquin title is integral to ensuring this project continues in a good way and sets a tone to lead to better outcomes for First Nations and Canada.  AFN looks forward to continued collaborative efforts with the Algonquin Nation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the federal government to ensure the future Indigenous Peoples Space will be a site for First Nations and other Indigenous peoples and governments to conduct intergovernmental business and advance their self-determination.”

The groups involved will be hosting an event at 100 Wellington this June, with details forthcoming.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

Grand Council Treaty #3 Grand Chief supports Friendship Agreement between First Nations and Fort Frances

Kenora, ON — Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3 says he supports the recent friendship agreement signed between the Town of Fort Frances and Couchiching, Mitaanjigamiing, Naicatchewenin and Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nations, also known as Agency One communities.

“The First Nations involved have been embroiled in this situation and tied up in litigation over many years so I am pleased that they are moving forward in a good way,” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh. “I believe by following traditional protocols and ceremony, this situation can and has progressed positively.  This agreement is proof that we need to continue to support the First Nations in their fight to return the unsold territorial lands back to Agency #1 communities and why Canada and Ontario must commit to supporting the process.”

The signing took place at Point Park in Fort Frances April 23, at the location which has been the focal point for the past two decades.

“This is a movement towards reconciling a relationship that for years has been strained,” said Couchiching First Nation Chief Brian Perrault. “This tension was never in the best interest of both our communities and I am thankful that we can move forward in a positive direction.”

The goal of the agreement according June Caul, the mayor of Fort Frances, is to make the town, the First Nations, better places to live, while also fostering economic development and finding common ground on regional issues.

“We are finally looking at making things right,” said Nigigoonsiminikaaning Chief Will Windego. “It’s been going on for far too long and now that we have all the right people sitting at the table, this situation can be settled and benefit everyone.”

Call for Proposals – Parenting and Childrearing community funding initiatives

Start Date: 14 May, 2019 End Date: 31 May, 2019 Nunavut-wide 60 sec

The Department of Family Services is accepting proposals for projects in 2019-2020 that support community based parenting and childrearing workshops and aim to rebuild and strengthen Inuit traditional childrearing teachings and practices.

Non-profit organizations, societies and municipal organizations can apply for funding for projects that:

• revitalize the wisdom and practices of Inunnguiniq;

• support healing and wellness for parents and their families;

• strengthen the roles of family and community in child rearing;

• develop supports targeted at fathers;

• develop supports for single mothers;

• develop and or enhance parenting support networks;

• support the development of parenting skills; and/or

• support home visiting or parent mentorship.

For an application package, please contact Myna Kiguktak, Public Engagement Planner, at MKiguktak1@GOV.NU.CA or 867-975-5212.

The deadline to apply is May 29, 2019, at 5 p.m. (EDT).


SUMMARY: Indigenous educator, entrepreneur and cultural advocate Frank Brown will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws during VIU’s June 5, 2019 afternoon convocation ceremony for his contributions to preserving Indigenous culture including the resurgence of the Tribal Canoe Journey.

VIU MEDIA RELEASE: Thursday May 9, 2019

NANAIMO, BC: Celebrating and preserving Indigenous cultures and perspectives through place-based teachings is Frank Brown’s life-long commitment.

Brown, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, who carries the Hereditary Hemas (Chief) name of Dhadhiyasila (λ.λ.yasila) meaning “preparing for the largest potlatch”, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Vancouver Island University (VIU) in recognition of his commitment to advancing the causes of Indigenous sovereignty, cultural resiliency and environmental stewardship. He will participate in VIU’s afternoonconvocation ceremony on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 starting at 2:30 pm.

Brown was the initiator of and lead coordinator for the Tribal Canoe Journey to Bella Bella in 1993 and 2014 – the resurgence of the annual tradition of First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest Coast that engages nations to share their culture, dance, songs and language.

The journeys have become an important revitalization project of the Heiltsuk Glwa or “ocean going canoe” – which had not been carved or used over several decades. In 1986, as a student, Brown raised $250,000 to carve the traditional Glwa and led a symbolic canoe journey by enlisting other youth and paddling to Vancouver for Expo ʾ86.

“Frank has dedicated most of his life to the canoe journey resurgence. Through the Tribal Journeys our people have witnessed the strength of cultural connection of the Glwa and the meaning it has brought to our contemporary lives,” says K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Councilor. “Many of our young people who have embarked on these journeys were high-risk youth. The impact and strength of participating in the Tribal Journeys is such that it gives each youth a renewed sense of their Heiltsuk identity, promoting life balance and a healthy lifestyle.”

“By carrying forward the tradition of the Tribal Canoe Journey, we are holding strong to our long history on the coast,” says Brown. “The journey is a vessel of empowerment and keeps us connected to our culture and natural world in a physical, emotional and spiritual way.”

This spiritual awakening journey is similar to the one Brown embarked on when he was 14 years old. Facing a criminal conviction, Brown’s family elders requested he be exiled on an island in Heiltsuk territory, as part of Heiltsuk law, instead of going to a juvenile detention centre in Vancouver. He was on the island for eight months, and he was the first person in living memory within the community and in the Canadian judicial history to follow this Indigenous legal tradition.

During this time of solitude, Brown experienced the healing power of nature and reconnected with the importance of his Indigenous culture and place-based teachings. The experience deeply rooted a life-long commitment in Brown to promote cultural resiliency and environmental stewardship. 

Brown values education as a means to achieve sustainable socio-economic prosperity for Indigenous peoples, and supported the development of a community-based stewardship program and Aboriginal ecotourism place-based learning program with Vancouver Island University.

“VIU as an ally has been open to listening and truly hearing the Indigenous community and that is evident in the support they have provided in helping develop curriculum to promote Indigenous education and prosperity,” he says.

VIU also shows its support to Indigenous ways of knowing and being by participating in the Tribal Journeys and opening its doors to travelers of the journey. “VIU has always been very welcoming to our people. I have taken several groups of faculty and staff along with me on the journeys to experience our culture,” says Gary Manson, VIU Elder-in-Residence and participant of the Tribal Journeys. “It has been incredibly impactful to see all the different tribal groups come together and share in song and dance. It plays a significant role in connecting the younger generation who have grown up in an urban landscape to understand the teachings of our ancestors and to connect and advocate for our Earth.”

Brown is currently proprietor of SeeQuest Development, a management consulting firm; Cultural Coordinator for Heiltsuk Tribal Council; and an adjunct professor in Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. He co-chaired a Heiltsuk Nation initiative to investigate the 2016 Nathan E. Stewart environmental disaster, where an American-owned tug and barge ran aground in Heiltsuk territory, spilling 110,000 litres of diesel fuels and heavy oils and devastating the coastline. Brown collaborated on a ground-breaking report and assessment of the spill in the context of Heiltsuk laws.

“Frank’s story of grit, perseverance and service serves as a model for those who aspire to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” said Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “His own personal journey along with his efforts to revitalize the Tribal Journeys are inspiring for both VIU students and the wider community and we are honoured to celebrate his achievements.”

Brown will deliver brief remarks during VIU’s June 5 convocation ceremony which can be viewed on VIU’s Facebook page.


Photo Caption: Frank Brown will be receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from VIU on June 5th.  Photo Credit: Rob Ferguson

The AFNQL Warns Against Impostors

Wendake, May 9, 2019 – Following two articles by reporter Isabelle Hachey of La Presse Plus published this week, the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) is concerned about an increasing number of people who claim to be “indigenous”, fraudulently pretending to be a member of a First Nation and on this basis, introduce themselves as merchants, through various platforms, of indigenous products and services to the detriment of persons duly recognized by our Nations.

First and foremost, the AFNQL wishes to emphasize that the establishment of services that allow cultural security, a healing process or the exercise of a spirituality for First Nations people is not questioned. These support services are part of the spectrum of conditions that can promote individual and collective well-being of our communities and they are desired and necessary, and many individuals within our Nations are recognized to offer these kinds of support mechanisms.

“In a context where cultural appropriation raises legitimate concerns that are met by firm positions on the part of First Nations and recognized Indigenous groups around the world, nothing is more dishonest than misleading the public in such a blatant way by taking on false representation. Self-proclaimed “spiritual guide” or “shaman” without any affiliation to either of our First Nations is a scam, and this is totally disrespectful to any person who put their trust in these individuals. How far will they go? Exploiting the vulnerability of our members is unacceptable in every respect, but some do so freely, and even sometimes with the formal support of Governments which makes them accomplices of such a travesty”, said the Chief of the AFNQL Ghislain Picard.

The AFNQL intends to propose to the chiefs who sit at its table the establishment of a listing of persons duly recognized by their Nations for the purposes of services which derive their source from the authentic indigenous traditional, cultural or spiritual specificity.

The AFNQL also intends to call upon prison authorities to make sure background checks to verify the authenticity of the indigenous affiliation of certain inmates be more rigorous.

About the AFNQL

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the political organization regrouping 43 Chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. Follow us on Twitter @APNQL.

CN’s Sean Finn takes on Co-Chair role to propel Aboriginal procurement opportunities

Calgary, AB – May 9, 2019 – Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) is pleased to announce that Sean Finn, Executive Vice-President Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer of CN is the new Co-Chair of CCAB’sSupply Change initiative.

Mr. Finn succeeds Mark Little, CEO of Suncor, who served as the first Co-Chair when the initiative launched last May. The announcement was made at the Aboriginal Economic Development Conference (AEDC) being held today at the Westin in Calgary.

Supply Change is CCAB’s Aboriginal Procurement initiative that aims to create long-term sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal businesses and a meaningful advance of Indigenous participation in the economy.

“Our Supply Change initiative is undergoing unprecedented growth and much of that success is a result of Mark Little’s commitment and leadership,” says JP Gladu, President and CEO of CCAB. “We are honoured to have Sean Finn step into the Co-Chair role. Sean’s extensive knowledge, vision and passion for driving Aboriginal business growth makes him an ideal Co-Chair.”

Over the past year the number of Aboriginal Procurement Champions grew by 75% to 51 Champions. Procurement Champions are leading Canadian companies that commit themselves to increasing procurement opportunities for Aboriginal-owned businesses and pledge to motivate companies within their networks to join the movement.

Supply Change also includes Canada’s largest directory of Certified Aboriginal Businesses (CABs), which are independently certified as at least 51% Aboriginal owned and operated. In the past year, the directory grew by 97% and today there are 276 CAB companies listed.

Sean brings extensive experience in legal, government, regulatory and industry relations to his new role.

“Supply Change is all about building robust supplier networks and advancing economic reconciliation,” says Sean Finn, Executive Vice-President Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer for CN. “I am honoured to be named Co-Chair and look forward to supporting the continued, rapid expansion of this exciting procurement initiative. The incredible success of Supply Change underscores the exceptional talent of Indigenous entrepreneurs and the power of partnerships with Aboriginal businesses.”

Supply Change includes a digital Aboriginal Procurement Marketplace through which corporations and small and medium enterprises (SME’s) with procurement opportunities can easily connect on-line with qualified Aboriginal companies.

Participation in CCAB’s Supply Change initiative is open to all corporations and SMEs with the potential to include Aboriginal-owned companies in their supplier networks.

Fifty-one corporations have joined Supply Change as Aboriginal Procurement Champions. They include: Black & McDonald, BMO, The Bouchier Group, Bruce Power, Cameco, Cascade Projects, CIBC, City of Toronto Civeo,Clough Enercore, CN, Compass Group, Cortex, ES Fox Limited, Express Scripts, Fisher Powerline Construction, Fluor, Forest Products Association of Canada, Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McKay Group of Companies,General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, Hydro One, Imperial Oil, Industry Training Authority, Infield Solutions, LiUNA, Metrolinx, Nutrien, Ontario Power Generation, ORIGIN, Procon, RBC, Resolute Forest Products,SaskPower, Simon Fraser University, Sodexo, Stantec, Strategic Natural Resource Consultants Inc. Suncor, Syncrude, The State Group Inc., Tolko, Tuccaro, Union Gas, University of Saskatchewan, Venshore Mechanical, and VIP Powerline

About CCAB

CCAB is committed to the full participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy. A national, non-partisan association, CCAB offers knowledge, resources and programs to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal owned companies that foster economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses across Canada.

AFN National Chief Bellegarde Urges Committee Support for Federal Legislation focused on First Nations Jurisdiction for Care of Children

(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs today, speaking directly to the urgency of passing federal legislation on First Nations child welfare in this session of Parliament.

“Bill C-92 is focused on the safety, security and future of First Nations children in Canada, and it’s crucial this legislation pass before the end of June,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde to members of the Standing Committee today. “The impact of the status quo child welfare system is felt every day in our families and communities. There is no greater gift from the Creator than our children. They deserve to grow up valued and connected to their families, cultures and nations.” 

National Chief Bellegarde proposed specific areas to strengthen the bill together with Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Director of Indian Residential School Centre for History andDialogue, Professor, Allard Law School, University of British Columbia.  Areas identified for strengthening include references to adequate funding, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, best interests of the child and Jordan’s Principle. 

“No single legislative instrument will be enough on its own, but with First Nations jurisdiction paramount, we have a solid base for the change we need to see for our children and families,” said National Chief Bellegarde.  “Federal legislation sets a national framework and is a good first step to complement existing self-government agreements and while work at the regional and local levels continues. Bill C-92 recognizes and affirms the right to raise and take care of our children according to our own practices and values and to carry our languages and cultures forward from this generation to the next.”

An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, Bill C-92 was introduced in the House of Commons in February.  It was developed with direction from AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly and input by the AFN legislative working group which is comprised of technicians and experts from across the country drawing on years of advocacy and direction.

This legislation affirms First Nations jurisdiction and creates space for First Nations laws and practices regarding their families.  It respects rights in the context of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is the minimum international standard for the survival and dignity of Indigenous peoples. It sets out key principles that will prevent children from being removed from their homes unnecessarily, promotes children staying in their communities and nations and ensures the best interests of the child principle is understood and applied with a First Nations lens for our children and families.

The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.

Grand Council Treaty #3 Creates Diabetes Video to Promote a Healthy Lifestyle and Help Raise Awareness about the Disease

Kenora, ON — In an effort to raise awareness about the diabetes epidemic sweeping across Treaty #3 territory, Grand Council Treaty #3 produced a dynamic new video to encourage viewers to live a healthy life and better understand the chronic disease.

The video, titled Diabetes in Our Nation was created with funding from Indigenous Services Canada through the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, and features people from Treaty #3 First Nations. The video was shot over a number of months this past winter and features insight and advice about the disease from a variety of different perspectives. 

The four-minute video, which is posted to the Grand Council Treaty #3 website and to social media will also be shared with each of the Treaty #3 First Nations and regional health organizations. The video introduces individuals from Treaty #3 who share their personal stories living with diabetes. The video includes links to the full extended interviews for viewers who want to hear the whole story.

“This is an important service video that needs to be shared across our territories. Diabetes has affected someone we know in our First Nations,” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3 who appears in the video. “The prevalence of diabetes in our territories alone is more than twice as high compared to the overall Ontario average. This is a serious matter and we need to continue to fight this epidemic that is devastating our communities and our families.” 

Participants in the video share their personal journeys living with the chronic disease and encourage others to see their health care provider to get their blood sugar levels tested. Regular physical activity and healthy eating are highlighted as ways to avoid getting Type 2 diabetes and also important in the control of the disease for those who are living with diabetes.  

The personal stories encourage viewers to take steps to be healthy and to understand that diabetes, although a disease to be avoided where possible can be managed through health lifestyle choices. 

Because of the prevalence of diabetes among Grand Council Treaty #3 First Nations, Grand Council Treaty #3 wanted to create a video that featured people and stories from their region to better reach the population with a health message in a more personal way.
To view the video please visit


SUMMARY: Haida Elders create “Great Work” over two decades to preserve and revitalize their language; Vancouver Island University recognizes Elders’ contributions with honorary degrees on Monday, June 3, 2019.    

VIU MEDIA RELEASE: Monday, April 29, 2019

NANAIMO, BC: When a culture loses its language, an irreparable connection to the essence of a people is gone. One way to kill a Nation is to kill their language. The architects of the Canadian Indian Residential School System understood this, which is why they forcibly forbade their young charges from speaking their own language. The result of losing this linguistic diversity is a tragic loss to Canada of the wisdom, complexity and true understanding contained in the richness of Indigenous languages and cultures.

However, a dedicated and passionate group of Haida Elders, a generation who lived through residential schools, have spent the last 21 years ensuring this is not the case for the Haida people. In 1998, they created the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP), designed to preserve and revitalize HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil, the Skidegate dialect of the Haida language. 

Since SHIP began, despite illness and other challenges, the Elders have gathered five days a week, 10 months a year to remember and to record their previously oral language for this and future generations. 

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is honoured to recognize their remarkable work with Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to all nine Elders. Their names are Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Jones), Yang K’aalas (Grace Jones), Ildagwaay (Bea Harley), Taalgyaa’adad (Betty Richardson), Jiixa (Gladys Vandal) Sing.giduu (Laura Jormanainen), SGaanajaadsk’yaagaxiigangs (Kathleen Hans), Niis Waan (Harvey Williams) and GwaaGanad (Diane Brown). Together, they comprise the Skidegate Haida Language Authority. They will receive their awards during VIU’s afternoon convocation ceremony on Monday, June 3 starting at 2:30 pm.

With an average age of 84, these “language professors” represent about half of all fluent HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil speakers. Their contribution is an avalanche of language preservation including translating and producing more than 200 CD-ROMs; developing an app with 2,000 words and 500 phrases available to anyone with an Internet connection; writing “The Glossary” which contains more than 26,000 Haida words; translation of 14 Haida Readers; creating a variety of educational resources including 130 lesson plans and 80 children’s books; and much more. With justice in their souls, they support the Haida title case, including a Haida Place Names Mapping Project with more than 2,200 Haida place names. All this, in addition to the lives they touch daily, as Elders, giving because they can, through teaching and role modelling.  

SHIP played an important role in the making of an award-winning, feature-length movie filmed in the Haida language: SGaawaay K’uuna – The Edge of the Knife.

“This nomination for nine Haida Elders receiving Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees has its genesis in the VIU Faculty of Education,” said Les Malbon, VIU Sport, Health and Physical Education Professor. “The faculty humbly pays respect and tribute to the Elders’ engagement and ways of being, knowing and understanding. Faculty members recognize that they can learn at a deep and transformative level from these living libraries and pass this learning on to their students. These nine Haida Elder wisdom keepers are completing the Great Work (magnus opus) of their lives. They have brought forth a body of work from the core of their being that captures the richness of language and culture and showcased it to the world. The Great Work is resurgent, regenerative, transformative and is a gift for all future generations.” 

“It is fitting that SHIP be recognized by VIU during the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages,” said VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell. “This year we seek healing, from the violent disruption and interruption of language transmission and recovery of humanity’s linguistic heritage. Indigenous languages are disappearing around the world at unprecedented rates, with Canada one of the worst examples. We are overwhelmed with admiration and inspiration, and celebrate SHIP’s love and lasting legacy.”

Short biographies of each SHIP Elder:

Ildagwaay (Beatrice Harley) is the eldest woman and clan mother of the K’aadas Ga KiiGawaay, also known as the Raven-Wolf clan of T’aanuu. She was born on November 17, 1928 in Skidegate to Louise and George Price. She eloped with husband, Kenneth Harley, a sailor in the merchant navy, to Prince Rupert so her husband could immigrate and they married on February 7, 1949. They have two daughters – Barbara and Margaret. She has been with SHIP since the beginning. She taught at the Haida Heritage Centre and the Skidegate Health Centre and now mentors students. She is a fluent speaker and teacher of Xaayda Kil.

Taalgyaa’adad (Betty Richardson) was born to Rosalind and Fred Russ on May 11, 1935 in Skidegate. She and her family lived with her paternal grandmother until she was 13. Her grandmother spoke fluent Xaayda Kil. Her mother attended residential school for eight years. Taalgyaa’adad married Miles Richardson, Chief Cheexial (a hereditary Chief of the Haida Nation) in 1954. They have six children and 13 grandchildren. She is an Eagle from the Ts’aahl clan. She owned and operated her own travel agency from 1978- 1995. She started teaching at SHIP in 2000. She is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and now teaches four-and five-year-olds in the nursery school.  

Jiixa (Gladys Vandal) is from the Eagle Clan of Skidegate, Gidins Naa’yuuaans XaaydaGaay (Big House People). Her parents were Kathleen Young Hans and Isaac Hans. She is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and has taught at SHIP for 21 years. She has great passion for Haida language and culture and is currently mentoring a few students.

SGaanajaadskyaagaxiigangs (Kathleen Clara Hans) goes by the nickname Golie and was born July 13, 1933 at her mother’s house in Skidegate. Her clan is Skidegate Gidins, known as the Naa’yuuaans XaaydaGaay (Big House People). She is an Eagle and her clan’s crests are the two-headed raven, ‘waasGuu (sea wolf monster), killer whale, grizzly, sculpin, halibut, and ts’aamus (supernatural, transforming, living log). She recalls her mother telling her they come from the killer whale. She worked as a Haida Watchman in Hotsprings for 25 years, protecting the village sites during the summer. She has taught Xaayda Kil for 38 years and has been with SHIP since the beginning.

Niis Waan (Harvey Williams) was born on May 13, 1932 in Skidegate to Fred and Eva Williams. He belongs to the Gaagyals KiiGawaay, also known as the Skedans clan, and given the name Niis Waan by Susan Williams, his maternal nanaay (grandmother). His maternal chinaay (grandfather) was John Williams. He is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and has taught at SHIP since the beginning. He would like more conversation in Haida lessons, believes immersion is the most effective way to learn and encourages students not to get discouraged over mistakes.

Sing.giduu (Laura Jormanainen) is a member of the Skedans clan and was born January 28, 1936 in Skidegate. She is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker who has been teaching at Sk’aadGa Naay Elementary School since 1992 and has been with SHIP for 10 years. She has three grandsons, one great granddaughter and one great grandson. She also has two brothers, one sister and two daughters.

GwaaGanad (Diane Brown) is an educator, healer and nanaay (grandmother). She is a language and knowledge holder of the Ts’aahl Eagle clan of the Haida Nation. GwaaGanad has lived her whole life on the land and waters of Haida Gwaii gathering food, and learning and practicing Haida medicine. She is the youngest first language speaker of Xaayda Kil and served her Elders and community as the first Community Health Representative in Skidegate from 1970-1998. She has dedicated her life to protecting her people, culture and the Earth. In 1985, along with many other Haida people, she was arrested for blocking logging on Lyell Island. The area is now protected as the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Since 1986, GwaaGanad has been a member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth. She is a founding member of SHIP and has founded many groups in the protection and growth of the Haida culture. She is a retired professor at the University of Northern British Columbia. She has two children and four grandchildren. She continues to live in Skidegate with her soulmate, Ganxwad Dullskin Brown where they gather food, spend time with grandchildren and speak and teach Haida. 

Yang K’aalas (Grace Velma Jones) was born in Skidegate on January 6, 1929. She is what was referred to as a silent speaker – as a child she spoke Xaayda Kil even though it was forbidden at school. Joining SHIP allowed Yang K’aalas to use her knowledge of the Haida language to contribute to the preservation of her language and culture. She married Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Jones), who is also a SHIP Elder, on December 1, 1948 and the two just celebrated 70 years of marriage. They have spent much of their lives together traveling and as they travel they develop Xaayda Kil words and phrases that have not previously existed for what they see and experience. Yang K’aalas is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and teacher. At 90 years of age, she still lives at home and visits Gaayinguuhlas in the hospital. Together, they have two adopted children, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. One of their children is Cheexial Taaiixou (Chief Roy S Jones Jr.).

Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Charles Jones) was born in Lagoon Bay, Haida Gwaii on August 3, 1924. He grew up in Haida Gwaii and fished with his father starting at the age of 12. He spent his life as a commercial fisherman. Although he only possessed a Grade 6 education, he was very successful in the fishing industry. While he worked as a fisherman, he took every opportunity to teach Xaayda Kil and used the language with other Haida fishermen to protect good fishing areas. In 1970, he and his wife, Yang K’aalas, began a fishery that continues today. He cultivated great relationships up and down the west coast with many fishing families and spent years volunteering for basketball games at home and away, including the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, BC. Gaayinguuhlas is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and taught whenever he could. He became involved with SHIP to preserve and revitalize the language. In October, 2018, he suffered a stroke and heart attack. He is now in hospital, but even from his bed continues his work with students.


Photo Caption: The nine Haida Elders who make up SHIP, as well as program coordinator Kevin Borserio (back row, left). Photo Credit: Skidegate Haida Immersion Program.

Commissioner Kusugak announces recipients of the 2018 Nunavut Commissioner’s Arts Award

IQALUIT, Nunavut (April 26, 2019) – The Honorable Nellie T. Kusugak, Commissioner of Nunavut, today announced the recipients of the 2018 Nunavut Commissioner’s Arts Award. Award recipients Susan Avinngaq of Igloolik and Jaco Ishulutaq of Pangnirtung will each receive a cash prize of $5,000 and a certificate from the Commissioner.

“It is such an honor to recognize Mrs. Avinngaq and Mr. Ishulutaq for their outstanding contribution to Nunavut’s visual arts”, said Commissioner Kusugak.

Long time master carver/sculptor, Jaco Ishulutaq, is a well-established carver who is a great ambassador for Inuit Art culture. Mr. Ishulutaq has attended many exhibitions to showcase his work across the country. Having started carving at the age of 16, Jaco has done tremendous work and many young aspiring artists look up to him as a role model. Mr. Ishulutaq takes great pride in the arts; he regularly mentors and encourages many others to carry on the tradition to ensure that Inuit Art remains alive for many years to come.

Inuit storyteller, performer/actress, author/illustrator and costume designer, Susan Avinngaq is a passionate visual artist who continues to share the Inuit tradition. In over 25 years, Mrs. Avinngaq has played various key roles in many productions and has shared her extensive knowledge of Inuit cultural practices, traditions, stories and music. Mrs. Avinngaq puts much of her energy into preserving and protecting the Inuit culture, tradition and heritage and she does so through many forms of art.

The Nunavut Commissioner’s Arts Award was created by the former Commissioner Ann Meekidjuk Hanson to honour the artistic achievement of established Nunavut artists. Nominations are reviewed by a selection committee, whose members have an in-depth knowledge of arts and culture in Nunavut. Nominees are judged on their artistic achievements and the quality and impact of their work