Topic: NEWS

University of Saskatchewan Researchers Find Incidence of Epilepsy in Indigenous Population Double the National Average

Dr. Lizbeth Hernández-Ronquillo (left) and Dr. Jose Téllez-Zenteno, in front of Mexican artist Eduardo Urbano Merino’s painting Epilepsy, leaving the nightmare behind (2013), representing epilepsy surgery. (Photo by Daniel Hallen, University of Saskatchewan)

Dr. Lizbeth Hernández-Ronquillo (left) and Dr. Jose Téllez-Zenteno, in front of Mexican artist Eduardo Urbano Merino’s painting Epilepsy, leaving the nightmare behind (2013), representing epilepsy surgery. (Photo by Daniel Hallen, University of Saskatchewan)

 

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers have discovered that the incidence of epilepsy in the Canadian Indigenous population is twice that of non-Indigenous Canadians.

In a study published today in Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy, a team of epidemiologists and neurologists led by Dr. Jose Téllez-Zenteno has established for the first time a Canadian national incidence rate of 62 new cases of epilepsy per 100,000 people per year. For self-identified First Nations patients, the rate is 122 per 100,000.

“We don’t have the exact reason for the difference in rate,” Téllez-Zenteno said. “Some other studies have shown higher rates of traumatic brain injury in Indigenous populations. Head trauma is correlated with epilepsy, so, we think that’s one of the factors.”

Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of brain activity can lead to seizures, he said.

“Until now, there has been very little epidemiology research done about Aboriginal peoples with epilepsy. Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition worldwide, but there are numerous gaps in knowledge,” said Dr. Lizbeth Hernández-Ronquillo, first author on the paper.

The research was also co-authored by U of S epidemiologist Dr. Lillian Thorpe and biostatistics professor Punam Pahwa.

While epilepsy can occur at any age, the U of S study data indicates that incidence tends to increase with age. Health problems such as strokes, dementia, and tumours that increase with age also increase the likelihood of epilepsy.

Using Saskatchewan health records from 2001 to 2010, the researchers combined information from three different databases to gather data on patients who were either hospitalized for epilepsy or had two physician visits with an epilepsy diagnosis. From demographic information, they were able to separately examine records from patients who self-identified as status First Nations people. The Saskatchewan data was then age-adjusted to be representative for all of Canada.

Overall, inequalities including socioeconomic circumstances and education may pose differences in epilepsy risk. Future studies should explore reasons accounting for these findings in order to make targeted changes in health provision, said Hernández-Ronquillo. Regardless of the health indicator explored, Canadian Indigenous peoples have been shown to suffer a disproportionate burden of illness with poor outcomes, she said.

Over the period of the study, the incidence of epilepsy was actually in decline in Canada. That trend matches that of other countries with universal healthcare. In countries without universal health care, the rate of epilepsy is increasing.

“Epilepsy is a disease, like diabetes in that it can be treated—it can be cured or controlled,” Hernández-Ronquillo said.

The paper can be found at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1059131118302036

 

Major New Alberta Metis Centre Announced

Breaking ground on new Alberta Metis Centre

Groundbreaking at the Métis Crossing Site | Photo by The Métis Nation of Alberta


Funding for a major new Alberta Metis centre has been announced by the federal and Alberta governments and the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA).

The funding will be used to create a new Metis cultural gathering centre at the Metis Crossing heritage site, located downstream from Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan River within the Victoria District National Historic Site. Metis Crossing encompasses 512 acres and features a historic village, restored homesteads and nature trails. It offers outdoor programming such as voyageur canoe trips, festivals and comfort camping in newly built Metis trappers tents.

The new cultural gathering centre will provide a welcoming indoor space for visitors to enjoy after outdoor activities. With meeting rooms, classrooms, exhibit and interpretive spaces, it will also enable Metis Crossing to offer year-round programming for the first time with experiences such as trapping, night sky-watching and snowshoeing.

“Métis Crossing is a place of pride where we not only share culture and tradition but offer an opportunity for others to learn and experience Métis culture,” says MNA President Audrey Poitras. “Our long awaited Cultural Gathering Centre, that has been a dream of Alberta’s Métis people for decades, is finally underway and will open up so many more future possibilities for visitors to enjoy in every season.”

“Investing in cultural infrastructure plays an important role in developing dynamic communities, promoting tourism and preserving Canada’s heritage, including the history and experiences of the Métis,” says Amarjeet Sohi, the Edmonton MP who is also the federal minister of Infrastructure and Communities whose department is providing $3.5 million in funding for the project through the Major Infrastructure Component of its Building Canada Fund.

“The Government of Canada is proud to support the Métis Nation of Alberta in honouring this region’s—and Canada’s—diverse heritage and history by investing in the construction of a new cultural gathering centre for Métis Crossing,” Sohi said. “The new centre will not only serve as a year-round tourist attraction, it will also act as a social gathering place for the community where residents and visitors can celebrate the unique traditions, art and culture of the Métis.”

“Métis Crossing will contribute to the local and provincial economy while showcasing the history of a proud people – the Métis people of Alberta, “said Richard Feehan, Alberta Minister of Indigenous relations. “Through this initiative, visitors from across the province and the country will learn about the importance of the Métis to Alberta and Canada through several exhibits and historical village tours.” The Government of Alberta is contributing $1 million and the Métis Nation of Alberta is providing the remaining project costs.

Métis Crossing is the first Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta. It mirrors Métis core values such as self-sufficiency, respect for Elders, encouraging youth participation and cultural pride. This site is one of many initiatives and projects the Métis Nation of Alberta supports to develop the socio-economic and cultural well-being of Métis people in Alberta.

Construction of the new cultural centre is scheduled to be completed in the late summer of 2019.

The Government of Canada will invest more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.

$25.3 billion of this funding will support social (including cultural and recreational) infrastructure in Canadian communities.

$4 billion of this funding will support infrastructure projects in Indigenous communities.

2018 Indspire Awards Will Air in June on CBC and APTN

2018 Indspire Awards Will Air in June on CBC and APTN

The Indspire Awards will broadcast nationwide on Sunday, June 24 at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT) on CBC, and APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, including CBC radio.

This year’s ceremony is co-hosted by Darrell Dennis, award-winning comedian, actor, screenwriter and radio personality and Kyle Nobess, actor (Mohawk Girls) and international speaker. The show was taped in front of a live audience, including over 600 Indigenous youth, on March 23, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The show features performances by 2018 Juno-nominated, Indian City led by Vince Fontaine, 2018 Juno-nominated Sanikiluaq singer and songwriter, Kelly Fraser, dancer/choreographer, Santee Smith, Genie Award-winner for Best Achievement in Music, Jennifer Kreisberg, and classically trained Canadian cellist, Cris Derksen together with members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. 2005 Juno-nominated Asham Stompers, and 13-year old twin fiddler brothers Double the Trouble accompanied by 20-year old, Gustin Adjun join the final performance.

Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire and Executive Producer of the Indspire Awards says between the performances and the award recipients, the Awards is a magnificent evening of celebration of Indigenous talent in Canada.

“In this era of reconciliation, it is fitting that we honour the contributions and role of Indigenous peoples and look forward to the future we are building together. By recognizing the journeys and accomplishments of these remarkable First Nations, Inuit, and Métis visionaries, activists, and role models, who have – with passion, courage and tenacity – converted their gifts, energies and determination into achievement, we inspire our young people to achieve their dreams and we show all Canadians that our people continue to be an important part of the future of our country.”

The 2018 Indspire Awards honour the following thirteen First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals from across the country:

Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Gloria Cranmer Webster, ‘Namgis First Nation, BC
Arts: Greg Hill, Kanyen’kehaka at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, ON
Business & Commerce: Nicole Bourque-Bouchier, Mikisew Cree First Nation, AB
Culture, Heritage & Spirituality: Kye7e Cecilia Dick DeRose, Secwepemc Nation, BC
Culture, Heritage & Spirituality: Theland Kicknosway, Walpole Island Bkejwanong Territory, ON
Education: Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams, Lil’wat Nation, BC
Health: Dr. Evelyn Voyageur, Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, BC
Law & Justice: Paul Chartrand, Métis, St. Laurent, MB
Public Service: Dr. Mike DeGagné, Animakee Wa Zhing #37, ON
Sports: Michael Linklater, Thunderchild First Nation, SK
Youth – First Nation: Ashley Callingbull, Enoch Cree Nation, AB
Youth – Inuit: Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk, Igluligaarjuk, NU
Youth – Métis: Tracie Léost, Métis, St. Laurent, MB

The Indspire Awards represent the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people. After 25 years, the Indspire Awards have recognized 350 Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding achievement. Their stories serve to inspire our youth and educate all Canadians about the impact that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people are making across the country. Each year, the recipients are selected by a jury composed of previous award recipients from across Canada. Recipients are honoured at a ceremony, which is later televised nationally.

Treaty 7’s Camp Mohkínstsis

Photo by Destin Running Rabbit

 

For the past two months, a group of First Nation’s people have built and sustained an awareness site called, “Camp Mohkínstsis” – a Blackfoot term for “Elbow meets the Bow” – across the street from Calgary’s downtown courthouse.

It started as just a tent put up in protest against the Colton Boushie and Tina Fontaine verdicts. Today, the same tent still stands and is accompanied by two Blackfoot-style tipis.

Since its inception, the camp’s objectives have changed and it is no longer a protest. “I’m done protesting, I’m done talking, it’s time to act – and this is my action,” says camp leader Garret C. Smith. “Calgary is largely unaware of who we are as Indigenous people. The only time that we really get any form of acknowledgment for Indigenous people here in Calgary is during the Calgary Stampede when they have the Indian Village up. That’s why I want to occupy this space in the downtown core, to show everyone that yes, we are still here.”

Smith, known traditionally as Buffalo Curly Head, is a Blackfoot man from Southern Alberta. He is registered in the Piikani Nation, raised on the Kainai Nation and now lives in Calgary.

Smith sleeps at the campsite most nights, except when he’s working. He works with a touring children’s theatre company and he also teaches at schools in the Calgary area. Last year, Smith toured 33 schools. He said, with the exception of a couple schools, students always ask if Native people are still around.

“That was a big reason why I wanted to set this camp up, because there’s a whole generation of kids not knowing we’re here,” expressed Smith.

Camp Mohkínstsis has been hosting round-dances, tipi-raisings, story-time sessions with Blackfoot elders and other traditional events. They’ve also been a resource for anyone interested in learning more about Blackfoot culture.

Be it a contact given out to someone looking to partake in a sweat lodge ceremony, or a recipe for fry-bread, everyone at the camp is eager to help people navigate and access Blackfoot knowledge. Those who tend the camp are always open to talk and invite everyone and anyone to come inside.

“This is a camp made for the people, by the people,” affirms Smith. “No government funding, nothing from the band. It’s just fully our own people that did this ourselves.”

Camp Mohkínstsis is a warm, peaceful atmosphere. There’s a wood-burning stove in the tent that you can usually find boiling water for tea, frying up fry-bread or making meals for anyone that’s hungry. There’s a circle of chairs in the tent for visitors to sit and talk while music plays.

The tipis stand tall, and once you step inside one of them the streets of Calgary seem to vanish. There’s no more towers of exhaust, and all the commotion subsides just for a bit. Inside the tipi it’s just you, anyone else who is there with you, and a crackling fire. It’s a very soothing place to be, organized well and is operated respectfully.

Smith says he wants Camp Mohkínstsis to be up at least until the Calgary Stampede and has a strong vision about the camp’s future. “The vision that has popped up – I imagine this 400-foot tipi. This huge, huge tipi, built properly with modern structure. Built to look like a traditional Blackfoot tipi, solar panels on the outside, and as self-sustaining as we could possibly make it,” said Smith.

Within the building Smith wants to have tipis for ceremony, a recording studio, a performance space, and an all-Indigenous library with film, music, book, history and art archives. This would allow people from all over the world to access this cultural information and give Indigenous people a space to reconnect with their roots.

First Nations Drum will keep you updated on where this goes, but you can get your daily update through their Facebook page: “Camp Mohkínstsis.”

Photo by Destin Running Rabbit

 

Dr. Evelyn Voyageur Receives Indspire Health Award

Dr. Evelyn Voyageur has inspired a generation of leaders while transforming Indigenous healthcare across Canada.

Dr. Evelyn Voyageur, a nationally recognized leader in Indigenous health, NIC Elder in Residence and faculty member, will receive the prestigious 2018 Indspire Award for Health.

Voyageur has dedicated her life to transforming Indigenous healthcare across Canada.

“She was raising awareness about the systemic and institutionalized racism faced by Indigenous people long before these issues were in the public eye,” said NIC nursing instructor Joanna Fraser. “She had the courage to speak out when there were not many people in the nursing profession taking action to reduce the stigma and oppression faced by Indigenous people.”

Voyageur lived the Truth and Reconciliation principles long before they were mandated, encouraging NIC nursing students to respect Indigenous voices and ways of knowing.

“Evelyn’s guidance, mentorship and wisdom as an Elder have deeply impacted not only my nursing practice but how I carry myself in this world,” said Dawn Tisdale, Evelyn’s former student at NIC, and leader of the Association of Registered Nurses of BC’s New Graduate program. “Evelyn’s leadership and heart have inspired a generation of leaders who have changed the course of healthcare in Canada. She has shifted our collective consciousness and paved the way for Indigenous nurses everywhere.”

Voyageur also influenced the development of NIC field schools to Kingcome and Rivers Inlets, giving student nurses and faculty from across Western Canada, physicians and professionals the opportunity to learn about Aboriginal health and healing from Elders in remote coastal communities.

“Dr. Voyageur is a strong supporter of a community-led health system,” said Fraser. “With her guidance this field school has been developed in relationship with community – with respect for Wuikinuxv protocols and knowledge.”

Her advocacy is recognized nationwide. In addition to the Indspire Award, Voyageur has earned a College of Registered Nurses of BC Lifetime Achievement Award, was named as one of the top 150 nurses across Canada and received an Award of Excellence in Nursing from Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Branch.

She is active in the Vancouver Island Health Authority Aboriginal Working Group, the New Hospital Projects Aboriginal Advisory Committee, the Ministry of Children and Families Aboriginal Advisory Group, the Canadians Seeking Solutions and Innovations to Overcome Chronic Kidney Disease (Can-SOLVE CKD) network and more.

“I have witnessed her ability to empower and mentor First Nations people to use their traditional knowledge and values in working toward the health of their own communities,” said Fraser. “For me, there has been no greater nurse, mentor and teacher in my life. She shares herself generously as a teacher and knowledge keeper.”

Learn more about NIC’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at www.nic.bc.ca/health and view Dr. Voyageur’s full profile at www.nic.bc.ca/faculty.

PSAC Continues Its Thirsty for Justice Campaign to Address Water Crisis in First Nations Communities

On National Aboriginal Day 2016, PSAC launched its Thirsty for Justice campaign. It was launched as the result of a PSAC convention resolution, passed unanimously, that called on the union to engage in a national campaign on safe drinking water for First Nations communities.

The #ThirstyforJustice campaign is demanding that the Liberal government make good on its promise to fix the water crisis in First Nations communities and ensure that all Indigenous People have access to tap water that is safe to drink.

 

Grassy Narrows

For this campaign, PSAC partnered with the community of Grassy Narrows. The river water in Grassy Narrows has been contaminated by mercury for over 40 years and the tap water is not safe to drink. Grassy Narrows is only one of more than 100 First Nations communities that do not have access to safe water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

A Thirsty for Justice video was developed in collaboration with an award-winning documentary filmmaker and focuses on the community of Grassy Narrows. The community has been in a long-standing battle with the federal and provincial governments over the water issue while at the same time defending their territory from logging companies that wish to clear cut the land. The campaign also includes sample letters and talking points for use when talking to MPs about the issue, a petition, posters and other initiatives aimed at raising awareness and getting the government’s attention.

For Aboriginal Day in 2017, PSAC partnered with Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) for its National Aboriginal Day Live program. As part of the partnership agreement, APTN aired a 30-second version of our campaign video.

As of March, 2018, the video now has over 160,000 views.

Although the Liberal government has promised to end boil water advisories by 2021, they have not committed enough money or resources to accomplish this goal. According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government’s actual and planned spending falls short of what’s needed by at least 30 per cent. That is why it is still so important to push forward with this campaign.

Visit ThirstyforJustice.ca to send a letter to your MP calling for immediate action and to share the campaign video.

 

World’s First Indigenous Law Degree to Be Offered at UVic


A new law program at the University of Victoria is the world’s first to combine the intensive study of both  Indigenous and non-Indigenous law, enabling people to work fluently across the two realms.

Students will graduate with two professional degrees, one in Canadian Common Law (Juris Doctor or ‘JD’) and one in Indigenous Legal Orders (Juris Indigenarum Doctor or ‘JID’). Their education will benefit areas such as environmental protection, Indigenous governance, economic development, housing, child protection and education—areas where currently there is an acute lack of legal expertise to create institutions that are grounded in Indigenous peoples’ law and to build productive partnerships across the two legal systems.

“This program builds on UVic’s longstanding commitment to, and unique relationship with, the First Peoples of Canada. The foundational work for this program has been underway for several years, building on Indigenous scholarship for which UVic is known internationally,” says UVic President Jamie Cassels. “This joint-degree program is also a direct response to a call of action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous Law.”

The provincial government included funding for the new program in BC Budget 2018, delivered Feb. 20, as one of several initiatives and another step in BC’s commitment to work with Indigenous peoples to build true and lasting reconciliation, anchored by the government’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“We appreciate the provincial government’s support for this unique and transformative program whose graduates will be leaders in numerous fields in their communities in BC and across Canada,” says Cassels.

The JD/JID program was conceived by two of Canada’s foremost Indigenous legal experts, both of whom are at UVic: John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law, and Val Napoleon, Law Foundation Chair in Aboriginal Justice and Governance. Borrows describes the difference between common law and Indigenous law this way: Indigenous law looks to nature and to the land to provide principles of law and order and ways of creating peace between peoples; whereas the common law looks to old cases in libraries to decide how to act in the future.

“Indigenous law is the most vital and exciting legal work being done in the world right now,” says Napoleon, director of the Indigenous Law Research Unit. “UVic’s Indigenous Law Degree program will equip our students to take up that work at every level – local to national, private to public, and beyond. This is the very first law degree of its kind, and it is going to be a vital part of rebuilding Indigenous law to meet today’s challenges.”

The four-year JD/JID program includes mandatory field studies in Indigenous communities across Canada, introducing students to a diversity of Indigenous legal traditions. The first intake of students is being planned for September 2018, subject to approval under BC’s Degree Authorization Act.

The program will be supported and complemented by a new Indigenous Legal Lodge, to be built to house the JD/JID program and the Indigenous Law Research Unit. It will act as a national forum for critical engagement, debate, learning, public education and partnership on Indigenous legal traditions and their use, refinement, and reconstruction. The design will reflect and honour the long-standing relationships between the law school and local First Nations communities.

Senator Murray Sinclair, former judge and Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said of the joint JD/JID program and Indigenous Legal Lodge: “They are precisely what we had hoped would follow from the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and they promise to form the very best of legacies: a set of initiatives that reject and reverse the pattern of denigration and neglect identified in our report, and that establish the conditions for effective action long into the future.”

 

The 2018 Indspire Award Recipients

Arts

Greg Hill
Kanyen’kehaka, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Ontario

Greg HillOver nearly thirty years of work as an artist and curator, Greg Hill has been a unique voice for Indigenous issues in his art, and an advocate for other Indigenous artists as a curator. The first Indigenous curator at the National Gallery of Canada, since 2000 he has dramatically increased the representation of Indigenous artists in the permanent collection and on display in the galleries, nearly doubling the collection in the years since he became the inaugural Audain Chair and head of the Department of Indigenous Art. Greg has curated major retrospective exhibitions and written catalogues for some of the most acclaimed Indigenous artists in Canada including: Norval Morrisseau, Carl Beam, and most recently, Alex Janvier. Greg was co-curator for Sakahan: International Indigenous Art, the National Gallery’s largest ever exhibition and the only recurring global survey of contemporary Indigenous art in the world. Greg is now hard at work on the next one coming in the fall of 2019.


Business & Commerce

Nicole Bourque-Bouchier
Mikisew Cree First Nation, Alberta

Nicole Bourque BouchierNicole Bourque-Bouchier is a business leader, philanthropist, and an advocate for Indigenous women’s economic empowerment. As co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of The Bouchier Group, one of Alberta’s largest Indigenous-owned companies, she is one of the most influential women in Canada. In 2015, she was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Not only does Nicole empower other women through her example as a woman with the top job in a male-dominated field, she is also actively engaged in elevating other Indigenous women. In 2013, Nicole spearheaded an ad series called Paving Pathways to Success, Applauding Aboriginal Women in Business, where eight local women were recognized for adding value and awareness to Indigenous women’s economic security in the region.Nicole exemplifies Indigenous reciprocity through the more than $3 million that she has contributed through both The Bouchier Group and personally to local organizations, initiatives, and Indigenous communities in the Fort McMurray region.


Culture, Heritage & Spirituality

Kye7e Cecilia Dick DeRose
Secwepemc Nation, British Columbia

Despite being discouraged from speaking her language at St. Joseph’s Residential School, Kye7e Cecilia DeRose is a champion of language revitalization. Since 1980, she has been teaching Secwepemctsin to students of all ages and has helped develop university Indigenous language programs. In the 1980s, Cecilia sat on the Katie Ross Inquiry, which recommended that interpreters be provided to Indigenous people and that public servants be provided cross-cultural training. Cecilia then undertook the interpreter course and was available to interpret and provide cross cultural training for the hospital, RCMP, and courts. Cecilia recently created a Hide Tanning Kit and Instruction Book and has assisted in developing and teaching a course on Secwepemc ethnobotany. Cecilia lives by what her father told her the first time she was taken by the missionaries to residential school: “Always be proud to be an Indian.”

 


Culture, Heritage & Spirituality

Theland Kicknosway
Walpole Island Bkejwanong Territory, Ontario

At just fourteen years old, Theland is a singer, dancer, activist and an educator of Indigenous culture and history. Known as the Cree Drummer who led the current Prime Minister and Cabinet into Rideau Hall in 2015, Theland has used his spotlight to elevate Indigenous issues. In 2017, he completed his third annual 130km run from Ottawa to Kitigan Zibi in partnership with Families of Sisters in Spirit to raise awareness for the children of missing and murdered Indigenous women. He is also a facilitator of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise where he lends his wisdom and compassion to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people learning about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. In grade three, he wrote a letter to his school explaining why an annual pow wow would be an excellent teaching opportunity for the school and as a result, in 2017, Century Public School celebrated its fourth annual pow wow.


Education

Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams
Lil’wat Nation, British Columbia

Dr.LornaDr. Lorna Wanosts’a7 Williams is Professor Emerita of Indigenous Education, Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Victoria and Canada Research Chair in Education and Linguistics. She built her career on the principle that quality education for Indigenous children must be characterized by strong cultural teachings alongside a Euro-Western education. As a child, Wanosts’a7 lost her language as a result of her residential school experience, but relearned it with the help of her family and community. She eventually helped to develop the writing system for Lil’wat and co-authored the first curriculum and learning resources for teachers to teach the language in school. At the University of Victoria, Dr. Williams initiated and led the development of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Indigenous Language Revitalization, and a Master’s in Counseling in Indigenous Communities. She also initiated, designed, and implemented a mandatory course in Indigenous Education for all teacher education students, leading to the requirement that all teacher education programs in British Columbia include an Indigenous Education course.


Health

Dr. Evelyn Voyageur
Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, British Columbia

Dr.EvelynDr. Evelyn Voyageur is a survivor of St. Michael’s Residential School, a fluent speaker of Kwakwala, and an active matriarch in the Kwakwaka’wakw culture. She has dedicated her life to improving the health of Indigenous peoples through her more than five decades in the nursing profession. In the early 1980s, Dr. Voyageur founded the Native and Inuit Nurses Association of British Columbia to help educate those who work with First Nations communities, and from 1999 to 2003, she supported survivors at the Indian Residential School Society. Since 1980, she has been active in the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association, and was its President from 2010-2012. In 2003, she earned her PhD in Behavioural Science in Psychology. Dr. Voyageur has been working to transform curricula to bring cultural awareness to nursing programs at the University of Victoria and North Island College, where she is the current Elder in Residence.


Law & Justice

Paul Chartrand
St. Laurent, Manitoba

Paul Chartrand Paul Chartrand is a legal practitioner and a retired Professor of Law who has lent his expertise to some of the most significant developments in law and policy for Indigenous peoples in recent history. In 1991 Paul Chartrand was appointed one of the seven commissioners to Canada’s Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The resulting report included 440 recommendations for transforming the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and governments in Canada and has become a framework for reconciliation. The report has led to historic initiatives like the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For nearly three decades, Mr. Chartrand participated as a representative and an advisor to Indigenous organizations in the process leading up to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The creation and adoption of UNDRIP is a significant milestone in the protection and promotion of Indigenous rights not only in Canada, but around the world. The Declaration was officially adopted by the Government of Canada in 2016.


Public Service

Dr. Mike DeGagné
Animakee Wa Zhing #37, Ontario

Mike DeGagne Dr. Mike DeGagné is President and Vice Chancellor of Nipissing University.  He hopes to “indigenize the academy” and is especially committed to helping Indigenous students find and achieve their life’s purpose. Dr. DeGagné has over 25 years of leadership experience in public service. He was an Executive in the federal public service, serving with Health Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.  His career began in the addictions field, and continued to comprehensive claims negotiation. In 1998, Dr. DeGagné became the founding Executive Director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In that role, he worked on a national level to encourage and support community-developed, community-delivered, and culturally-based initiatives addressing the intergenerational effects of abuses suffered in the Indian Residential School System. For his dedication to this work, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2014 and Member of the Order of Ontario in 2010.


Sports

Michael Linklater
Thunderchild First Nation, Saskatchewan

Michael Linklater Michael Linklater is the top-ranked three-on-three basketball player in all of the Americas. In 2010, he led the University of Saskatchewan Huskies basketball team to their first CIS national championship. In 2017, he played with Team Saskatoon in the 3×3 World Tour Final in Beijing. Perhaps even more impressive than Michael’s athleticism is his commitment to being a positive role model for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. He is the owner and head coach of Prime Basketball Development, where he teaches young basketball players how to become champions on and off the court. He also travels to First Nations communities and hosts individual and team development clinics. As a kid, Michael was bullied relentlessly for his braids, so when his sons suffered the same racism, the proud Nehiyaw (Cree) started an international movement called Boys with Braids to teach Indigenous youth and those who work with them, about the cultural significance of long hair for Indigenous men.


Youth – First Nation

Ashley Callingbull
Enoch Cree Nation, Alberta

Ashley In 2015, Ashley Callingbull became the first Canadian and first First Nations woman to be crowned Mrs. Universe. In the ensuing media frenzy that followed her historic win, she began to use her platform to be a voice for Indigenous issues. During the federal election happening at the same time, she helped push the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to the forefront of political discussion. She shares her own story of using her Cree culture to overcome childhood physical and sexual abuse to show young people going through the same thing, that there is hope. Ashley is deeply rooted in her culture and through her visibility, has managed to break down stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. In addition to her work in the community, she is an accomplished actor, appearing on APTN’s Blackstone, was part of the first First Nations team on The Amazing Race Canada, and is a spokesperson and model for the Nike N7 organization.


Youth – Inuit

Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk
Igluligaarjuk, Nunavut

Dr.Donna Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk is the very first Inuk to become a heart surgeon.  Currently in her fourth year of a six-year residency program at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, she was accepted in 2014 as one of only ten cardiac surgery residents in all of Canada. In 2016, Dr. Kimmaliardjuk joined the National Aboriginal Council on HIV/AIDS as the Inuit representative, where she provides the council with a unique and crucial perspective combining her knowledge of medicine and Inuit culture. While earning a Bachelor of Sciences Honours at Queen’s University, she served as president of the Queen’s Native Students’ Association for two years and was a student representative on the Queen’s University Aboriginal Council. Through her hard work and dedication, she is not only bridging the gap for Inuit accessing medical services, but she is leading the way for the next generation of Inuit youth to follow in her footsteps.


Youth – Métis

Tracie Léost
St. Laurent, Manitoba

Tracie LeostAt just nineteen years old, Tracie Léost is a young Indigenous leader, activist, and track and field athlete. In 2014, Tracie won three bronze medals under the Métis flag at the North American Indigenous Games in Regina. In 2015, after learning of the disappearance of more and more Indigenous women and feeling a growing sense of frustration about the lack of political will to launch an inquiry into the issue, Tracie set out on a four-day 115km run to raise awareness. She raised over $6,000 for the Families First Foundation and garnered international attention. In September 2016, the Government of Canada launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Now in her second year in the Indigenous Social Work Program at the University of Regina, she continues to advocate for Indigenous peoples.

 


Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Gloria Cranmer Webster
‘Namgis First Nation, British Columbia

Gloria CranmerDr. Gloria Cranmer Webster is recognized for her work in cultural reclamation, artifact repatriation, and language revitalization. In 1921, the federal government confiscated masks, regalia, and other treasures from a Potlatch ceremony hosted by Chief Dan Cranmer, Gloria’s father. As Assistant Curator at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, Gloria helped to return the collection to her community. In 1975, Gloria returned to her home in Alert Bay to lead the design and construction of the U’mista Cultural Centre, which would house the Potlatch Collection. The Centre remains a place for cultural revitalization for the community and the many visitors who travel to the island to learn about Kwakwaka’wakw culture. Dr. Cranmer Webster is also a champion of the Kwak’wala language. At a time when it was on the verge of extinction, Gloria, along with the Old People and Dr. J. Powell, a linguist from the University of BC, developed an orthography and a series of twelve language books, which paved the way for its preservation.

The Last Prayer

Wendy and Alicja with the Beaton Family Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

Wendy and Alicja with the Beaton Family Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

Woke up at midnight last month after sleeping four hours and was not sure if I had a vision or if I was thinking in my sleep or what, but I was having all these thoughts about my elders and who was praying with them and if they had said their last prayer.

We all need to share, communicate, work, create and heal to survive; if we find love we are lucky and if we learn to pray, then we can give thanks like all the old cultures did in the old days. Of course we are an extension of our ancestors, we are an extension of our elders and loved ones. We are the past, present and future generations; we are the light, darkness, the sun, earth, air and water. My old uncle Robertjohn says it is the old elders who have taught us as children how to give thanksgiving, how to honor life and Mother Earth; our elders teach us everything has a spirit. Robertjohn says everything is alive; if you are sitting on the moon looking down at Mother Earth, he says “alive or dead”.

When our old elders gathered up and we all stood in a circle around the sacred fire every year, our prayers got stronger and our love got stronger, but our people were getting weak from the negativity around us and we tried to keep our way of life alive, but everything was out of balance in the world, from losing our natural diets to forgetting to maintain physical, mental, spiritual indigenous lifestyle.

Robertjohn said the highest form of prayer is song. In the song is the melody, the harmony and the thought, the prayer. All the songs in the world have given so much love, joy, peace to the peoples of the world and their very spirit. Some songs are so healing we need to hear them over and over and over again. Some songs are sung every day, they are sung by the entire community, entire families, entire nations for respect, for peace, for harmony, maybe even for healing. Some songs are so powerful they are used for birth and crossing over. Some songs can be used for purification, cleaning of the mind, body and spirit. Some songs are for making happy, in giving thanks to Creation and Life and Life-giving forces. Rabbit Dance Song, Eagle Song, Fish Dance Song, songs that honor fish, birds, insects and animals bring us closer to our relations and our relatives. The songs are old, the songs are new, but they are songs that bring harmony, peace, humility, justice and unity. The song is a form of prayer, a form of respect, a form of healing. A song is from the heart, the song is from the spirit, the song can be with tears and laughter, peace and pain. Some of the most beautiful songs come from birds, animals, fish and insects, we just cannot hear some. The universe can be a place of prayer and song at times in Tibet, Mongolia, China, Africa, Greece, Turkey, Australia, Poland, Russia, America and the world. The world can be a breeding ground for peace, harmony, prayer, song and dance.

When I woke from my dream, I thought who was praying with our elders. I thought of Leon Shenandoah,  one of our most gentle Onondaga chiefs,  who was chief of the chiefs, Tadodaho, a leader of his people and culture, someone raised in peace, power, righteousness, respect and harmony. Then I thought who was praying with Austin and Hilba Two Moons when they were dissidence of his grandfather who fought in Little Big Horn and Austin always treated me like a son, the way most of our elders treated us when we attended sacred gatherings and councils. Every year our Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth/American Indian Institute would sponsor and organize our sacred councils somewhere in Canada or US, where a native community was in need of traditional native elders to help bring back their native ways and ceremonies with our help. Then I started thinking who is praying for my mom and is her apartment getting smudged and purified. I know Marcus and Priscilla Vigel had a strong community of Pueblo Culture and that their ceremonial life was strong among the families and people of New Mexico. They had two daughters, Margret and Vicky, who were like clan mothers keeping the family and community positive with prayers and good energy. Also I knew Tom Porter, our spiritual leader of the Mohawk people, was being looked after because he was always out in the community boosting people’s spirit with his wisdom and teachings of The Good Mind, of the respect needed for any family or community to find tranquility, harmony, equality, justice and peace. When I think of the love and gentleness from Ann Jock for all Indian people and all people of the world and her own family with her husband Corn Planter, I realize there is hope in the world if such love can exist on the planet! Who taught us how to pray, who taught us how to give thanksgiving, who taught us how to purify ourselves. Priscilla used to say to me, Danny you pray for me and I will pray for you in the most beautiful way. It was like a blessing just to be talked to in that gentleness and peaceful manner.

Our circle is still going, but it is not what it used to be. Our elders are being replaced by their children and it’s a new generation and not that it’s not a strong generation, but the ones who carried their fathers’ and grandfathers’ Sacred Pipes are a different breed, because you had to see the open space, freedom and cleanness of  Mother Earth to know that power and quietness of 100 years ago, even the stories that were told two hundred years ago by their elders. I remember teachings twenty-five years ago: our elders said prepare yourself for what’s coming because everything is falling apart. Even when my partner/wife was diagnosed with cancer and I tried to save her, I learned that the trees were a nation to themselves and that the plants were a nation too a part of  Mother Earth and I prayed to them to help Alicja and I prayed to the Grandmother Moon to help Alicja, but then in the end I learned I had to give thanksgiving for all the years we had together and not ask for more.

All of this stuff happening tells me how Sacred Life is, how beautiful life is all around us. Sure we can see destruction and the rape of Mother Earth by negative people and corporations, but there is natural beauty all around us, even gardens, forests, mountains and lakes to heal in and energize ourselves. Like Janice Longboat says, our teachers are all around us ready to teach, but we as people have to want to see, hear and feel the gifts that the Universe, our Great Creator has blessed us all with. Like Mac McCloud says, what Mac says has to be said, what Mac says is the truth. The way I see things is we need to give Thanksgiving ourselves, we need to be mindful of Creation and be thanksgiving people.

Danny and Alicja in Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

Danny and Alicja in Nanaimo BC photo by Pat Beaton

When I was coming home from work the other day, I thought what if all the electricity shut down, what if all the hot water stopped getting hot, where would our energy come from, what’s going to power the cities if things collapse. What happens if the oil and gas run out. This world or society is built on security and refreshments and we are forgetting the Sacredness of it all. Even though my wife is gone and even though my mom is so far away, I love them more than anything I know or can see or feel; only the moon and my grandchildren can take their place now. We are living in a fragile time with our oceans being destroyed so fast; with machinery nothing seems to be sacred any more in this world, but it all is. I am honored to be sitting here at my computer with all these memories and thoughts and I pray that we all find time to bring back the Sacred and Respect for Mother Earth and Creation and we give thanks for all those who have forgotten to be thankful.

One of my best friends and elders crossed over not long ago: Wilmer Nadjiwon was 97 years old, a chief of his people for fourteen years. When we spent time together it was like hearing the legends of the past. Wilmer was a hunter and fisherman, he could feed his family and people and he did. Wilmer went to war for Canada like many other native people when we were at war. Our ancestors are as noble as the old days but wounded and broken from residential school like my uncle Wilmer. As long as I live I will smoke my pipe for Wilmer and my wife because we were happy all together, we did ceremony together, we worked for Mother Earth together and we ate together. We were the truest extended family. Wilmer was an Ojibway hero and leader. We cannot forget our elders! Wilmer was angry but he was gentle like many native people, he was gifted and blessed to be a Sacred Artist carving, writing and painting.

Chief Oren Lyons said our Sacred Pipes belong to the Creator. We pray for all people and give thanks to Creator and Mother Earth for all the gifts from The Great Mystery.

The Mountain Money (Op-Ed)

Hannah’s a freelance writer who writes for First Nations Drum. The story you’re about to read is her perspective on a distribution of $3,500 she received as a member of the Siksika First Nation. On March 15, 2016, Siksika Nation members voted in favour of a $123 million deal that saw them give up claims to the Castle Mountain area in Banff National Park.

The distribution was for financial compensation for the Castle Mountain, located in the heart of the Banff Provincial National Park.The financial settlement was meant to compensate Siksika for illegal use of the 70-sq.-km land granted to them in 1892.

The Crown allowed timber sales and other transactions to continue on the land without compensation to the nation, and in 1908 the land was returned to the Canadian government without consent.

The Castle Mountain was granted to the Siksika Nation in 1892 by the federal government, then returned to the government without Siksika's consent in 1908

The Castle Mountain was granted to the Siksika Nation in 1892 by the federal government, then returned to the government without Siksika’s consent in 1908

I didn’t want the money, but the yes vote won. I voted no. I made a point to, too, because I knew most of the votes would be yes. They told us if we voted yes that we’d get 3500 bucks, and that this big, thick document would be approved. I didn’t read it. I went off of what I heard about it from my Dad, who read some of it. He didn’t like it, and he has a good mind about these kinda’ things. I mean, he grew up on the rez. So, with a blind trust in his thoughts, coupled with a suspicion as to why the government felt it necessary to make amendments to a document that gave Siksika rights to this spot of land with this super sweet mountain on it, I voted no. But, the yes vote won by a landslide – I think only 20 percent voted no. Or so I heard. So, I went to pick the money up. I biked cuz it was sunny out. When I got there, I was at the wrong building, so I hadta’ bike a dangerous route to the actual building, across Barlow trail (a busy road), up a grassy hill to 16th Avenue (another busy road), and then along its median strip. It was kinda’ elaborate, come to think of it, but I made it to the place on time,
and I got the damn cheque. It felt gross, picking it up, having it in my hands. I crumpled it up and stuffed it in my pocket, loosely. If it falls out, it falls out, I thought to myself. I got back to my bike, and, instead of going back the elaborate route, I just took the long way home. It rained most of the way – just poured. It was late in the summer, so it wasn’t cold or nothin’, but I thought it was weird, y’know, right after I picked up that damn cheque. Anyways, unfortunately the cheque didn’t fall outta’ my pocket, so I went to put the damn money in the bank. I wanted to get it done and over with. But the teller was suspicious of its authenticity, so he told me it would take a week to be approved. I ended up going in the next day to speak with the manager about it, and he said that that shouldn’t have happened and lifted the hold on the cheque. I mean, it was a government cheque in my name after all. I suspect the initial teller was being weary of my last name, but who knows. Anyways. I spent the money on a damage deposit and first months rent for an apartment that, after a year and a half of living in, I had to move out of abruptly after being unable to pay rent. I didn’t get that damage deposit back. A few months before that, I let a good friend of mine move in. We ended up not getting along all too well, and had some fights, and then a really big fight, and now we aren’t friends anymore. That place was a bad vibe place. Anyways, I also spent the money on some whiskey. The first and only time I drank it, I really made a fool of myself. I went to this party, sporting some heels I’d bought with the money, and mixing those with that whiskey, I slipped – hard – hit my head on a door, and woke up in the host of the parties bed. I was fine, but had a large goose bump, and had lost my cool. I haven’t talked to the girl that threw that party since. I kept that whiskey in my cupboard, which was a terrible idea. I should have just poured it down the sink then and there, but I didn’t. This had its consequence. One night, my sister stayed at my place so she could use my laptop to do some work. I wasn’t there, but she had the key, so it was all well and good. But, she found the whiskey, and, well, she drank some, n’ I reckon she got good and drunk, cuz she spilt a good sum of it on my laptop. It seeped into the cracks of the keyboard, frying my hard drive, instantly erasing my library of hundreds of films and thousands upon thousands of songs. It took years to compile that library, and that damn whiskey just wiped it all away. It was a major loss. The money also got me a pair of jeans, which ripped the first time I wore ‘em, and a bunch of other frivolous things. I was superstitious of having any of it, y’know, just real weary of it all. Anything I bought with that money was no good. It was blood money, I tell ya’. I remember my Dad saying that a lotta’ people on the rez died after getting that distribution, in strange ways, too. I mean, it may be superstitious to think the money had anything to do with it, but considering some of the things that happened to me, it really musta’. I can imagine that if I was in the state-of-mind to have bought more whiskey with that money, I’d have had some real bad luck. And I bet some people did have some real bad luck with that money. Be it the intentions they had when they used it, the things they bought with it, or the reason they voted the way they did, the bad luck came out of somewhere. It did for me, anyways, I just shouldn’t of spent that money on anything. I regret it. Around Christmas time of the same year, I dropped everything I bought off at a homeless shelter. It felt good – but… stale. I shoulda’ just donated the money to charity in the first place. But, that’s how it happened. The only thing I still have that I bought with the money is a record player, speakers, and some vinyl. I suspect something will happen to that stuff, but,
nothing so far.