Indigenous Fashion Week

The first annual Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto (IFWTO) presents the most distinct and progressive Indigenous artists working in fashion, textiles and craft May 31 – June 3, 2018 at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Featuring four exciting runway showcases and a curated exhibition, IFWTO also offers panels and lectures, as well as hands-on workshops and a marketplace.

Founded by innovative Dene artist/designer Sage Paul, Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto is committed to the advancement and empowerment of Indigenous artists and designers. The marketplace includes works by 75% Indigenous women artists among 40 vendors offering fashion, food, cosmetics, lifestyle, craft, textiles and more from Canada, the US and Greenland, with a spotlight on the far north.

In multi-day, hands-on workshops, participants will learn about Indigo Dyeing (Tuscarora Nation), Black Walnut Dyeing (Tuscarora Nation), Navajo Rug Weaving, and Beading for Beginners (Dene Nation).

The IFWTO panelists and lecturers include Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, designers, and industry academics and leaders sharing knowledge about Indigenous Dyes & Fibres, Storytelling & Symbolism in Textiles & Design, Cultural (In)Appropriation, Indigenous Entrepreneurship and Indigenous Fashion Futurisms.

“Indigenous fashion can redefine mainstream fashion and art: our fashion illustrates our stories, traditions, sovereignty and resiliency,” says Sage Paul, Artistic Director. “IFWTO is about carving out space for Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles and we are thrilled to be presenting Indigenous artists and their works from across Canada, the USA and Greenland this Spring.”

Four live runway shows inspired by traditional seasons of the moon showcase stylish men’s and women’s wear, street wear, avant-garde, traditional regalia, jewelery and craft from  23 Indigenous artists and designers.

The line-up of artists and designers at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto include: evening-wear designer Lesley Hampton; beader and accessory designer Helen Oro; haute couture fashion designer Sho Sho Esquiro, known for her mix of fabric, furs, skins, shells and beadwork; and Dorothy Grant, who combines Haida art with classic clothing design.

The New Moon show (Thursday, May 31) recognizes Spring and birth in new work and emerging artists: Lesley Hampton, Evan Ducharme, Warren Steven Scott, Janelle Wawia, Sugiit Lukx Designs (Yolanda Skelton), and Meghann O’Brien.

The Berry Moon (Friday, June 1) celebrates summer and powwow season with traditionally inspired work and regalia of the future: Catherine Blackburn, Mi’kmaq Design (Ingrid Brooks), Helen Oro Designs, Niio Perkins Designs, Timeless Shadows Apparel (Tracey Heese), and Injunuity (Cheryl & Carissa Copenace).

On Saturday, June 2, the theme is Harvest Moon, a time of year to gather and prepare for the winter months. The runway presents an intergenerational honouring of matriarchs, with designs that recognize the vitality of stories and teachings passed through generations, featuring works from Dorothy Grant, Delina White, Artifaax (Denise Brillon), and The Chinimiwin Collective.

With Frost Moon enters the winter months on Sunday, June 3 in a showcase of Inuk street style from Nunavut and Greenland and high Dene fashion featuring seal fur, vibrant colour and bone from Nuuk Couture, Sho Sho Esquiro, Hinaani Design, Victoria Kakuktinniq, Tania Larsson, and Crystal Worl.

Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto celebrates the beauty and vitality of contemporary Indigenous expression and its connection to Indigenous knowledge and ways of life. Led by Indigenous women, IFWTO is offering audiences an authentic, accessible opportunity to connect with Indigenous artists and celebrate cultural expression. “Our community is bursting at the seams with new works in fashion, craft and textiles, and we are proud to be recognizing their artistry at the first Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto,” says Sage Paul, Artistic Director. “This year’s program of artists and designers represent the diversity of design, expression, and tradition from nations across North America and Greenland.”


Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto launches May 31 – June 3, 2018 at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West). Ticket Sales and Workshop Registration open April 1, 2018. Visit []

Follow IFWToronto on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for more details.



Indspire Celebrates 25 Years

Inspire Celebrates 25 Years

Photographer Baz Kanda
Performance: STAR DANCERS by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre


The first National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 1993 were held to celebrate excellence in the Aboriginal community.

Those awards were televised and it was an exciting time for many First Nations, Metis and Inuit people because they were seeing themselves for the very first time being recognized and honoured in a first class ceremony.

Since then the awards were changed to the Indspire Awards and have been hosted in cities across the country with this year’s ceremony being held in Winnipeg for the third time.

This year’s theme for the awards ceremony was, “Indigitropolis, Where Language Lives,” which came from the vision of Indigenous language reclamation and revitalization.

The Indspire Awards Ceremony program reads, “When it comes to Indigenous language, there are many layers, but at the centre of the conversation is a striking reality: Indigenous People across Kanata have witnessed the near extinction of their languages since the dawn of the Residential School era(s).”

This impacted community well-being, sense of self and identity. This is why the movement of Indigenous language reclamation and revitalization is essential if our communities are going to thrive.

The goal was to create a show that embodied the essence of, “Indigenous languages thriving.” To us, Indigitropolis is a place where Indigenous languages live and thrive. It is where Indigenous culture, ceremony and identity prosper, where everything in life is witnessed through an Indigenous world view. It is rural, it is urban, it is everywhere.

This year’s hosts were actors and comedians Darrell Dennis and Kyle Nobess. Performances included Cheri Maracle, Indian City, the Asham Stompers, Star Dancers, member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with choreographer and dancer Santee Smith.

Presenters included Dances with Wolves actress, Tantoo Cardinal, actor Johnny Issaluk and CBC Radio host of Unreserved, Rosanna DeerChild.

In the program, the awards committee said they were inspired by the neon signs on a skyline for the stage’s unique backdrop effect.

“We translated the words ‘Speak’ and ‘Language’ into nine Indigenous languages including Innuaimun, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Nisga, Michif, Ojibwe, Inuktitut, Dene and Plains Cree, and erected a skyline that embraced the entire stage to ensure that every performance, recipient reveal, and host introduction was being supported by language, identity, and indigeneity,” according to the awards committee.

The 2018 Indspire Awards will be televised on APTN and CBC in June, with the date to be announced in May.

Native Heroes Defend Mother Earth

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska

One of the most magnificent creations of Mother Earth, the Endangered California Condor, soarsabove great gorges like the Grand Canyon. Its survival in part is because of the dedicated, spiritually based activism of a powerful Seneca elder, Robertjohn.

Knapp has been involved in sacred ceremonies that honour creation. These have been performed at release sites for the return of the world’s champion glider, the California Condor. Following Robertjohn’s prayers and sacred songs the Condors are released from cages to soar over spectacular great canyons and mesas.

The California Condor’s ability to survive has emerged as one of the most remarkable tests of the purity of the environment. It cannot persist in a landscape that has become a dump.

The leading source of Condor mortality is the tragedy of parents feeding trash to their young while still in their nests. The state of California recently took a major step forward for survival of this relic of the vanished Pleistocene epoch, by banning lead bullets.

Robertjohn took action to have poisons such as antifreeze removed from the Condor’s sacred habitats. His concern for natural purity alerted Danny Beaton, a Mohawk of the Turtle Clan, to team up with him at a period of crisis.

The great crisis faced by Beaton was in Simcoe County, posed by a proposed waste area, Dump Site 41. Beaton secured Robertjohn’s participation in a press Conference at Queen’s Park when this dump proposal threatened the world’s purest water.

The world’s purest water resides in rocks deep in the earth in a formation known as the Alliston Aquifer. Robertjohn took Beaton’s call to speak to power to alert the Ontario media to threats to the world’s purest water.

Before Robertjohn spoke the threat to the Alliston Aquifer was a cause that would not catch on. It obscurity endured despite all Beaton’s determined efforts to bring it to the public’s attention.

Before Robertjohn spoke Beaton and his partner Alicja Rozanska had organized a week long march from the Dump 41 site to Queen’s Park. He had only succeeded in getting publicity on the evening news of the CBC Ontario French language station.

Danny Beaton’s media work on the line against the would be dump builders had been effective. Public opinion became outraged when the police breakup of the blockade and subsequent excavation caused sediment to appear in what had been the world’s purest water. When the contamination was exposed councillors became deluged by outraged phone calls. Immediately what cynics had excused as a “done deal” soon fell apart.

Beaton’s work with protecting the Alliston Aquifer with Robertjohn roughly paralleled his achievements in safeguarding the Niagara Escarpment. Again here he worked with native elders having a deep spiritual bond with Mother Earth. Here Beaton was helped by a collaboration with an Onondaga Chief, Arnie General, a sacred healer with the False Face Society. General and other Confederacy elders such as Lehman Gibson and Harvey Longboat, connected Beaton to the earth respecting values of his own culture, expressed in the ways of the Longhouse faith.

The Niagara Escarpment was Threatened by two expressways termed the NGTA East and West corridors. They would have cut across its old growth forests and caves which provide habitat for Endangered species, such as bats. At very sacred location Mount Nemo migrating birds gather to benefit from the great thermals that assist their glides across Lake Ontario. Here soar spectacular flocks of Turkey Vultures, Canada’s smaller version of the mighty Condor.

Business lobbyists for the expressway lobbies were having a major influenced in the Ontario government to justify the slashing of the Escarpment. Their message was arrogantly announced in the Onondaga Longhouse the capital for the world’s longest function government, the Iroquois Confederacy. This was that they were the official representatives of the Ministry of Transportation, whose acronym was MTO.

Hearing the words MTO, General saw a great opportunity to knock out environmental destruction with well aimed ridicule. He said that in reality the representatives of the colonial government were not concerned with mere transportation. What the acronym represented in reality was a “Major Take Over.” The Confederacy broke up in laughter, the expressways were cancelled, and the Niagara Escarpment saved.

Another amazing achievement of Beaton was to publicize the work of the remarkable Haida spiritual leader, Guugaaw. Beaton brought Gugaw to Toronto for a great gathering the Project Indigenous Restoration. It was held at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall.

Guujaaw at Project Indigenous connected what means to be a Haida to the wonders of the earth where the nation lives, Haida Gwaii. (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). He has said that if its wonders of nature cease, such as the magnificence of towering old growth forests, the Haida nation would be no more. This has become recognized in the Haida’s national vision. It states that maintaining the “environmental integrity” of Hadia Gwai is essential to the Haida’s “cultural survival.”

Critical to the cultural survival of the Haida under Guujaaw’s leadership has been the protection of its remarkable stands of cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce. The first step in this strategy of protection of the land and Haida identity was securing the southern third of the nation’s traditional territory in Gwaii Hannas National Park. Here Haida are permitted to gather medicinal plants and harvest trees for ceremonial purposes, such as the construction of sacred Longhouses and totem poles. The Haida manage the Gwaii Hannas National Park through the remarkable network of Haida Watchmen. They protect the park from illegal plunder and waste dumping, They also tell the great story of Haida culture to visitors.

Under Guujaaw’s leadership the Haida have also been stopped clear cut pillaging in logging operations. Logging now takes place with the consultation of the Haida nation. The lower volume of logging now seeks to be geared to higher value products such as musical instruments. The Haida have also increased protection for wildlife, most notably eliminating all bear hunting in their traditional territories. The Haida have also protected their ocean waters from nonrenewable resource extraction, most notably oil drilling.

Beaton also worked successfully to share the message of Sarah James a representative of the Alaskan Gwich’in people who has struggled successfully to prevent oil exploration on the ecologically sensitve calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The nation has been able to keep industrial extraction out of the herd’s 250,000 square kilometre habitat in Alaska and the Yukon. Their voice in bi-national co-management efforts has strictly limited hunting to four per cent of the herd. Consequently the herd has been able to maintain a stable size of around 200,000 animals. This success is in vivid contrast to most caribou herds on Turtle Island. In most of our continent petroleum extraction, hydro development and logging has caused caribou numbers to crash by ninety per cent.

The earth revering wisdom of Sarah James is in vivid contrast to the manipulative cunning of two native politicians whom Beaton worked with in the past before they betrayed his earth protecting message. One of the areas where caribou numbers have crashed is the vast Ungava peninsula. It is divided between Quebec and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ungava is the traditional territory of the Cree and Innu people. In Ungava caribou numbers have been devastated by roads, hydro dams, clear cutting and open pit mines.

In the past Beaton worked closely with Cree leaders Matthew Coon Come and Innu Chief Peter Penashue to protect the wilds of Ungava. He later split with them when they embraced logging, mining and hydro development projects. Penashue later served in the cabinet of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which introduced changes to the Indian Act (still in effect), which made it easier to cede band lands.

Beaton played an important role in the defeat of Coon Come from his previous position as Assembly of First Nations.(AFN), Grand Chief. This followed Coon Come’s “Peace of the Braves”. In this cowardly pact Coon Come endorsed hydro dams along the Rupert River, and stopped litigation against clear cutting. At the very meeting that Coon Come was seeking reelection as AFN Chief, First Nations Drum circulated an article Beaton and I wrote exposing Coon Come’s embrace of the pillage of resource extraction and dams.

It is revealing of what Iroquois elders tell about The Good Mind that Beaton has upheld the values of the ancient league of peace. His work with native elders who champion the protection of Mother Earth in the content of nature respecting traditional wisdom gives hope. Often the defence of traditional earth respecting cultures as a strategy for eco-justice is ignored. Many are lulled into ignoring reality, or are trapped in sensationalist, ultimately nihilistic tactics of rock throwing.

Beaton’s work with elders who guard ancient traditions was well summed up by his friend Arnie General in a revealing tribute to his colleague the Cayuga earth protector Norm Jacobs. He said that Norm will be “mourned by many, but not by all.” The many are those who appreciate the wonders of the natural world around us. The minority are the tiny one per cent who profit and gloat over their destruction. Beaton’s life shows how with native elders who seek to protect the ecological integrity of their nations ancient territories provides an opportunity to stop their schemes of destruction.


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


Jessie Gervais Follows a Career in Dance with His Sights on International Relations

NIC business student Jessie Gervais is NIC’s third business student to become a Ch’nook Scholar.

NIC business student Jessie Gervais is NIC’s third business student to become a Ch’nook Scholar.

An NIC business student has been recognized as one of BC’s top Aboriginal business students. Jessie Gervais recently became a Ch’nook Scholar, the third ever NIC student to receive the honour.

“Jessie’s intelligence and focus make him a wonderful ambassador for NIC and we are so pleased to see him receive this recognition as a Ch’nook Scholar,” said Diane Naugler, NIC dean of business and applied studies.

The accomplished student has danced across stages in Canada, Spain and Mexico as a ballet performer. He began his business studies at NIC, determined to enter a career in international relations.

The Ch’nook Scholar program at UBC’s Sauder School of Business fosters leadership skills and business knowledge in Aboriginal business students. It acknowledges leadership excellence as well as students’ academic and personal achievements.

It includes a $2,000 scholarship, opportunities to attend conferences and meet industry leaders and provides professional services such as business cards and photographs. It’s also a chance to connect with other students of First Nations heritage.

“It was really interesting to meet all these other students who came from different backgrounds,” said Gervais, who is Métis and has Cree grandparents. “Some of them had grown up on reserve and others in cities. But it was encouraging to discover we all shared those same values, like protecting our environment and improving the lives of Indigenous people.”

Gervais grew up hunting and fishing with his grandfather in Prince George. He moved to Vancouver Island when he was 10, finished high school early and began training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He later moved to Spain to dance professionally, followed by a four-year stint at Compañía Nacional de Danza de México and then two years at Ballet Victoria.

Gervais next decided to focus on business studies, completing his first year at NIC online. Now on his second year, Gervais is working through more than a dozen business, math and language courses (he is fluent in Spanish and French) and hopes to transfer to UBC to complete his business degree.

As well as supporting his application to the Ch’nook program, studying at NIC allowed him to complete his first-year courses and prerequisites while working, Gervais said.

Diane Naugler added students like Gervais, who return to school after time spent working or following other pursuits, represent a core group NIC students. “We see that same drive from so many of our students,” she said. “They come to NIC with valuable life experiences and clear ideas of where they want to go next, and we take great pride in helping them get there.”

For more information on NIC business courses and programs, visit


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 and view Dr. Voyageur’s full profile at

Wanosts’a7 Lorna Williams, ‘Indspired’ to Apply the Power of Education to Heal and Renew

Lorna Williams
Wanosts’a7 Lorna Williams, Lil’watul from Mount Currie BC, will be honoured with a 2018 Indspire Award for her contributions to Indigenous education. The University of Victoria Professor Emerita of Indigenous education (Curriculum and Instruction) has been living and breathing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action on education and language since before the TRC was ever imagined. She built her career at UVic on the principle that quality education for Indigenous children must be characterized by strong cultural teachings alongside a Euro-Western education.

The Indspire Awards represent the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people.

Working with UVic’s Faculty of Education and the Department of Linguistics, Williams co-designed the development of three degree programs in collaboration with Indigenous communities: the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Indigenous Language Revitalization, and the Counseling in Indigenous Communities master’s degree program. She served as Canada Research Chair in Education and Linguistics at UVic and as the first director of Aboriginal Education. She also co-chaired the Task Force on Aboriginal Education, which led to the requirement that all teacher education programs in British Columbia include an Indigenous education course.

“At UVic, we created an inclusive learning environment,” Williams says. “I am most pleased to have demonstrated that a university can create an open space for Indigenous knowledge learning and languages.”

She says she still hears from former students who tell her about ways in which they have incorporated their classroom learnings into their own teaching, and faculty members tell her how they use Indigenous principles of teaching and learning in the development and teaching of their own courses.

Williams says also she sees the tangible impacts of the degree programs on communities where their graduates now work: “People are much more focused, creative and inventive in their approach to language revitalization,” she says. The next step is to develop a PhD program and share the student’s work with the world. “It’s a tremendous help to other Indigenous peoples in the world who are striving to do the same.”

Due to the legacy of colonization in the formation of Canada, Indigenous people’s knowledges, languages, histories, identities and lifeways have been designed to be invisible and education as an institution has been the primary social tool used to eradicate Indigenous languages, knowledge and identity from existence,” says Williams. “If education can be so destructive it can also serve to reverse the destruction.”

In 2017, Williams co-authored Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science, Book 1 along with Gloria Snively, to support the indigenization of science curriculum. “The book showcases the work of our graduate students in Indigenous knowledge and serves to help teachers learn about Indigenous knowledges in the world of science.” The second book in the series will be published later this year.

Williams recovered her lost Lil’wat language with the help of Elders in her community and became an English interpreter and guide for the creation of a writing system. “I use everything I’ve had the privilege of learning throughout my life in everything I do,” she says.

Williams will receive her Indspire award on March 23 in Winnipeg. Now in its 25th year, the Indspire Awards have honoured 350 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals who demonstrate outstanding achievement.


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 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.”


First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues

First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues

Edmonton Oilers Recall Bear While Skating for AHL’s Bakersfield Condors

It was inevitable that Ethan Bear would be dressing to play with the Edmonton Oilers sooner than expected.

The Oilers 2015 draft pick played with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL), 2017 champion Seattle Thunderbirds where he earned the honor of being named the WHL 2017 top defensive player.

The WHL is the highest level of junior hockey in Canada. The league has 22 teams spanning Western Canada and the Northwest U.S.

Drafted in the fifth round and 124th overall, the 20-year-old, 5’11” 209-pound, rookie defenceman from the Ochapowace First Nation played his first National Hockey League game as an Edmonton Oiler on March 1st.  

Though the contest ended in a 4-2 loss against the Nashville Predators, Bear said suiting up as a NHL player was a dream come true.

“I love the game. It’s pretty amazing and the intensity, speed and playing with Edmonton, things could not be better,” said Bear.

The Edmonton Oilers recalled Bear from the American Hockey League (AHL), where he was playing in Southern California for Bakersfield Condors where he had 16 points (6G, 10A) and 12 penalty minutes in 34 games. The AHL is the NHL’s primary developmental league.

Bear played for Canada’s National Under-18 program twice, winning gold at the 2014 Hlinka Memorial and a bronze medal at the 2015 World U18 Men’s Hockey Championship in Switzerland.

Growing up, Bear never had a favourite team, but his favourite players were Jordin Tootoo, and Shane Webber.

“I never really had a favourite team, I just really followed hockey a lot, and played and loved the game, but I always rooted for the Canadian NHL teams, and Team Canada,” said Bear.

Bear faced the same challenges as all players who came before him when he began playing in the juniors. Among the greatest were being away from home at a young age and making the right choices.

“Making those sacrifices and learning to take care of your body, and learning to be a pro before you’re a pro,” Bear added to the list of challenges.

Bear said noticing other native players in the junior ranks was nice to see knowing Aboriginal players were a good thing for native people and their communities.

Family support is something Bear does not take for granted and knows it will be important through what he hopes will be a long NHL career.

In his first game as an Oiler, dozens of family, friends and supporters made the nine hour trip from his Saskatchewan home community and the Ochapowace First Nation.

Bear said giving back is something he strongly believes in. Each summer he runs a hockey camp back in his community – a camp for everyone.

“The hockey camp is for younger kids, and I approach it how I wanted to be taught when I was a kid,” said Bear. “It is all a part of giving back, and hope we can inspire future hockey NHL players.”

Bear said he feels comfortable as the newest Edmonton Oiler. “Just getting in, moving it and getting in your groove. You start to make plays and playing faster. It’s a simple game. You play simple, move it quick,” Bear said. “Offence will come. I still have a lot to learn defensively but they’ve been patient with me so I appreciate it.”

Through eight games, Bear has two assists and has been near the 20-minute mark in three of his last four contests.

In his last few games he’s been paired with defenseman Oscar Klefbom, a partnership Bear feels is working well.

“He’s always in the right spots,” said Bear. “Everyone’s always an option for you and talking to you on the ice. That makes a big difference, knowing where all your teammates are on the ice. They’re always talking and telling you your offence, calling out plays.”

Perhaps the first aspect of Bear’s game to rise to this level of professional play has been his passing, which is something Head Coach Todd McLellan has spoken about.

His teammates are also starting to realize there’s some potential with the 20-year-old.

“Very mobile, good skater,” said fellow defenceman, Klefbom. “I like playing with him. He’s going to be a very good defenceman, Obviously, it takes a while to get into the League and know what it’s all about. I remember when I came into the League and played an easy game and built that confidence to do something good with the puck. He’s definitely off to a good start here.”

Bear is a right-shot, offensively inclined defenceman, which is something the Oilers would like to add to their special teams arsenal.

Following practice before the team hit the road for Cowtown (Calgary), a local Edmonton reporter asked Bear about his participating in Battle of Alberta against the Calgary Flames for the first time.

A big smile came across his face and Bear showed excitement over his upcoming, first-ever experience.

“It’s a very intense rivalry, so I’m looking very forward to it,” Bear said. “Everybody always wants to beat Calgary, right?”

Growing up in Ochapowace, Saskatchewan Bear watched plenty of Battle of Alberta games and has a built-in understanding of what it means when orange and blue clashes with red and yellow.

“It’s a rivalry you want to be a part of and know how to get up for,” he said. “They’re pretty intense games, so I want to go out there and play hard.”

Edmonton head coach Todd McLellan said Bear is very optimistic about getting to play in Battle of Alberta after only a few games in the league.

“He’s getting there,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He’s certainly not hurting us a lot, but there are segments of his game he knows he has to work on. He’s a very fast learner, he’s willing to learn, he’s got a high IQ and he picks things up quickly, so we think he can continue to improve.”

First Nation Hockey Player Ethan Bear Makes the Big Leagues