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 www.nic.bc.ca/business.

 

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.

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 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.”

 

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

 

From Homeless to Helping Others: VIU Cowichan Student April Murphy’s Story

April Murphy, an Adult Basic Education student at VIU Cowichan, has gone from being unable to read to her children to becoming a leader in her classes. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

April Murphy, an Adult Basic Education student at VIU Cowichan, has gone from being unable to read to her children to becoming a leader in her classes. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

An Adult Basic Education student, Murphy overcame multiple barriers to succeed

DUNCAN, BC: April Murphy has battled illiteracy, homelessness, and addiction and mental health challenges.

Now the 33-year-old Vancouver Island University (VIU) Cowichan Adult Basic Education (ABE) student is well on her way to getting her high school diploma, after which she plans to enter the Community Mental Health Worker certificate program so she can help others overcome similar life situations. She hopes sharing her story will inspire others to see the possibilities.

“I went from being my own worst enemy to being my own best friend,” says Murphy. “I didn’t realize how good life could be if I was good to myself. The community at VIU has been amazing throughout this process. I don’t think I would be half as successful if it weren’t for the staff here cheering me on and pushing me to do better for myself.”

Growing up in the Cowichan Valley, Murphy’s educational struggles began at an early age – she dropped out in Grade 5 without ever having learned to read.

“It felt like a burden to bring myself to school she says. “It was tough. After I dropped out, I ended up in an alternative school for six months, and then after that I was just homeless.”

Murphy lived on the streets of Victoria until she got pregnant at age 18 and returned home. After giving birth to her second son, she decided it was time she learned to read so she enrolled in literacy courses at The Reading and Writing Centre – Malaspina’s storefront literacy program in downtown Duncan.

“My oldest son was going to be in Kindergarten and I wanted to be able to read the bedtime stories the teacher sent home,” remembers the mother of four. “But I had this big block about learning because of my earlier experiences – I was so afraid of failing.”

After reaching a certain reading proficiency, Murphy was able to enrol in adult upgrading courses through what was then Malaspina University-College. She experienced a major hiccup in her educational journey after suffering from a grand mal seizure in 2013, which caused epileptic psychosis. In 2016, after struggling for years to regain her mental health, she bumped into Joanna Lord, one of her Adult Basic Education Instructors at VIU Cowichan, while out and about in the community. Lord talked her into coming back to school.

“Joanna has been awesome – she’s definitely been given a gift to inspire people to do the best they can,” says Murphy. “Summer [Crosson, another Adult Basic Education instructor] is the same, she has a way of helping you see that you can do this. All of the staff at the Cowichan Campus bring a lot of hope to people, I find it like a family network.”

Lord, who met Murphy in 2010 when she first signed up for upgrading courses, says her story is one of incredible resilience and determination.

April is the epitome of an ABE student, overcoming multiple barriers to continue her education, and acting as a role model for her children and extended family,” says Lord.

Crosson says Murphy has become a leader at VIU and she looks forward to watching her take on new leadership roles in the community.

“Her enthusiasm, kindness and sense of humour are a welcome contribution in the classroom – she contributes to a sense of teamwork and solidarity amongst her fellow students,” says Crosson.

Murphy’s next step is to take the Community Mental Health Worker program and become a shelter worker.

“We need more community support workers in the Cowichan Valley, the homeless population is only going to continue to rise,” she says. “I just want to give back to this area, which has given so much to me.”

To learn more about Adult Basic Education courses at VIU Cowichan, click here. To view this press release online, visit VIU News.

 

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.

Gone Flying

Cheri Royal of the Siksika Nation is looking forward to her new career as a flight attendant

Cheri Royal of the Siksika Nation is looking forward to her new career as a flight attendant

It was a chance for adventure that made school counselor Cheri Royal decide to change careers and begin training to become a flight attendant.

Prior to this, the Siksika Nation member had been working in the social science field for most of her adult life.

“I was a school counselor, and also had my own class, ran social clubs, coached and tutored elementary and junior high students,” said Royal, a 42 year old single mother. “I have also worked with many children and families by assisting them with supports to better help themselves.”

Royal said the thought of a career change was always in the back of her mind and working for the airline industry was an enticing opportunity.

“I didn’t really consider it until now because my children are all grown up,” said Royal. “Therefore, it gave me the opportunity to pursue it with my kids’ full support. Plus, I needed a change in my life. I needed adventure!”

Royal moved to Vancouver in October of last year to begin her eight month training program and earn a Flight Attendant Diploma with the Canadian Tourism College.

She said the intense training is a compilation of many disciplines: First Aid Level 2, firefighting, self-defense, traveling with a disabled person, leadership skills and food handling, which includes how to serve food properly.

“The most exhilarating part is learning how to prepare for a crash or ditch landing. The thought of this scenario is an adrenaline rush!” said Royal. “You don’t realize the problems an FA (Flight Attendant) has to deal with in all sorts of situations. We are being trained in every area because at 38,000 feet FAs are all the passengers have for help.”

Royal said she is looking forward to the traveling and being an ambassador of the sky.

“I think we need more Natives in the air, whether it be pilots or flight attendants,” said Royal. “It’s a great industry to get into and comes with many benefits.”

Royal discussed her family background and what keeps her grounded. “I am of Blackfoot descent. I come from a close-knit family and I am very blessed to have such an amazing family,” said Royal. “I love my community and the area I grew up in. I enjoyed my time there and became very resilient because of how I was raised. Mom and dad were always traveling, and me being the youngest of five, I was always with them. My dad was a very intelligent, creative, loving, kind and humble man. He had many people that looked up to him and helped anyone in need.  My mother is also very kind and gentle. If not for them and their love and support all my life, I don’t know where I’ll be. I have an older brother that I look up to now, he’s my role model my best friend. He has accomplished so much in his life and sets the bar high for me. The Siksika Nation has shaped me into who I am today. They are my people, my culture, and my identity. I enjoy Vancouver with all its’ possibilities.”

Royal will complete her training this May and is looking forward to her new career travelling the world and helping people enjoy their journey.