Indigenous Success Stories: First Nations

July 10, 2024

First Nations

Assembly blankets First Nation Lieutenant-General

Lieutenant-General Jocelyn (Joe) Paul is blanketed July 9 at the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting in Montreal. The Assembly of First Nation paid tribute to the achievements of Lieutenant-General Jocelyn (Joe) Paul, a member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation, born and raised in Wendake, Que.

Paul was blanketed before assembly delegates July 9. Paul joined the military in 1991 and has risen through the ranks to become a three-star general, the highest rank ever achieved by an Indigenous person in Canada.

Joe Paul
Lieutenant-General Jocelyn (Joe) Paul

He deployed to Croatia in 1993 as a platoon commander, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the summer of 2005 and assumed command of 2nd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment and of the Citadel in Québec City in 2008.

The 2nd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group (TF 1-09) was deployed in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan from April to October 2009.

Promoted to the rank of Colonel in June 2010, Paul took command of the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force and later was appointed Commander of the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre, Wainwright, Alta.

 Following his promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General, he assumed command of Task Force Jerusalem (Operation PROTEUS).

Upon returning to Canada in July 2015, Paul was seconded for two years to the Privy Council Office, after which he was appointed Chief of Staff (COS), Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.

In June 2018, he assumed command of 4th Canadian Division and Joint Task Force Central. In July 2019, he was promoted to the rank of Major-General and assumed the position of Director General International Security Policy.

Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General in 2021, Paul was appointed as Deputy Commander Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy.

Lieutenant General Paul was appointed Commander Canadian Army on June 16, 2022. He is the 51st Army Commander and first Indigenous CAF member to hold this position. 

Paul was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross for the performance of his unit in Kandahar, and the United States Legion of Merit Award for his service as Deputy of the US Security Coordinator (USSC) in Jerusalem.

blanket for Haida
Front, from left to right: Skidegate Council Chief Councillor William Yovanovich, Lieutenant-General Jocelyn (Joe) Paul, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak, and Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop.

Also blanketed that day were Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop and Skidegate Council Chief Councillor William Yovanovich for their work to secure recognition of Haida Aboriginal title of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia and legislation titled the Haida Nation Recognition Amendment Act which became law in the province on May 16 of this year.

June 5, 2024

First Nations

Canada Post issues third stamp set honouring Indigenous leaders

NationTalk: OTTAWA – For the third consecutive year, Canada Post will celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 by issuing three stamps honouring Indigenous leaders.

Elisapie, Josephine Mandamin and Christi Belcourt will each be featured on a stamp for their environmental advocacy and championing the rights and cultures of their Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities.

The multi-year stamp series, launched in 2022, recognizes Indigenous leaders who have dedicated their lives to preserving their culture and improving the quality of life of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Each stamp will be unveiled and celebrated at local events in Montréal, Quebec, and Thunder Bay and Ottawa, Ontario.

Elisapie stamp unveiling event: Thursday, June 13, 5 pm ET, Montréal

Elisapie (b. Elisapie Isaac, 1977) is an award-winning singer-songwriter, actor, director, producer and activist from Salluit, in Nunavik (northern Quebec). A talented storyteller who writes and sings in Inuktitut, English and French, she has devoted her life to raising awareness of Inuit language, heritage and culture through many artistic endeavours. Elisapie earned her second JUNO Award in 2024 for Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year for her album, Inuktitut. She is also an acclaimed documentarian, multi-Félix Award winner and creator of Le grand solstice, a musical and cultural celebration televised annually for National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Josephine Mandamin stamp unveiling event: Tuesday, June 18, 11 am ET, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Josephine Mandamin (1942-2019) was born on the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ont. A residential school Survivor, Mandamin was an Anishinaabe Elder and world-renowned water-rights activist. Known as Grandmother Water Walker, Mandamin co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walk movement to draw attention to the issues of water pollution and environmental degradation in the Great Lakes and on First Nations reserves across the country. Among her many accolades are the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation (2015) and the Meritorious Service Cross – Civil Division (2017). Since her passing in 2019, Mandamin’s legacy has continued through community water walks and the efforts of the dedicated Anishinaabe women she mentored.

Christi Belcourt stamp celebration: Tuesday, June 25, 11 am ET, Ottawa

Christi Belcourt (b. 1966) is a Métis visual artist and environmentalist known for her intricate paintings that emulate Métis floral beadwork. Born in Scarborough, Ont. and raised in Ottawa, she is a descendant of the Métis community of Manitow Sâkahikan (Lac Ste. Anne) in Alberta. Belcourt uses her talent to celebrate nature, honour her ancestors, advocate for the protection of land and water, and support Indigenous knowledge, culture and language. Among her most poignant works is Walking With Our Sisters, an installation of more than 2,000 pairs of beaded moccasin tops honouring the lives of missing or murdered Indigenous women, Two-Spirit people and children.

The new stamps and collectibles will be available at and postal outlets across Canada starting June 21.

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June 4, 2024

First Nations

Sask. First Nations families travel to France for unveiling of D-Day statue

Peepeekisis Cree Nation members volunteered in large numbers for the Allied advance 80 years ago

Descendants of D-Day veterans from Peepeekisis Cree Nation in southern Sask. were recently presented with a miniature version of a staue commemorating the Regina Rifles. the larger version will be installed in France this week as part of events marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a turning point in the Second World War.
Descendants of D-Day veterans from Peepeekisis Cree Nation in southern Sask. were recently presented with a miniature version of a staue commemorating the Regina Rifles. The larger version will be installed in France this week as part of events marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a turning point in the Second World War. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: Peepeekisis Cree Nation soldier Charles Bird stormed Juno Beach 80 years ago with 14,000 other Canadians.

Bird, tasked with hauling ladders and other equipment during the key battle, continued to advance with his Regina Rifles comrades.

“I think of the fear of landing on that beach, of what they had to go through and what they saw — their fellow men falling to the ground, never coming home,” Bird’s son, Allan, said in a recent interview.

Charles Bird survived D-Day, but was later wounded in the foot, leg and shoulder. Bird was treated and sent back to the front, continuing to fight before he and dozens of others returned to Peepeekisis in southern Saskatchewan.

Late Peepeekisis Cree Nation veteran Charles Bird sits with his son, Nelson. the families of Bird and other Regian Rifles veterans are in France this week for ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.
Late Peepeekisis Cree Nation veteran Charles Bird sits with his son, Nelson. The families of Bird and other Regina Rifles veterans are in France this week for ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (Supplied by Nelson Bird)

Allan Bird and other Peepeekisis members have travelled to France for a ceremony honouring his late father and other members of the Regina Rifles.

On June 5, a 2.5-metre-high bronze statue will be unveiled at la Place des Canadiens in Bretteville-sur-Mer, France, to honour their fathers and grandfathers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago. The statue was created by an Alberta artist after 18 months of fundraising by the Regina Rifles and contributions from Peepeekisis.

Allan said the ceremony will be an emotional experience.

“Our spirit will be there with the spirit of those gone on in a powerful way, with creator looking upon us and blessing us,” he said.

This statue was flown from Regina to Normandy, France, for D-Day’s 80th Anniversary

WATCH | See the statue that was flown to France for the D-Day anniversary: 8 hours ago, Duration 0:59

This statue, first revealed in Regina in early April, was flown to Normandy, France, and will be ceremonially unveiled on June 5 in Bretteville-sur-Mer at la Place des Canadiens, where it will stand in honour of Canadian soldiers.

Click on the following link to view the video:

Bird serves as a headman, or councillor, at Peepeekisis. Before they left for Europe, the travellers attended a small ceremony in Regina where Lt.-Gov. Russ Merasty presented them with a miniature version of the statue, thanking them for their community’s service.

“It’s very meaningful for us to host you and hear your stories, your nation’s stories,” said Merasty.

Peepeekisis members served in other units as well. Fellow headman Blaine Pinay’s father, Edward Pinay, was wounded on D-Day after he was dropped in as a paratrooper.

“We will never understand how they suffered because we weren’t in their shoes,” Blaine said. “We will never understand how bad it was or how traumatizing it was for them.”

Canadian troops at Juno Beach
Troops and landing craft occupy a Normandy beach shortly after the D-Day landing. The bombardment of the beaches began at 6 a.m. on June 6, 1944, and within hours soldiers from Canada had established the beachhead at Juno Beach and the German defences were shattered. (The Canadian Press)

First Nations people were exempt from military service, but volunteered at higher rates than non-Indigenous Canadians. Peepeekisis members accounted for 20 per cent of the entire Regina Rifles contingent during the Second World War.

“It was amazing,” said retired Regina Rifles Brig.-Gen. Cliff Walker, who was also at the Saskatchewan ceremony.

“That was the choice that they made to step forward, put their hand in the creator’s hand, and go off and do battle with the Nazis in Europe. And the contribution from that First Nation and other First Nations across the province was just remarkable.”

But First Nations veterans weren’t treated as equals when they returned home. They were denied farm land and other benefits given to their non-Indigenous comrades.

Peepeekis Chief Frank Dieter said it’s wonderful to celebrate the contributions of their veterans, but that we must not forget these injustices.

This 2.5-metre-tall statue of a soldier from the Second World War honouring the Royal Regina Rifles for their actions on D-day will be installed June 5 in Bretteville-sur-Mer, France.
This 2.5-metre-tall statue of a soldier from the Second World War honouring the Royal Regina Rifles for their actions on D-day will be installed June 5 in Bretteville-sur-Mer, France. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

“They didn’t have to go, but they went, right?” Dieter said.

“They thought they were fighting for a better life, but they just came back to the same life, right? So, little mixed emotions at the moment, but I’m very honoured that they went because we’re a nation of warriors.”

Before the statue is unveiled this week, the Peepeekisis delegation plans to stand on the beach and conduct a quiet spiritual ceremony. They say they’ll remember their warriors and continue their fight for justice.

“We’re all related in the eyes of creator. We’re all related no matter who you are,” Allan Bird said. “That statue, for our veterans, will show our pride and our love and the sacrifices of our ancestors and what they fought for.”

Retired Regina Rifles Brigadier-General Cliff Walker says First Nations people were exempt from military service, but says it was "amazing" how many volunteered from Peepeekisis Cree Nation and other communities during the Second World War.
Retired Regina Rifles Brig.-Gen. Cliff Walker says First Nations people were exempt from military service, but says it was “amazing” how many volunteered from Peepeekisis Cree Nation and other communities during the Second World War. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Jason Warick, Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon. 

May 29, 2024

First Nations

Murray Sinclair on his life’s new rhythm, same clear purpose

After decades in the public eye, the Indigenous advocate and former commissioner pivots to new chapter

Murray Sinclair visits Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School in Selkirk, where a mural of the former senator was painted on the wall by a Winnipeg artist and some students.SHANNON VANRAES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Globe and Mail: It’s a bright but crisp Tuesday morning in Winnipeg and Murray Sinclair is about to do what he’s done countless times before – deliver a speech to a packed room.

This time, as he makes his way to the front of a room inside the RBC Convention Centre, Mr. Sinclair is assisted by two men, who each grab one of his arms, to climb a couple of steps at the side of the stage.

There is a chair set out for him, which he slowly sits down in. He then takes a breath and begins to address the room.

Wearing a beaded vest made by his wife, Katherine, which signifies he’s a member of the Fish Clan of the Anishinaabe, Mr. Sinclair greets those gathered for Manitoba’s public-safety summit and says he regrets he can’t stand to deliver his remarks.

After decades of embracing a public-facing life while advocating for the rights of Indigenous people in this country, notably as the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mr. Sinclair is taking part in fewer appearances like this one because of the state of his health.

Murray Sinclair speaks to an individual in the hallway inside Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School in Selkirk, Man. on April 30.SHANNON VANRAES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

These days, the 73-year-old’s life has a slower rhythm. He is staying close to Winnipeg. His baritone voice, used as a lawyer, judge, commissioner and senator, is heard less frequently, while his efforts continue to be deeply felt.

As he speaks to the crowd, Mr. Sinclair’s drive remains clear. The same purpose has propelled him since childhood.

He shares a story about his grandmother, Catherine Simard – his kookum. She attended the Fort Alexander Residential School as a novitiate, whose role was to essentially be a servant to nuns.

Along with Mr. Sinclair’s grandfather, Ms. Simard raised her grandchildren after their mother, Florence, died of a stroke. Mr. Sinclair was one year old at the time of Florence’s death.

Ms. Simard wanted her grandson to become a priest while he wanted to go to university. Eventually, she relented and agreed to sign required documentation.

But she made an appeal that has played on in his mind ever since.

“She looked at me and said, ‘Okay, I understand. So, here’s my request. If I sign these, you have to promise that you will always take care of the people. You have to promise me that.’ And so, I said, ‘I promise you I will do that.’”

These words have been Mr. Sinclair’s guide. When he faces an important decision, he wonders what his kookum would think. Many times – in dreams, he says – she’s appeared before him to indicate: “So far, so good.”

“I am always guided by the sense of responsibility to family and to community,” he says. “Everything I’ve ever done in my life has been about that question: ‘What is it that I can do to help our family, our community to be safer?’”

This winter, Mr. Sinclair moved into assisted living, along with his wife, who has been medically vulnerable in the past few years. He lives with congestive heart failure, which affects his heartbeat and the way he breathes.

Murray Sinclair visits birds named Bonnie and Clyde inside an assisted-living residence in Winnipeg on April 30.SHANNON VANRAES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Two zebra finches, seen on April 30, have become friends with Murray Sinclair.SHANNON VANRAES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

He also has lymphedema, which caused a buildup of fluid in his legs. Though his legs have been drained of fluid, he lost a lot of muscle mass that affects strength, which he says means they do not work as well.

He also doesn’t drive much any more, despite still having a licence. Mr. Sinclair often gets help from his kids or from his assistant, James, to get around.

Inside the assisted-living building, it hasn’t taken him long to form bonds. He’s known for chatting up staff and residents alike, including Bonnie and Clyde.

Bonnie and Clyde are zebra finches, small songbirds known for their social nature. Using a walker, he heads down from his unit to visit the birds in the afternoon, along with their four babies. He lobbied to see them named Bezhig, Niizh, Niswi and Niiwin – one, two, three and four in Ojibwe.

When he stands by their cage, he talks to the birds and gives them instructions, such as to stop fighting. He also sits near them to complete crossword puzzles from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

But Mr. Sinclair is not settled into a life of full retirement. He has returned to law practice at Cochrane Saxberg LLP to mentor young lawyers. He’s also been writing his memoirs, Who We Are: Four Questions For a Life and a Nation. The questions that inspired the book are: “Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?”

Mr. Sinclair started writing his memoirs as a letter to his granddaughter, whose English name is Sarah, after he suffered a minor stroke. He feared then that he may not be around as she grows up.

The book, expected to be published this fall, will look at the future for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and include experiences that shaped him as a man, a father of five and a grandfather of five.

Mr. Sinclair is best known for his work leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which spent six years examining the lasting effects of Indian Residential Schools and presented a final report in 2015. The commission’s work, and its 94 calls to action, have formed a blueprint for change for the country.

He is also recognized for other roles, such as serving as co-commissioner of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry. Established in 1988, it was created in response to the murder of Helen Betty Osborne and the shooting death of J.J. Harper after an encounter with a Winnipeg police officer. The events raised significant questions about how the justice system was failing Indigenous people.

Mr. Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Indigenous judge. Additionally, he conducted a pediatric cardiac inquiry called after 12 children died in 1994 while undergoing or shortly after having surgery at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre.

In 2016, he was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he retired from that role in January, 2021. The following July, he was named as the first-ever Indigenous person to serve as the chancellor of Queen’s University. He decided not to seek reappointment but will stay on at Queen’s as a special adviser to the principal on reconciliation. 

Mr. Sinclair grew up in Selkirk, Man. The small town, which has a population of approximately 10,500 people, is evidently proud of its connection to him.

There is a Murray Sinclair Park, which Mayor Larry Johannson said “will serve as a constant reminder to young people who play there that they too can grow up in our community and accomplish great things.”

Perry Bellegarde, who served as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, march during the Walk for Reconciliation on May 31, 2015 in Gatineau, Que.JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Inside the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School, the cafeteria is called Senator Sinclair Commons. A mural of him was painted on the wall by Winnipeg artist Charlie Johnston, along with some students. During a recent visit, Mr. Sinclair said he admired the effort put into it and said, “It’s nice to be honoured in that way.”

The area is filled with lasting childhood memories. One house – now gone – where he lived with his grandparents, north of Selkirk, was located close to the Red River and he used to swim there.

Mr. Sinclair also fondly recalls growing up alongside his “twin” (well, almost). His late brother, a massive Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan called Buddy (whose legal name was Henry Jr.), was born a year after Murray and was his “comrade-in-arms.”

While he is lauded for his ability to speak about the country’s most difficult moments, Mr. Sinclair, whose Ojibwe name is Mizanay Gheezhik, meaning “the One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky,” is a warm and social person at his core.

When you show him a picture of a child – which is pretty much a must if you’re a parent who shares any amount of time with him – his face lights up with a wide smile. His quirky sense of humour is a hallmark of his personality. Take, for example, when he dressed up as a bumblebee to impress his granddaughter for Halloween. And then there was the time he was Shrek.

Niigaan Sinclair, Mr. Sinclair’s son, a well-known commentator on Indigenous issues and a professor at the University of Manitoba, says his father carries “a spirit of humour” to cope with some “very, very hard things.”

He says his father also loves people – when he’d go with his dad to the mall to run a simple errand, such as getting a tube of toothpaste at a drugstore, it would somehow turn into a four-hour trip.

“Dad can’t not talk to people and visit with people,” he says. “Of course, he knows everybody because he’s done everything.”

Murray Sinclair pauses and places his hands on the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after it was released on Dec. 15, 2015 in Ottawa.ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Niigaan says his father is still the same way and he wants to hear people’s stories. He says his dad also carries the weight of some of the most horrific ones in the country’s history.

As the head commissioner of the TRC, his father was “the listener” who heard brutal and violent accounts from the perspective of survivors and what they experienced during their childhoods at residential schools.

“How could you not have that burden to carry for the rest of your life?” Niigaan says. “At this phase of his life, it’s not just physical health. It’s the fact that he’s – for his entire career – helped this country through its most difficult and darkest chapters.”

But he says a remarkable thing about his dad is how he is “able to carry those stories a little bit lighter” because of his commitment to traditional Anishinaabe ceremonies, spending time with his children, his grandchildren and in Winnipeg and Treaty 1 territory.

Mr. Sinclair makes it known it was a text message from Manitoba’s new Premier, Wab Kinew, sent only a few days prior, that led to his appearance at the public-safety summit. He said he usually requires more notice to get somewhere, but he told Mr. Kinew: “Because it’s you, I’ll do it.”

The two go way back – to the time when Wab, now 42, was learning to crawl.

The Sinclair and Kinew families founded an Anishinaabe preschool together. The idea was fuelled by a desire to ensure their children learned the Ojibwe language, as well as their culture. The program began in the living room of the Sinclair home and eventually they secured space through the Winnipeg school division for it. The families remain close.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shares an embrace with Murray Sinclair as they take part in ceremonies for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on Sept. 30, 2022.SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

At the ceremony last October, Mr. Sinclair called the swearing-in of the new Premier “Manitoba’s true act of reconciliation.”

Mr. Kinew, on the other hand, sees Mr. Sinclair as “the living embodiment of reconciliation in Canada” – someone he describes as a wise and calm presence who is focused on bringing people together.

“To me that is what a reconciliation is all about,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Kinew also feels indebted to Mr. Sinclair.

“You don’t get the opportunities that I’ve enjoyed in my life without the contributions of Murray Sinclair,” he said. “As much as I feel like I owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude, I hope all Canadians feel the same way.”

Looking at the future, Mr. Kinew believes his mentor “will always have a tremendous role in the public discourse of this country.”

At this juncture of his life, Mr. Sinclair sees himself having a strong sense of who he is and a good sense of humour. He admits, when speaking of his energy levels, that he doesn’t “last long” and he knows when it’s time to rest.

“I don’t know about that, but okay,” Niigaan says with a chuckle. “He will give and give and give. And sometimes, he needs others to remind him of the importance of loving himself.”

When people reach a certain age, especially after a long career in public service, Niigaan says, they need to determine the contribution they will continue to make while focusing on family and community.

Niigaan says his father needs care and support with his health. In turn, the family wants to spend as much time as they can with him.

“He also wants to give to us the stories that perhaps he hasn’t shared for most of our lives,”Niigaan says.

“These are things that I think he wants to give to us before he travels to the west as they say in our culture, which is, enters the next spiritual phase of his life, where he goes and visits our relatives.”

There, people like Mr. Sinclair’s grandmother – his beloved kookum – will be waiting for him.

May 15, 2024

First Nations

Joan Phillip, the second First Nations woman in the ‘B.C.’ cabinet, is patient but unrelenting

Joan Phillip

Melanie Mark, left, and Joan Phillip stand on Commercial Drive near Grandview Park. Photo: B.C. NDP 

APTN News: In February of 2023, Melanie Mark stood before the B.C. legislature, visibly shaken, as she read out her resignation speech.

“This place felt like a torture chamber,” she said, holding an eagle feather and wearing her grandfather’s beaded moosehide fringe jacket.

A descendant of the Nisg̱a’a and Gitxsan people on her mom’s side and Cree, Ojibway, French, and Scottish on her father’s side, Mark was the first First Nations woman to serve on the provincial cabinet from February 2016 until April 2023.

“I wanted to be an MLA so I could be a strong voice for my community and the people I grew up with and so I could be a champion for change. I wanted to disrupt the status quo. I wanted big systems to change,” she said.

While she made an impact during her time on the cabinet, Mark ultimately concluded that, “Institutions fundamentally resist change, they’re allergic to doing things differently, particularly colonial institutions like this legislative assembly and government at large.”

The colonial political arena has been a notoriously unkind place for the few Indigenous women who have been elected across the country. In 2019, Jody Wilson-Raybould (Puglaas) was expelled from the federal Liberal caucus after speaking out against attempted political interference.

But when Joan Phillip took over Mark’s former Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding last year, she showed no signs of fear, picking up the proverbial baton where her predecessor left off and demonstrating that she was prepared for anything.

When asked how she would handle any mistreatment, Phillip reportedly joked that if anyone tried anything, she would whack them with her SIA stick (Saskatoon berry stick).

Nearly a year into her role as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, Phillip is just as steadfast, quipping about her “big, huge” muscles.

‘To be able to represent the territory I’m actually from’

‘Another pivotal milesone’ 

Standing at the Cenotaph in Grandview Park, just off Commercial Drive, on a drizzling spring day, Phillip’s vibrant attire stood out against the dreary East Vancouver backdrop.

She smiled from under her umbrella as she spoke of her connection to the area.

Phillip — who is səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and grew up around the waterfront on the unceded territory of her nation — reminisced about a childhood spent eating a 90 per cent marine protein diet from the Maplewood Mudflats.

This was before she moved to Commercial Drive, where she lived in various homes until she and her family moved to an old orchard in North Vancouver. There, she was a long-distance runner and often went through Lynn Valley Canyon.

She then returned to the Drive area when she had children. Her two sons went to Britannia Secondary School, where she was also a Youth counsellor.

These connections to this land are just some of the reasons why Phillip said it was important for her to pursue her current role as a New Democrat Party MLA for the constituency of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. The riding has long been an NDP stronghold.

On election day on June 24, 2023, Phillip waited for the news in a small room downstairs of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre with her husband, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Premier David Eby and his team.

“They were waiting for the count upstairs. I had my family — my family is the George family. Chief Dan George, Uncle Leonard George, Rueben and Gabe — they were just waiting,” she said.

“The moment we found out, Rueben and Gabe drummed us into the [Chief Simon Baker Room]. Everybody was there. My older sister wasn’t there — Lee Maracle, she passed away by then — but her two daughters were there, and everyone was so emotional. What an amazing feeling to be able to represent the territory I’m actually from.”

When her nephew Rueben George first introduced her to the room, he said, “I can’t really welcome you to the territory. You’re from here.”

Having a second Indigenous woman step into the riding was celebrated by many, with the First Nations Leadership Council calling it “another pivotal milestone in our ongoing fight for representation of First Nations voices in the highest echelons of governance.”

“While Melanie left immense shoes to fill,” said Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit, “we have no doubt that Joan is up to the task.”

Now, nearly one year into her role, Phillip is proud of some of the successes she’s been part of.

“We’ve been able to pass laws in terms of not just laws but policies around building affordable homes,” she said. “And the Child Protection Act. It protects our laws, which criminalize predators online who are targeting children. If you target someone like a child, then you’re going to go to jail. There are consequences to that.”

Under the NDP government’s housing strategy, there have been efforts to increase funding for affordable housing projects, including those serving Indigenous communities.

“There’s a lot of other wins like our partnerships with Lu’ma Native Housing Society or Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House.”

This funding can support these organizations in constructing new housing units, renovating existing properties, and providing supportive services for residents. The Lu’ma Native Housing Society is specifically a step toward reconciliation through culturally appropriate housing designs, community-driven planning processes, and partnerships with Indigenous organizations.

“Now we can actually put things into law, lifting everybody up. Put into law protecting workers’ rights. Put into law protecting the sexual exploitation of children and youth. Protecting the LGBTQ+ community. Protecting our title and rights and recognizing that we also have a place at the table,” she said.

Phillip has also advocated for the inclusion of six more local childcare facilities in the region, slated to transition into $10-a-Day ChildCareBC sites in March and April 2024.

“I always tell people when we do well, everybody wants to, so we want to lift everybody up together.”

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant is a socio-economically diverse area that has seen many changes in recent decades.

The riding includes the Downtown Eastside, which has been the epicentre of the addiction and unhoused crises in the province for decades. This area continues to grapple with the ongoing displacement of numerous unhoused individuals residing in homeless encampments.

In April 2016, the province declared it a public health emergency. As the opioid crisis shifted and spread since then, there have been at least 13,000 lives lost to toxic, unregulated drugs, including Phillip’s son, Kenny Phillip, who died of a carfentanyl overdose the day after his 42nd birthday, she shared.

The riding is also home to Chinatown, where the impact of gentrification and rising property values are causing financial strain on long-term family-run businesses and pushing them out of the area. Alongside that, there have been concerns about the community’s future, as vandalism, crime rates and COVID-19 have left it deteriorating. Mount Pleasant has faced gentrification and soaring property values since the 1990s.

Phillip splits her time between “Vancouver” and “Penticton,” but since stepping into the MLA role, she has primarily remained in Mount Pleasant, as well as “Victoria.”

Because her husband has served as president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs since 1998, which is based in “Vancouver,” they’ve always had an apartment in the area. The two have maintained this connection with their family and this land over time despite mainly living in “Penticton” for the last 26 years.

“The press was saying I was imported. I kept thinking, how can you import someone who is already from here?” she laughed.

Stewart and Joan Phillip stand with their fists in the air against Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain.

A typical day for Phillip starts as early as 8 a.m., sometimes even earlier. First,  she dives into breakfast meetings alongside constituents, groups, or organizations, something Phillip says is the fun part of the job.

By 10 a.m., her focus shifts to the legislature, where her party typically works to overcome internal disputes.

In the afternoon, the government holds question periods, where debates about various laws take place. For instance, just before Christmas, MLAs were in the House for 12-hour days.

However, community work, which she finds the most enjoyable, typically occurs in the early morning, around noon, or evening. She enjoys taking walks around local neighbourhoods, she said, interacting with locals and visiting businesses.

As lifetime activists, Joan Phillip and her husband Stewart Phillip have dedicated their lives to justice, human rights, and the environment. Stewart said their children, too, have spent most of their lives at blockades fighting against industrial projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline, Site C dam, Ajax open-pit copper mine, and salmon farm industry, to name a few.

When Stewart first saw Joan (then Carter), he was reading Lee Maracle’s (Joan’s sister) first book, Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel.

The book is an autobiographical exploration of an Indigenous woman’s life, from the səlilwətaɬ mudflats to Tkaronto — the Mohawk word for Toronto — in the ’60s and ’70s. It touches on Indigenous activism and how to work against racism and colonialism.

“Colonialism stole everything,” wrote Maracle.

He recalls being captivated by Joan, a member of the Native Alliance for Red Power, a social movement led by Indigenous youth demanding self-determination.

“Back in the day during Red Power, you had to read it if you were in the movement. So, of course, I got the book, but I never got any further than Joan’s photo,” Stewart shared.

Joan was also an ally of the Black Panthers — a group that fought for civil rights and against racism in the “United States” — and the Palestine Liberation Organization — a group that was formed to fight for the rights of Palestinian people and create an independent Palestinian state where Palestinians could live freely.

“Joan has been engaged in political activism pretty much since she was 16. She crawled out her bedroom window down a tree to go to Frank’s landing during the Columbia River fishing dispute, and the National Guard was there,” he shared on the phone while driving home from “Kelowna.”

“She was also the spokesperson for the Native Peoples Delegation to the People’s Republic of China in the early 1970s and went there for a few weeks. During the Zapatista uprising, she went to Chiapas, Mexico, and was our band spokesperson for the Oka Crisis.”

Eventually, Stewart was invited to sit on the board of the Vancouver Indian Centre Society — which is now called the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society — where Joan was already on the board.

“I was sitting at the end of the table, looking down and thinking, ‘Oh, there she is!’” he shared.

That evening, they were at King’s Head pub in Kitsilano, where they started talking and have been together ever since.

“It was the movement that brought us together. It was the movement that sustained our relationship,” said Stewart.

Stewart describes Joan as a bright light, saying she is gregarious and a lot of fun. He loves that she speaks her mind and is a better shot than he is when it comes to hunting.

“She’s a fanatical fisher. Sometimes, I tell her, no, you can’t bring your fishing gear, we have to get there. But she wants to stop at every river,” he laughed.

Their dinner conversations are typically centred around their grandchildren, of which they have 15. They even have a couple of great-grandchildren — and are excited to have more. They do their best to ensure their descendants grow up knowing what’s happening worldwide, discussing current events, politics and environmentalism, he said.

“We’ve discovered that the secret of life is about holding each other up, respecting one another, and caring, not putting each other down,” he said.

“It’s about our commitment to our people and the environment. You know she’s an MLA, and I’m the president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. That’s fine and all, but it’s about who you are, not what you do. It’s about living your life with purpose.”

Stewart says he’s had cancer four times and, about 26 years ago, came close to dying from it. Alongside losing his son to a carfentanyl overdose, he believes living so close to death has taught him and Joan to focus on what’s really important, and for them, that’s people.

‘One slice at a time’

Joan Phillip’s undeniable toughness puts her in a good spot to make waves in “B.C.” politics, serving her home territories and stepping onto a trail that’s been blazed by her predecessor Melanie Mark.

“I really hope and pray that Joan doesn’t have to face the same things I did,” Mark said in an interview.

The fact that women are underrepresented in politics is a harsh reality made even worse by the scrutiny and personal attacks they face in the public sphere, often experiencing “backlash when they display the traits typically associated with strong leaders,” according to the Saje Journal article “Whiny, Fake, and I Don’t Like Her Hair’: Gendered Assessments of Mayoral Candidates.“

Mark grew up in the Skeena projects in East “Vancouver” with a single mother and has always been passionate about social, environmental and economic justice. In her role, she helped create the first provincial tuition waiver program for youth from the foster care system and removed all fees for adults accessing Adult Basic Education.

Because of the trauma caused by residential schools and the foster care system, both of her parents lived with alcohol and substance addiction. Rarely do any Indigenous people’s experiences remain untouched by this history.

“I am the product of the foster care system,” she said.

“Education is [important] to me, and it truly is the great equalizer,” she shared as the first person in her family to graduate high school and college.

Mark helped launch the world’s first Indigenous Law program at the University of Victoria and secured investment in Indigenous language revitalization, Youth centres and more.

Despite these successes, Mark admits that she wasn’t perfect, and though she made some mistakes, she had no regrets.

As a mom, niece and daughter, her decision to resign came at a time when her family really needs her.

“This journey has been challenging and has come at a significant personal toll,” she shared in her resignation speech.

While her priorities to spend more time with her family are clear, she also illuminated the problems within colonial institutions gripped by systemic racism that are deeply influenced by religious teachings and traditions.

Candidly, Mark said she was “exercising [her] self-determination” and denounced the current political system as “cutthroat,“ “dysfunctional,” and a “torture chamber.” The latter is a play on words referencing former Canadian Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power. Wilson-Raybould was Canada’s first Indigenous Minister of Justice and Attorney General. She was only the third woman to hold the role.

“Jody talks about how she tried to make decisions that were often interfered with by x, y and z. She’s a public face, and people don’t know that,” Mark shared.

“They don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes because they don’t understand politics. There’s a machinery behind all of these decisions.”

Women in politics and even other leadership positions tend to be thrown into this arena, where their characters are attacked. Mark was not exempt from this, with people sometimes chastising her for showing any form of emotion.

“Women get it worse than men. That’s the bottom line,” Mark said in a press conference when she resigned.

It can be dehumanizing and demoralizing, she shared. Meanwhile, when it comes to men in politics, it isn’t that they don’t face hate, too, but theirs is usually focused on the work they do instead of who they are.

As Mark resigned, she called for reforms to foster better collaboration between elected officials. She believes that it goes beyond opposition and that the system as a whole comes into play here. These systems still hold on to dated customs, she says, forgetting how things have shifted and changed over the years.

“This place can’t be all about votes, polling, and posturing. People need to know that their lives matter, their communities matter, their justice matters,” she said in a speech in the legislature.

“People have no recourse but to sleep on the streets. That’s unacceptable and inhumane. While our government has done so much work to address these systemic issues, there’s so much more work to do.”

In an interview with Glacier Media following her election, Phillip remarked that she didn’t expect to change the world overnight, but that — as an Elder taught her — it’s “like a pie.”

“We had everything taken from us, including our authority, and we’re going to get it back slice at a time,” she said.

Story by Kayla MacInnis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, IndigiNews

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March 4, 2024

First Nations

Wally Firth, N.W.T.’s first Indigenous MP, remembered as a humble trailblazer

Firth died on Saturday at the age of 89 

Sarah Krymalowski · CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2024 7:31 PM EST | Last Updated: March 4

 man in cowboy hat stands in front of small plane in an old snapshot
Wally Firth was one of the first Indigenous commercial pilots in the N.W.T. (Submitted by James Ross)

First Peoples Law Report: CBC News – The first Indigenous member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories is being remembered as a humble trailblazer who paved the way for Indigenous rights and self-determination in the territory.

Wally Firth died in the early hours of Saturday morning at the age of 89, according to his family.

James Ross grew up in Firth’s home community of Fort McPherson, and first got to know Firth when he was serving as MP. Later, he became part of the Firth family when he married Wally’s niece Mary.

“Wally was truly a trailblazer,” he said. “A really humble man that had knowledge beyond anyone that I know.” 

Firth’s accomplishments include time spent as one of the first Indigenous managers at the Hudson’s Bay in the Northwest Territories, a career as one of the first Northern Indigenous commercial pilots, and jobs as a radio host and journalist at CBC North.

He served as the NDP MP for the N.W.T, which then encompassed all of Nunavut as well, from 1972 to 1979.

man in button down shirt looks at Camera
Wally Firth photographed in 1974, during his time as an MP. (NWT Archives/Native Communications Society fonds – Native Press photograph collection/N-2018-010: 04489)
Music and politics

Back in those days, if you were lucky, you might get a call from Firth to talk about his favourite passion: fiddle music.

“There’s stories of him calling people from his office in the House of Commons and playing a fiddle tune over the phone so people could hear what song he was trying to learn,” recalled Michael McLeod, the N.W.T.’s current MP.

“He would share any which way he could.”

Wally Firth playing the fiddle

3 years ago, Duration 0:55 Watch and listen to Wally Firth play the fiddle.

Click on the following link to view the video:

McLeod, whose father was Firth’s cousin, said he recalls Firth dropping by his little house in Fort Providence when he was growing up.

“I remember him talking long hours with my father,” he said. The two shared much — they talked about furs, trapping, family, and — of course — current events.

“It was always an interesting time,” he said. “My dad was not a fan of politicians, but he made an effort to really welcome Wally. Because Wally was a relative, plus he was a Northerner, and they had lots in common.”

McLeod said he also heard from Firth once he himself became an MP, to talk over issues Firth had heard about or to catch up on the latest news about friends and family.

“Wally could speak on almost any issue. He was a very humble person, and he was a very easy guy to talk to,” McLeod said. “He was a good listener, maybe because of his years in politics — but he was a person that knew so much about the North and so much about the history.”

Passion for Indigenous rights

McLeod also recalls how much Firth cared about the people of the North. Coming from a smaller community, Firth spent his time trying to address the level of poverty in N.W.T. communities, the economic situation of the territory and the injustices Indigenous people had suffered over the decades.

During his first speech in the House of Commons after being elected, Firth pushed the federal government to negotiate modern land claim agreements with Dene and Inuit, and urged the government not to continue with the development of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline without meaningfully consulting Indigenous groups.

James Ross said because Firth had such a humble nature, he didn’t often speak about his experiences or accomplishments. He said many people in Firth’s life, especially younger people, knew him mostly as an elder and fiddler.

“Any discussion he had with anyone was, how was others doing? How was his friends doing? How was the community doing? How was the young people doing?” Ross said.

“Wally was a caring person that way. He was always interested in how others were doing, never how Wally was doing.”

One happy memory for Ross was a visit Firth had with two grand-nephews of his of a few years ago. Both boys were musicians, and Wally told them old stories about the history of fiddling in Fort McPherson and passed some songs on to them.

But Ross said that ultimately, he believes Firth’s most important legacy will be his advocacy.

“Today, as Indigenous people we have rights, we have land claim settlements,” Ross said. “When Wally got started in 1962, and became an MP in 1972, none of these rights existed.”

“Our children and grandchildren are living a life that at least has some Indigenous recognition because of our original workers like Wally.”

Sarah Krymalowski 

With files from Liny Lamberink


February 14, 2024

First Nations

NAFC CEO Jocelyn W. Formsma Honoured with the 2024 Indspire Public Service Award

Nationtalk: Ottawa, ON – The National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) is proud to congratulate our CEO, Jocelyn W. Formsma, on the announcement that she has been awarded the 2024 Indspire Public Service Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Indigenous community. This well-deserved honour is a testament to Jocelyn’s more than 20 years of dedicated service within the Friendship Centre Movement and her unwavering commitment to the betterment of all aspects of life for Indigenous people.

Jocelyn has played a pivotal role in advancing Indigenous causes through her extensive volunteer and board work with organizations such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), Indigenous Bar Association (IBA), Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Inc. (NICHI). Her tireless efforts have left an indelible mark on the Indigenous community, fostering positive change, and promoting inclusivity.

Board President Kelly Benning expressed admiration for Jocelyn’s exceptional contributions, stating, “Jocelyn’s leadership and passion for serving the Indigenous community are truly inspiring. Her over two decades of commitment to the Friendship Centre Movement and her active involvement with various organizations demonstrate a profound dedication to the betterment of Indigenous lives. We are immensely proud to have her as the driving force behind the NAFC, and this award is a well-deserved recognition of her exemplary public service.”

Jocelyn’s visionary leadership has not only shaped the trajectory of the NAFC but has also made a lasting impact on the broader Indigenous community. The Indspire Public Service Award reflects her outstanding achievements, commitment to social justice, and unwavering advocacy for Indigenous rights.

Please join us in congratulating Jocelyn on this remarkable achievement and expressing gratitude for her continuous efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of Indigenous people.

Media Inquiries

Senior Communicdation Coordinatior

February 2, 2024

First Nations

Indspire Honours Indigenous Excellence with Announcement of 2024 Indspire Awards Recipients

NationTalk: Indspire is thrilled to announce the 2024 Indspire Awards, an annual celebration honouring the remarkable achievements and contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. This prestigious event will take place on April 18th, 2024, at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians from across the country.

The Indspire Awards recognize Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement, promote self-esteem and pride for Indigenous communities, and provide inspirational role models for future generations. This year’s event marks the 31st anniversary of the awards, a testament to the enduring commitment of Indigenous peoples to pursuing excellence in multiple fields of endeavour.

The 2024 Indspire Awards recipients are:

Youth Recipient
Adam Gauthier
Tla’amin Nation, BC

Youth Recipient
Braden Kadlun
Kugluktuk, NU

Youth Recipient
Dr. Jayelle Friesen-Enns
Red River Métis, Manitoba Métis Federation, MB

Eden Robinson
Haisla, BC

Business & Commerce
Victoria LaBillois
Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, QC

Culture, Heritage & Spirituality
Edna Manitowabi
Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory, ON

Kanonhsyonne Jan Hill
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, ON

Lea Bill
Pelican Lake First Nation, SK

Ronald Eric Ignace
Skeetchestn Indian Band, BC

Law & Justice
The Honourable Michelle O’Bonsawin
Abenaki First Nation of Odanak, QC

Public Service
Jocelyn Formsma
Moose Cree First Nation, ON

Lifetime Achievement
Thomas V. Hill
Six Nations of the Grand River, ON

For more information about each of the recipients, please visit

November 17, 2023

First Nations

The making of Premier Wab Kinew

Manitoba’s new leader shares the story of his upbringing in Winnipeg, how he turned around a life of addiction and crime and the greatest gift he got from his fatherNANCY MACDONALDTHE GLOBE

The Globe and Mail: The Premier’s Office in Manitoba had the air of an abandoned bunker last month: shelves bare, personal effects hastily removed, dust motes dancing in the sunbeams. The only remnant of the previous tenant, Heather Stefanson, whose Progressive Conservatives held power in Manitoba for seven years, was a plain wooden clock and an abandoned houseplant.

New Democrat Wab Kinew, elected on Oct. 3, had moved just one item into the dark, oak-panelled office: a buffalo skull, a remnant of the sacred midsummer Sundance – and a reminder of the healing and renewal that led him to this office after a youth spent headed in the opposite direction.

Next door, a hodgepodge of Mr. Kinew’s suit jackets, spare ties, and framed art were piled in the office of his Principal Secretary, Emily Coutts. “He really needs to deal with that,” she murmured to no one in particular, as a pair of techies tried to get the phones working.

Ms. Coutts, 28, was, in that moment, fine-tuning a news release announcing that the board of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation was being fired en masse, an effort to get the Crown corporation’s 1,700 employees – on strike since August – back to work.

The new board would include the president of the Manitoba wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and an NDP MLA, signalling Labour’s renewed power in the province after seven years of strife with the outgoing Tories.

They had also just unveiled the country’s most diverse cabinet. For Deputy Premier, Mr. Kinew chose a 39-year-old Black, non-binary former psychiatric nurse, Uzoma Asagwara, who played basketball for Team Canada in their twenties. Two First Nations women were given key portfolios. In a neat bit of political theatre, Mr. Kinew appointed himself Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation, inverting the significance of a post once considered marginal.

The sense of hope that Mr. Kinew, 41, inspired in his supporters has much to do with a life trajectory unique in the history of major political candidates in this country.

Winning the premiership was the latest in a lifetime of dramatic transformations:from rapper to university vice-president, from activist to bestselling author, from criminal to statesman. Mr. Kinew insists that he isn’t running from any of it. “I feel a reverence to the past. It’s important to face it – by being straight up and clear eyed,” Mr. Kinew said in his first sit-down interview since his victory.

“I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, and I smartened up. I made good on it. It’s a process – of continuing to make good on it.”

Mr. Kinew greets supporters in Winnipeg on Oct. 3, election night. The New Democrats’ victory made him the province’s first Indigenous premier since John Norquay, a Métis politician who served in the 1880s. DAVID LIPNOWSKI/THE CANADIAN PRESS

During the campaign, ‘Wabamania’ was palpable in Mr. Kinew’s home community of Onigaming, an Anishinaabe nation on the shores of Lake of the Woods. NANCY MACDONALD/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

There are few places where the gaping inequity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians comes so clearly into focus as it does along the jagged, granite shores of Lake of the Woods, where Winnipeg’s gentry class spends its summers. The vast lake, with its sailing regattas, infinite blue bays and boozy yacht club dances, boasts some of the country’s most exclusive cottage country.

It is also where Mr. Kinew spent the first few years of his life, on the Ojibways of the Onigaming First Nation, one of more than a dozen Anishinaabe First Nations clustered along the lake’s craggy shores. The median income on Onigaming, a colourful knot of prefab houses built on the sandy hills above Sabaskong Bay in Northwest Ontario, is $20,288. In Kenora, the regional hub – an hour’s drive north on Highway 71 – it is $86,000.

“It can be hard to see optimism here,” says Onigaming Chief Jeff Copenace. The community buried 32 members in the past two years, some 10 per cent of the population. Most were under 45; they died from suicide, alcoholism, and accidental overdose, says Mr. Copenace. “That’s why Wab’s victory was so meaningful here: It represents a light in the darkness.”

Mr. Kinew’s mother, Kathi Avery Kinew, the daughter of a Toronto ad executive, was an Indigenous policy analyst. His father, Tobasanakwut Kinew, an academic and a First Nations leader, was among those who helped launch the Indigenous civil rights movement in Canada in the 1960s. Mr. Kinew describes his mother as a foil to his father’s sharp edges: gentle and nurturing where his dad was gruff and impatient. Both were intensely political, says Mr. Kinew – “they raised me around the negotiating table, so to speak.”

By the time he was 3, Mr. Kinew was spending two days a week in Murray Sinclair’s living room in St. Andrew’s, north of Winnipeg, where the former judge who would later chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ran an informal Anishinaabemowin language school for a half-dozen Anishinaabe kids.

Mr. Kinew wishes his mother, Kathi Avery Kinew, a happy birthday on election night.DAVID LIPNOWSKI/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Before kindergarten, Mr. Kinew moved with his family – he has a younger sister, Shawonipinesiik, who is now an associate professor of art history at Harvard University and an older half-sister, Diane Kelly, a lawyer – to Winnipeg’s south end.

During summers on Onigaming, the elder Mr. Kinew piled his kids and grandkids into a fishing boat, chugging down the lake. He showed them petroglyphs and trap lines; he taught them to harvest wild rice and offer tobacco to thunderbirds when it rained.

“The teachings, the language, the land – it instilled a pride and a foundation in us,” says Mr. Kinew’s elder sister, Ms. Kelly, who later became a regional Grand Chief, like her father and two of their uncles. “When you’re raised like that, it’s hard for people to push you off your centre.”

But the elder Mr. Kinew had been deeply scarred by his time at St. Mary’s, a Catholic residential school in Kenora. As a parent, he could also be aloof, absent, angry, particularly following the death by suicide of Darryl, his eldest son from a previous marriage, when the young man was 19. Mr. Kinew’s anger became a malignant presence in the family home.

“When I did something wrong, I was yelled at for being stupid,” Mr. Kinew recalled in his memoir, The Reason You Walk. “When I got hurt and cried, I was yelled at for being weak. When I sat inside for too long, I was yelled at for being lazy.” Mr. Kinew came to fear and hate his dad. He learned to bury his anger, the same way his father had.

At Mr. Kinew’s swearing-in, he dons the war bonnet that belonged to his father, Tobasanakwut Kinew, presented by his uncle Fred Kelly. At left is Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who taught the future premier in an Anishinaabemowin language school. JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

In the late ‘90s, just before entering the University of Manitoba, where he studied economics, Mr. Kinew formed the conscious hip hop foursome Slangblossom, later joining the Dead Indians, a rap group. On weekends, he often travelled alone to Kenora to sweat with an Elder, and deepen his spiritual learning. He also began drinking heavily, shedding his straightedge persona. After a few beers, a meanness buried deep within him would emerge. For a time, he lost himself to fist fights, anger, addiction.

Mr. Kinew’s criminal past, which includes two arrests for assault, has been well documented. His father, by then a revered leader, was furious and disappointed when Mr. Kinew was picked up for refusing a breathalyzer following a police chase. But he surprised his son, showing him mercy, love and forgiveness. That summer, at the Sundance, the elder Mr. Kinew named his son a chief and gave him his war bonnet – the red-beaded, feathered headdress he wore to be sworn-in as premier almost 20 years later. More than any other inheritance, this was the greatest gift his father gave him, says Mr. Kinew: when he was broken, his dad lifted him from the depths, making him whole again.

Mr. Kinew had begun piercing at the Sundance as a teen, but at that point, hadn’t performed the ritual in two years. During a piercing, dancers have slits cut into their backs or chests; into the incisions go wooden pegs lashed to buffalo skulls. To show reverence by giving something of themselves to the Creator, they then pull the heavy skulls behind them, stretching the taught skin until finally the pegs tear through flesh and muscle, an agonizing, bloody release that can take hours. That summer, Mr. Kinew, whose chest is pocked with scars, pierced three times.

Back in Winnipeg, he threw himself into Alcoholics Anonymous, sometimes taking in three meetings a day. He worked out. He read widely. When he and his girlfriend April Spence had their first son, Dominik, the new father found work in warehouses and on construction sites to support his young family.

Mr. Kinew speaks at CBC headquarters in Toronto, when he was guest-hosting Q. He began working in broadcasting in the 2000s.KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

In late 2005, Mr. Kinew wrote a letter to the editor in the Winnipeg Free Pressarguing in favour of Todd Bertuzzi’s controversial selection to Team Canada after the hockey player had ended another player’s career following an on-ice incident: “I am a young man with a criminal record and have felt the pain and frustration of losing out on jobs and opportunities because of it,” Mr. Kinew wrote. “I refuse to believe that at 23 years of age my life should be over because of mistakes I have made.”

This caught the eye of a producer at CBC Winnipeg’s morning radio show, and eventually led to a reporting gig. But while Mr. Kinew’s professional life was blossoming, his family life was coming undone. In 2007, shortly after the birth of their second son, Bezhigomiigwaan, he and April separated. The pain drove Mr. Kinew to consider suicide. He got through it by logging still more hours at the gym, and later came to national prominence as the host of the CBC TV series 8th Fire, an edgy, provocative exploration of Indigenous-settler relations.

It wasn’t until Mr. Kinew was 30 that his dad explained the depth of his pain, and what was done to him at residential school: the sexual and physical abuse, the depravity – a beating he received at age nine, on the day his father was buried. Mr. Kinew gathered his father, then in his 70s, in his arms. This was the first time they had embraced in this way, he realized.

As the elder Mr. Kinew finally grappled with his pain, his grief and anger began to fade; the barriers that kept him from truly loving his family came down. Mr. Kinew understood why his dad had screwed up as a parent. He forgave him.

Mr. Kinew reached the Manitoba legislature at a time of discord within the NDP, which lost the 2019 election but gained a new generation of MLAs who could be organized to challenge the Conservatives next time.AARON VINCENT ELKAIM/THE CANADIAN PRESS

In February of 2016, four years after his father’s death – and a year after declining an offer to run for the Grits federally – Mr. Kinew announced he would seek the NDP nomination in Fort Rouge, a safe NDP seat in central Winnipeg.

Asked why he had chosen mainstream politics instead of following his father into First Nations leadership, he said simply: “This path wasn’t open to my dad. He had tremendous potential and capability. I have the opportunity.”

In 2017, Mr. Kinew won the party’s leadership.

The crowning of the new party leader is supposed to be a moment of triumph. But there was no honeymoon for Mr. Kinew. He inherited a greatly diminished party that was riven by internal discord.

Two years later, the governing Tories easily won re-election. But Mr. Kinew had replaced the NDP’s old guard with a slate of new MLAs. The party added four seats, and Mr. Kinew proved he could run a disciplined campaign. His concession speech sounded more like a victory address. He left the stage to the tune of Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up.

Mr. Kinew’s ambition – some call it impatience, others arrogance – have long annoyed rivals. Whatever the case, the ex-rapper’s best moments are often unscripted.

In 2019, Tory Alan Lagimodiere, freshly sworn in as minister of Indigenous reconciliation, told reporters gathered on the legislature’s marble staircase that residential schools had been founded with “good intentions.” Before Mr. Lagimodiere could finish the thought, Mr. Kinew approached, momentarily hijacking the new minister’s inaugural news conference. He calmly explained why this was untrue.

Mr. Kinew confronts Alan Lagimodiere in July of 2021. The minister later apologized for saying the builders of the residential-school system meant to do good. STEVE LAMBERT/THE CANADIAN PRESS

That equanimity doesn’t mean Mr. Kinew is beyond delivering the occasional partisan kick in the teeth. Manitobans were reminded of Mr. Kinew’s intemperate side after a bizarre incident last April, when Mr. Kinew gripped Obby Khan, a Tory MLA, in a lengthy handshake at an event in the legislature’s second-floor rotunda, speaking into his ear.

Mr. Khan, a former offensive lineman with the Blue Bombers, accused Mr. Kinew of unleashing a profanity-laced tirade, then shoving him. Mr. Kinew acknowledged that he was irked by a speech given by the rising Conservative star, but said there was no swearing or shoving.

But tempering his anger, Mr. Kinew acknowledges, is still a work in progress: “Over the years, I’ve always tried to improve myself. When I look into the mirror, I try to focus on weaknesses – on being straight up about what I see, then trying to remedy the situation through consistency and effort.”

In the end, another incident, involving another man named Khan, says something else about the premier’s character.

In 2019, CBC Manitoba fired Ahmar Khan, a young TV reporter for leaking news that his bosses made him delete a tweet calling out Don Cherry’s racism. Mr. Kinew didn’t know the South Asian reporter. But he was familiar with what it feels like to try to change a large institution as a person of colour. He invited him for a coffee.

Mr. Khan had grown up poor, in a single-parent home in Surrey, B.C., he told The Globe. Trying to make it in journalism had been tough sledding. The job was everything to him. His firing left him in such a dark space he was thinking of suicide.

Mr. Kinew told Mr. Khan to keep fighting. He described how he and several colleagues pushed the CBC to adopt the term “survivors,” when referring to those who had been to residential school. “He listened,” Mr. Khan recalls. “He was kind. In times where you begin to lose hope, you really struggle. It meant a lot.”

The Manitoba legislature, shown in 2019, has had to tackle fractious questions in recent years about missing and murdered Indigenous women, transgender rights and the soaring cost of living.JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Mr. Kinew meets his predecessor, Heather Stefanson, on Oct. 5, and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland a month later with Adrien Sala, her provincial counterpart in the finance portfolio.DAVID LIPNOWSKI/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The fall election felt like an existential struggle over what it means to be Manitoban. On one side, there was Tory Heather Stefanson’s hard-right vision that took aim at trans kids, and a pledge not to search a landfill for the remains of two murdered First Nations women. On the other was Mr. Kinew’s moderate, middle-of-the-road approach, and a belief that cultural, religious and sexual differences – as well asbalanced budgets – are Manitoba’s strength.

Looming in the background, though left curiously unaddressed, was the spectre of history, of the yawning chasms that separate Indigenous from non-Indigenous Manitobans.

For a man with a tattoo spanning the length of his forearm reading “Live by the drum,” and its mate running down the opposite arm that says “Die by the drum,” Mr. Kinew fought a remarkably traditional campaign. He promised to “fix health care,” and opened most speeches with a hokey pun: “How do you do? I’m Wab Kinew.” He sold Manitobans on a series of pocketbook promises that might have been cherry-picked from a Conservative platform. He announced a pair of them – suspending the 14-cent provincial sales tax on gasoline and freezing Hydro rates – weeks before the Tory campaign launched, catching the opposition flat-footed.

In a pre-election speech, Mr. Kinew addressed his past transgressions head-on.

Mr. Kinew admits to having felt “pretty, pretty nervous,” ahead of the speech. He called Mr. Sinclair for advice.

“Show people that you’re not ashamed of your past, but you have learned from it,” the retired judge recalled telling him. “Tell them there will always be an opportunity for a second chance.”

That message gave the speech its compelling, redemptive thrust. And it deftly removed what, for years, had been a central focus of the Tory campaign: Mr. Kinew’s checkered past and the idea that his Indigeneity will make him soft on crime.

This time, “Manitoba didn’t buy into it,” says Lloyd Axworthy, the former foreign affairs minister who hired Mr. Kinew at the University of Winnipeg, when he served as its president. “People understood there was something bigger at stake.”

Mr. Kinew performs a pipe ceremony wearing his father’s war bonnet.JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The day after the vote, which gave Mr. Kinew’s NDP a majority government, the incoming Premier drove to Paradise, a plot of land on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Lakota, where his Sundance family had gathered to honour him. It was the site of many watershed moments in his life, including his wedding to Anishinaabe physician Lisa Monkman, with whom he has a five-year-old son, Tobasanakwut. The little boy, who shares his late grandfather’s name, goes by Toba, a nickname for the province.

In the weeks since, the Manitoba Premier has announced two inquiries – one into a police headquarters scandal and another on the province’s pandemic response – and hinted at a coming shakeup at Manitoba Hydro. He apologized to the families of the slain women whose remains are believed to be in a landfill, for having their relatives treated as political footballs.

Six weeks after the election, it’s still “Wabamania” back on Onigaming, where the community recently held a pickerel fry to celebrate Mr. Kinew’s achievement, says Mr. Copenace. Mr. Kinew’s campaign signs are everywhere – outside the band office, at a stop sign, on the side of a home, along the road. Ontario highway workers removed them, but people keep putting them back up.

“Hopefully, this will mark a turning point for some of our young people – to become dreamers, to start thinking of a future, of college or university, or even about becoming the next Wab Kinew.”

But there is no blind optimism here, no ignorance of the unnervingly high stakes facing the new premier: “Being a leader can be terribly lonely,” says Mr. Copenace. “In his darkest moments, I hope Wab stays rooted in his teachings, in his medicines, in ceremony. He can rely on Onigaming – I hope he knows that.”



Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of former CBC Manitoba reporter Ahmar Khan. This version has been updated.

Manitoba politics: More from The Globe

Tanya Talaga: Wab Kinew’s win in Manitoba suggests the lighting of the Anishinaabe eighth fire

Lloyd Axworthy: The Wab Kinew I know is going to change Canada

Mike McKinnon: Expect Wab Kinew’s government to carry the torch of Prairie pragmatism

André Picard: Other premiers take note: The Manitoba election was won with bold and detailed health care promises

October 13, 2023

First Nations

Mel Bevan, who led B.C. First Nation to cusp of historic treaty, has died

Bevan died earlier this week at the age of 82 after a battle with brain cancer

A man is shown close-up, sitting in a chair in a dining room.
Mel Bevan, longtime chief councillor and band manager for the Kitselas First Nation in northwest B.C., is shown in an undated photo. Bevan was instrumental in Kitselas treaty negotiations with the provincial and federal governments. He died on Oct. 10, 2023, at the age of 82. (Bevan family/Submitted)

CBC News: A Kitselas First Nation councillor and hereditary chief who played a key role in changing treaty rights in B.C. is being mourned after he died at the age of 82. Mel Bevan is being remembered for a long and storied career fighting for Indigenous rights in Canada after his passing from brain cancer on Tuesday.

Bevan — also known as Sm’ooyget Satsan — was a leader of the Kitselas First Nation in the Terrace region of northwest B.C. for more than 50 years. Among his contributions at local, provincial and national levels, he was chief negotiator for the Kitselas in their three decades of treaty negotiations with the provincial and federal governments.

That treaty — which, according to the Kitselas Treaty Information Source website, seeks to get Kitselas out from under the Indian Act and make the nation self-governing — has been under negotiation since 1993 and is expected to be finalized this month.

It is considered the largest modern treaty settlement per capita in B.C. history.

In a black and white photo, a boy is shown sitting on a front step with a dog in his lap.
Mel Bevan is shown at the age of 15 in a family photo. (Bevan family/Submitted)

Bevan was also a close advisor to Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and, earlier in his career, he served as a consultant to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Daybreak North, Bevan’s son-in-law, David Try, said he spoke with Bevan in hospital before Bevan’s passing and told him treaty negotiations had been successfully completed. “I’m absolutely confident he’s delighted to feel that that key part of his life has now been accomplished,” Try told host Carolina de Ryk.

“There’s lots of administration and paperwork and formalities, but the essence is now done of this treaty and we’ll move to a vote probably about 13 [to] 14 months from now.”

Daybreak North: 8:07

The life and legacy of Mel Bevan. Former Kitselas Chief Councillor Sm’ooyget Satsan has passed away.

Click on the following link to listen to “Daybreak North”:

Try — who worked with Bevan on treaty negotiations — said his father-in-law always pointed out that the vote by the Kitselas people would be the most important part of the process. “He always instructed me … ‘It’s not our treaty, it’s the people’s treaty and they will decide whether they want to be a treaty nation or … some other alternative.'”

‘He always wanted to serve the people of his nation’

According to an obituary posted by Bevan’s family on the Kitselas Treaty Information Source website, Bevan was born on Jan. 23, 1941 on the Kitselas Indian Reserve, at a time when being off-reserve without a licence was still illegal.  

The obituary calls Bevan “one of the last true hereditary chiefs” and says he was “raised and trained from birth to assume a leadership role with the Kitselas First Nation.”

Try said a positive vote on the treaty would be Bevan’s biggest legacy.

“He always wanted to serve the people of his nation, of Kitselas Nation,” Try said on Daybreak North. “He was honoured to help British Columbia First Nations, and [of his] national efforts … He was proud of those things but his deepest desires always struck me as serving the people of this nation.”

In a black and white photo, a man is shown sitting at a long dining table in the outdoors, with other people in the background.
Mel Bevan is shown at a gathering in an undated family photo. (Bevan family/Submitted)
Bevan became chief councillor in 1969

The Kitselas Treaty Information Source website says Bevan first served as chief councillor for the Kitselas First Nation in 1969. He was also band manager for decades — not just for the Kitselas, but for the Telegraph Creek and Kispiox First Nations as well.

Among his other contributions, Bevan co-created the Muks-Kum-Ol Housing Society for Indigenous housing in Terrace and served as president of the Kermode Friendship Society in the city. He also helped establish two legal libraries and service centres in northwest B.C. and was instrumental in starting Canada’s First Nations Radio (CFNR), which broadcasts to communities and reserves throughout the central and northern parts of the province.

Bevan also participated as an Elder in Residence at the University of Northern British Columbia’s Terrace campus.

In a black and white photo, a First Nations chief is shown in traditional regalia.
Mel Bevan, who was a hereditary chief of the Kitselas First Nation, is shown in an undated family photo. (Bevan family/Submitted)
A letter from the Prime Minister

Nationally, Bevan acted as a campaign co-chair for Fontaine, who was national chief from 1997 to 2000 and again from 2003 to 2009. As well, Bevan played a key role in the development of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, and assisted with a review of land management policy through Canada’s former Department of Indian Affairs.

In 1981, Bevan was part of discussions with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau around changes to the Indian Act, which had been in place since 1876 and gave the federal government sweeping powers over First Nations identity, political structures, governance, cultural practices and education.

Before Bevan died, he received a signed letter from current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

According to Try, the letter said, in part, “Your work has been instrumental in the journey towards reconciliation, the embodiment of mutual understanding, and the advancement of Indigenous rights.” Try said Bevan “was very proud” of the letter, while describing his father-in-law as “a very quiet and humble man.”

A family photo is shown, with some members in traditional First Nations attire.
Mel Bevan, front row, second from left, is shown with members of his family. (Bevan family/Submitted)

Since Bevan’s passing, tributes have also come from other leaders and organizations.

In a social media post, Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas wrote of Bevan: “I was fortunate enough to sit with him at the treaty table, where I saw the great respect the entire table had for Mel. “His loss is a great loss to Kitselas, the Skeena region, and our country as a whole.”

In a media release, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs called Bevan “a powerful voice” and said “his strength, resilience and advocacy will continue to live on in the many lives he touched.”

Indigenous people want to stay Indigenous

On a personal front, Bevan was a lifelong teacher and learner and had thousands of books, “all of which he read,” according to the obituary on the Kitselas Treaty Information Source website.

Bevan also wrote a book called Silent Voices: Rule by Policy on Canada’s Indian Reserves, in which he detailed his lifetime of experiences in First Nations governance. The book was published in 2021, and the obituary says it “serves as a guide for those wanting to achieve more for their First Nations community.”

In an interview with the Terrace Standard in 2020, Bevan said he learned through his work and travels that Indigenous people in Canada don’t want to be assimilated into a colonial system.

“The most important thing to everybody, all across the country, is to stay who they are,” he is quoted as saying. “The Haida, they don’t want to be anything but Haida. The Nisga’a, they don’t want to be anything but Nisga’a.”

A memorial service for Bevan will be held on Monday in Terrace, with a funeral to follow on Tuesday.


Jason Peters

Jason Peters is a journalist based in Prince George, B.C., on the territory of the Lheidli T’enneh. He can be reached at

With files from Daybreak North


August 17, 2023

First Nations

Lieutenant Governor’s Statement on the Death of The Honourable James K. Bartleman

NationTalk: The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, has released the following statement on the death of the Honourable James K. Bartleman, 27th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who passed away on Monday, August 14, 2023:

It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of the Honourable James K. Bartleman. On behalf of the people of Ontario, I convey my deepest condolences to his wife Marie-Jeanne, to his children Anne-Pascale, Laurent, and Alain, and to their extended families.

Mr. Bartleman served our province with distinction as the 27th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He was a valued friend and colleague, and I was always grateful to speak with him, as he and I did frequently through the years.

Born on December 24, 1939, in Orillia, Mr. Bartleman grew up in the Muskoka town of Port Carling. Mr. Bartleman earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from the University of Western Ontario in 1963.  After joining what is now Global Affairs Canada, he met Marie-Jeanne Rosillon in Brussels, Belgium. The couple married in 1975 and had three children: Anne-Pascale, Laurent, and Alain.

As a proud member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Mr. Bartleman was a staunch advocate for Indigenous Peoples, following the guidance of his ancestors by imparting his wisdom to future generations. His accomplishments are particularly poignant given the hardships he and his family faced in his childhood, including poverty and anti-Indigenous racism.  He received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service in 1999.

Mr. Bartleman had a distinguished diplomatic career that spanned more than three decades. He represented his country in various capacities, including Ambassador to Cuba, Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador to the European Union, and Ambassador to the North Atlantic Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). During this time, he became well-known for his constructive engagement in peace negotiations and humanitarian work. Mr. Bartleman was renowned for his creativity in fostering cultural exchanges, emphasizing the role of diplomacy in building mutual respect and understanding. His profound dedication to his duties, detailed knowledge of international affairs, and exceptional ability to handle crisis situations earned him widespread respect in diplomatic circles.

Upon his installation as Lieutenant Governor in March 2002, Mr. Bartleman became a Chancellor of the Order of Ontario. He was promoted to Knight of Justice in the Order of St John in 2002. He received the Dr. Hugh Lefave Award (2003) and the Courage to Come Back Award (2004) for his efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Mr. Bartleman was further recognized for his many contributions to our country when he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011.

Mr. Bartleman identified three key priorities during his mandate as Lieutenant Governor: to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, to fight racism and discrimination, and to encourage Indigenous young people. In 2004, he launched the first Lieutenant Governor’s Book Drive, which collected 1.2 million books for First Nations schools and Native Friendship Centres throughout Ontario. To further encourage literacy and bridge building, in 2005 he launched a twinning program for Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools in Ontario and Nunavut and established literacy summer camps in five northern First Nations communities as a pilot project. In 2006, he extended the literacy summer camp program to 28 fly-in communities, secured funding for five years, and launched Club Amick, a reading club for Indigenous children in Ontario’s North. In the winter of 2007, he completed a second book drive, collecting 900,000 books for Indigenous children in Ontario, northern Québec, and Nunavut. Today, the summer literacy camps, which operate in over 90 Indigenous communities across Canada, are administered by the non-profit United for Literacy.

Mr. Bartleman left an indelible mark on Canadian literature through his five non-fiction books and three novels. His unique storytelling ability told not only his own narrative but also the stories of countless others who found a voice through his words. He will be dearly missed by many.

Joe Segal
Office of the Lieutenant Governor

August 5, 2023

First Nations

Former Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote passes into theSpirit World

NationTalk: ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE – Former Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote has begun his Spirit Journey on August 4, 2023.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe and the Regional Deputy Grand Council Chiefs, Chris Plain (Southwest), Mel Hardy (Northern Superior), James R. Marsden (Southeast) and Travis Boissoneau (Lake Huron), send their sincerest condolences to family and friends of Vernon Roote-baa.

The talent of his leadership and political acuity were evident as Chief of the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation in 1994 where Grand Council records show him bringing forward resolutions to support growth in various program sectors such as Social Development. He became Deputy Grand Council Chief in 1996. The Anishinabek Nation was honoured to have him elected as Grand Council Chief from 1999 to 2002.

“Vernon Roote-baa was a highly respected Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation,” says Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe. “He held a vision, and early on in his elected position, asked for help from Head Getzit, Gordon Waindubence-baa to build a Nation for the Anishinabek.”

Vernon-baa valued culture and tradition and was instrumental in establishing the Nation Councils made up of Kwewag, Eshki-Niigijig and Getzidjig. He would have been so very proud and approved of the creation of the new Nation Councils of the Niniwag and the 2SLGBTQQIA+ that follow in his footsteps for inclusion of all citizens to support decision making at the political level. Vernon-baa recognized the importance of their role as key to his vision of building a strong Anishinabek Nation. He lived by the Seven Grandfather teachings and shared these traditional values with all that had the pleasure of meeting and working with him.

“Vernon-baa’s contributions to the Anishinabek Nation have left a lasting legacy and have helped the Anishinabek Nation make advances on behalf of its 39 Communities to better serve the Anishinabek Nation. Staff, citizens, and Anishinabek Nation Chiefs will remember Vernon Roote-baa as a kind, strong and friendly leader and a gentle warrior, who was truly a people person and could speak strongly at all levels. He connected with all wherever he went,” says Grand Council Chief Niganobe. “We will truly miss him but will remember his great service and contributions, for which we will be forever indebted. Rest well Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote-baa. You have created the Anishinabek Nation and have proudly served it so well. It was truly an honour working with you to build your vision of a strong and viable Anishinabek Nation for which you so greatly achieved.”

August 4, 2023

First Nations

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph is the recipient of the 2023 Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations

NationTalk: Toronto, Ontario — Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) proudly announces Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, a prominent advocate for Indigenous rights and reconciliation, as the recipient of the 2023 Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations.

A Hereditary Chief of the Gwawa’enuxw First Nation, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph is a leader of change and an influential voice in reconciliation. As a survivor of the Indian Residential School System, he was formerly the Executive Director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and an Honorary Witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

He is the Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Chair of the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation, and a former member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council. His lifelong work shows his dedication to his vision of reconciliation.“

I am so honored and filled with a sense of immeasurable gratitude to be receiving the Canadian Aboriginal Business Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations. My spirit soars,” said Joseph.

The Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations, sponsored by Sysco Canada, is presented to a bridge builder who is known for their efforts toward reconciliation between Indigenous communities and Canadian society. They are leaders who have created an impact locally and/or nationally through professional and voluntary commitments.“

We are thrilled to recognize Chief Dr. Robert Joseph’s remarkable achievements with the Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations,” said CCAB president and CEO, Tabatha Bull. “His journey and his legacy has and will continue to serve as an inspiration to future generations towards a more inclusive and equitable Canada. A huge thank you and congratulations to Chief Dr. Robert Joseph for his unwavering commitment to peace and reconciliation.”

Through his commitment to fostering understanding and advancing reconciliation, he has received an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree from the University of British Columbia, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Vancouver Island University, and others. In addition to these efforts, he is also a sought-after speaker as he shares his story and knowledge in Canada and abroad. His message of peace and healing have resonated with many.

Mostly recently, he has written a book, Namwayut, where he speaks of his personal journey, while also providing insight on how Canada and Indigenous communities can move forward.

“Through his persevering commitment to education and awareness, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, has truly supported meaningful progress toward reconciliation in Canada and other countries,” said Roger Francis, President of Sysco Canada. “He has humbly and tirelessly offered his strength and courage to improve the lives of others by promoting reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.  

At Sysco Canada, we admit, with humility, that we rely on the trails blazed by extraordinary individuals such as Chief Dr. Robert Joseph in our journey towards reconciliation.  On behalf of Sysco Canada, I offer our congratulations to Chief Dr. Robert Joseph for being honoured for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations.”

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph will be honoured during CCAB’s Award Dinner, following the West Coast Business Forum, on October 19, 2023 in Vancouver.

Past recipients of the Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations are represented from coast to coast, including, Senator Murray Sinclair, Carol Anne Hilton, Keith McIntosh, Dr. Marie Delorme, and more.


About Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business: CCAB is committed to the full participation of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economy. As a national, non-partisan association, its mission is to promote, strengthen and enhance a prosperous Indigenous economy through the fostering of business relationships, opportunities, and awareness. CCAB offers knowledge, resources, and programs to its members to cultivate economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples and businesses across Canada.

For more information, visit

Media contacts:Alannah Jabokwoam
Senior Associate, Communications & Public Relations
Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
T: 416.961.8663 ext. 227

July 28, 2023

First Nations

An Indigenous perspective on the Canada jay

Arguments for the official recognition of the Canada jay as the country’s national bird 


A Canada jay pictured in Algonquin Provincial Park in late winter. (Photo: John Mayer/Can Geo Photo Club)

Excerpted from The Canada Jay: The National Bird of Canada ©2021 by David Bird, Dan Strickland, Ryan Norris, Alain Goulet, Aaron Kylie, Mark Nadjiwan, Michel Gosselin and Colleen Archer. Published by Hancock House Publishers. 

NationTalk: Canadian Geographic – Beyond the inclusion of my drawing For Seven Generations in this book, which is an honour, I wish to begin by further acknowledging the desire of “Team Canada Jay” leadership to include contributions from all of Canada’s three founding groups, and for reaching out to me to provide an Indigenous voice to the discussion at hand. So miigwetch to David Bird, the coordinating editor, and all my fellow co-authors!

The Canada Jay, cultural bridge-builder and symbol of environmental stewardship, “For Seven Generations”, by Anishinabek artist Mark Nadjiwan. 

As a point of respect, I want to first offer that I am acutely aware that the many First Nations spanning the country are exactly that, “many,” and as such we are far from homogenous. Consequently, to speak for any or all of them would involve claiming a pan-cultural right to do so that I neither possess nor aspire to. In fact, in what follows I do not even claim to speak for the Nation to which I belong, the Anishnabek, nor the community of which I am a member, Neyaashiinigmiing. My offerings here, while informed by Indigenous values, are my own. As for my brief contribution, I want to go a little more broadly and deeply into the conversation and perhaps reach the reader on an aspirational level. I believe I am correct in saying that this book is ultimately intended to be more aspirational than informational—though it does indeed contain great information! In the previous chapter, for example, Dan Strickland capably addresses a couple of First Nations factual elements, so there is no need for trespass or repetition on my part. As an artist I am, as most artists are, far more interested in the transmission of new ideas or ways of looking at things, than in the communication of established facts. My fellow contributors represent an important range of disciplines and styles including, for example, the “whimsical” words of poet Colleen Archer, further enlivening our hopeful cause of having this particular corvid, the Canada Jay, named as the Country’s national bird. 

When I completed For Seven Generations in 2015, I decided to write an accompanying “story” that spoke to the threats posed by climate change—not only threats to the Canada Jay, but to all of us, and the collective responsibility we have to radically alter the way that we relate to the natural world for the sake of the next seven generations. I have continued this kind of messaging in both image and word in my more recent works as well (Dan Strickland and Ryan Norris also address environmental threats in Chapter 7). So to David’s already compelling list of worthy reasons to make the Canada Jay our national bird, I would add that its role as an environmental messenger strengthens not only the case for such a designation (we are, after all, a big country with lots of environment to be concerned about!), but that such a designation could establish further common ground between settler Canadians and Indigenous Peoples. 

Canada Jays are non-migratory and are well-adapted to survive and breed in our harsh Canadian winters. (Photo: Marcel Gahbauer)

As we know, the struggle to find common ground between our Peoples has been an enduring issue throughout the history of this land as we work toward a yet-to-be-fully-attained goal of truly becoming co-sovereigns, more equitably sharing a territory as per the original spirit and intent of the treaties. So, I would beseech all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, to rally ‘round the Canada Jay. To embrace her and her many fine qualities as our own, and to pay particular heed to her messages about re-envisaging the ways that we care for this land, for the sake of all those who dwell upon it. To be sure, though, this last request may understandably pose a challenge to more typical Indigenous values. Let me explain…

The practice among nation states of having a “national” animal, with its effect of raising one above all others, reflects a trait of many non-Indigenous cultures, where the status and integrity of the individual surpasses that of more communal interests and values. While it is certainly true that we Indigenous People have our Clan/Totem systems, headed up by animals whose attributes are to be brought to bear on one’s own conduct, these systems pertain only to prescribed roles, and no one clan animal is ever elevated beyond the others in their importance. Let us not forget too, that conversely, some settler Canadians still embrace totemic remnants in their own societies (whether they know it or not!), as one needs only to think of service organizations like the Lions Club or the Elks Club. So, while an objection may well be raised against the goal of this book on the grounds that it runs afoul of “traditional” values, I would certainly respond by acknowledging the merits of those said values, while at the same time recognizing that transformation within any tradition is one of the most powerful! All cultures do and indeed must evolve and undergo change. Our People have, after all, already undergone perhaps more change than any other demographic in the country. And while most of that change has been thrust upon us, I believe that the aspiration of this book presents an opportunity for us to be active partners in change (rather than passive recipients of it), and to do so in the interest of the shared responsibility for environmental stewardship alluded to above. Thus, I am pleased to lend my Indigenous voice to such an act of further Reconciliation, though it be relatively small when compared to the much harder work that needs to be done … all the more reason to take it up, perhaps. 

This amazing mosaic floor in Murano glass and gold is an integral part of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration located in Markham, Ontario, and blessed by Pope John Paul 2 in 1984. The artwork and design for the mosaic were imagined by Fabrizio Travisanutto and Helen Roman-Barber, but the mosaic itself was fabricated and installed by Travisanutto Mosaics. The themes are the Militant Sheep, the Alpha and the Omega, the Celtic Cross, our Lord’s fish, and for Canadian content, the Canada Jay.
The Canada Jays featured in the mosaic tile floor created by Travisanutto Mosaics and Helen Roman- Barber were inspired by a photo by Dan Strickland featured on Page 58. 

Finally, the ongoing predicament on Mother Earth, including the ever-increasing threat of zoonotic diseases, is driven by the degradation of our natural environment—through human encroachment, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, animal agriculture, climate change, and other stressors. I believe this reality bolsters the case for why parliamentarians should act to name the Canada Jay, a powerful winged environmental emissary, as the national bird. And as I have meandering thoughts about the current pandemic, I am struck by some curious wordplay that I suspect comes from afar. My home is on the Saugeen Peninsula, on Treaty 72 lands. Indeed, as I write these words by an open window facing north over a young cedar forest, I am sure that I hear whiskyjack in her alternate persona as Trickster, quipping from her home in northern Muskego, “Jeez, them settler-government folks, ever tired of this COVID stuff, I bet … maybe they need to talk about some CORVID instead, hehe … do them some good, anyways!” And as her mischievous giggle runs away with the next gust of wind, I know I can safely answer her on behalf of all the contributors to this book: “Ever hope so, us”!

July 17, 2023

Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot appointed United Nations chair on Indigenous peoples’ rights

For more information, contact Thandi Fletcher

UBC News: Dr. Sheryl Lightfoot, a world expert on global Indigenous politics and professor at the University of British Columbia, has been named the chair of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The announcement marks the first time an Indigenous woman from Canada has been appointed to the prestigious position. The last time a Canadian held the position was in 2012 when Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild was appointed chair.

“I’m excited but it’s also very daunting,” says Dr. Lightfoot. “As the world has emerged out of the pandemic lockdowns, Indigenous issues have really emerged at the forefront around the world. These issues have existed for a long time but the impacts of the pandemic were often harder on Indigenous people and Indigenous rights. We have a lot of work to do to address this.”

Dr. Lightfoot adds that the appointment is especially important for Canada as it is “recognition of the country’s leadership role in the declaration and implementation of the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

The Expert Mechanism, which is composed of seven independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, is charged with providing expertise to the Human Rights Council. The mechanism also advises states in achieving the aims of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which affirms Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, equality, and non-discrimination.

Dr. Lightfoot was first appointed as representative to the UN Expert Mechanism for a three-year term in 2021. A dual Canadian and American citizen, she is Anishinaabe from the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe, enrolled at the Keweenaw Bay Community in northern Michigan.

At UBC, Dr. Lightfoot is professor in the department of political science and the school of public policy and global affairs, and a faculty associate in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. She was the Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics from 2013 to 2023. From 2018 to 2023, she co-developed and led the implementation of UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan across UBC and has served as senior advisor to the president on Indigenous affairs. From 2022-2023, she also served as president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and currently serves as its past-president.

A continuation of UBC’s commitment to Indigenous rights

For Dr. Lightfoot, a highlight of serving on the UN Expert Mechanism, is the learning opportunity it provides for her students at UBC. For example, some students recently had the opportunity to contribute to a UN report on the impacts of militarization on the rights of Indigenous peoples. They also helped organize a seminar on the topic that saw participation from 30 speakers from around the world.

“Many of my students came away from that saying it was one of the highlights of their entire university experience,” says Dr. Lightfoot. “This work is really a continuation of UBC’s commitment to supporting and advancing Indigenous human rights.”

In her new role as chair, Dr. Lightfoot says one of her goals is to work toward enhanced representation and participation for Indigenous governing bodies from around the world at the UN Human Rights Council in a way that is “fair, just and appropriate.”

“Even though we have seen some positive moves, we still have a long way to go,” she says. “This sort of systems change—seeking inclusion and justice for people who have been so marginalized for so long—is incredibly hard, but at the end of the day, we do this work with purpose and a lot of pride, with the knowledge that we continue the work of those who came before us.”

‘Service to our community’

As a third-generation intergenerational survivor of residential schools (her uncles, grandparents and great-grandmother were residential school survivors), Dr. Lightfoot says her appointment as chair of the UN Expert Mechanism is especially meaningful as she honours her late mother’s memory. Kathryn Jeanette Lightfoot passed away on May 5, 2022.

“It reminded me of how central service to our community is for my family and how much my mother did for the Indigenous community that was both seen and unseen over the course of her lifetime,” says Dr. Lightfoot. “It reminded me in a very poignant way why we do this work, which is to work collectively and to bring all the talents and gifts that we have to the table for the collective good for Indigenous peoples.”

Dr. Lightfoot still remembers the look of joy on her mother’s face during one of their last visits. Although her mom had not been responsive for a few days, Dr. Lightfoot says she gave her a “big, broad smile” after she told her she had to leave for a day to attend a UN meeting in New York.

“Now, whenever I head to meetings, I just remember that smile,” she says.

Find other stories about: Dr. Sheryl LightfootIndigenous rightsReconciliation and Indigenous PeoplesUN Expert MechanismUnited Nations


Thandi Fletcher
UBC Media Relations 
Tel: 604-822-2234 
Cel: 604-868-0896 

June 27, 2023

First Nations

Mi’kmaw elder and author Daniel Paul has died at age 84

Paul’s landmark book We Were Not the Savages detailed 300 years of Mi’kmaw history

A man stands in front of a sign that reads "peace and friendship park."
Mi’kmaq elder and historian Daniel Paul has died after battling cancer. (CBC)

CBC News: Mi’kmaw elder, activist, historian and author Daniel Paul has died following a battle with cancer. He was 84.

Paul, who was from Sipekne’katik, told friends and family in an email last fall that cancer in his lungs had spread to his liver.

“During my time on Mother Earth I sincerely hope that I’ve made a difference for Indigenous peoples all over Turtle Island by revealing and proving the horrors that our ancestors suffered since Columbus got lost and landed in the Americas in 1492,” the email said, in part.  “I do hope that younger generations will pick up the torch and keep going, teaching and preaching the truth for many generations to come!”

Paul’s book, We Were Not the Savages, is considered a landmark work in Mi’kmaw literature and Nova Scotia literature that covered 300 years of Mi’kmaw history.

He was a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia.

Renaming of Cornwallis monuments

Paul was also a recipient of a Nova Scotia Human Rights award in 2022. According to the commission, the Wel-lukwen Award recognizes “contributions to building cultural awareness and understanding of L’nu’k history, traditions and community.”

For three decades, Paul advocated for renaming landmarks named after Edward Cornwallis. The British governor of Nova Scotia issued a so-called scalping proclamation against Mi’kmaw men, women and children in 1749, the same year he established Halifax.

In an interview with CBC in June 2021, after a Halifax park named after Cornwallis was renamed Peace and Friendship Park, Paul reflected on the meaning of reconciliation. He said it required examining the past in a way that doesn’t “leave out the oppression of a race of people, such as ours, which has been the practice in Canada for far too long.”

“What is better, for us to live in harmony and accept one another in peace and friendship?” he said. “Good things happen when people get to know one another.”

Elder Daniel Paul receives Wel-lukwen Award from Nova Scotia Human Rights CommissionT
Mainstreet NS – 15:32

The 2022 Nova Scotia Human Rights awards were held at the Halifax Central Library Friday morning. The ceremony began with the song Strong Woman performed. Elder Dorene Bernard received the inaugural Wel-lukwen Award on behalf of the Grassroots Grandmothers. Elder Daniel Paul also received a Wel-lukwen Award and spoke to Mainstreet’s Jeff Douglas.

Click on the following link to listen to “Mainstreet NS”

June 14, 2023

First Nations

MLAs pay tribute to late Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy and her ‘enduring legacy’

Kormendy, 1st female chief of her First Nation, died in March at age 86

An elderly woman hold an infant.
The late Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder and former chief Peggy Kormendy with one of her great-grandchildren last summer. Kormendy died in March. (Allison Kormendy)

CBC News: Yukon MLAs paid tribute this week to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder and former chief Peggy Kormendy, who died earlier this spring. Kormendy was remembered as a beloved mentor and leader whose legacy endures within her First Nation and throughout the Yukon.

“Peggy’s teachings and powerful influence continue to resonate, reminding us of the impact one person can have fostering a community,” said Minister Jeanie McLean, at a special sitting of the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday in Dawson City, where Kormendy lived.

Tuesday’s sitting in Dawson was to mark the 125th anniversary of the creation of the Yukon territory.

Kormendy was the first female chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, and was among the witnesses who signed the First Nation’s final agreement in 1998. She died in March at age 86.

McLean — one of three Indigenous female MLAs to pay tribute to Kormendy — described the elder as a staunch advocate for the environment, saying the former chief had been outspoken in urging the territorial government to protect the Peel Watershed region when the land use plan for the area was in question.

She was “a remarkable individual who left an enduring legacy,” McLean said.

A group of people sit around a fire at a campsite.
Kormendy with a group of young people at a culture camp at the historic Forty Mile townsite, about two hours down river from Dawson City, in 2017. (Allison Kormendy)

One of Kormendy’s proudest feats — relayed many times in stories, according to McLean — was the time she pulled an 84-pound salmon from the Yukon River.

Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Annie Blake recalled a layover she had in Dawson City, en route to her home in Old Crow, when she paid a visit to Kormendy. Blake described Kormendy’s “gentle smile and large, loving presence.” “I was in awe of the beautiful elder she was, and I thought how lucky her grandchildren are to have Peggy as a grandmother,” Blake said.

She recalled how as she was leaving, Kormendy gave her some dried fish, flowers, and some candies for the road. “She gently held my hand, wished me luck, and thanked me for visiting. This is how I will remember Peggy — as an elder of strength and grace,” Blake recalled.

An elderly woman sits with her hand on her face behind a birthday cake with candles.
Kormendy at her 83rd birthday in 2019. (Allison Kormendy)

“Peggy reminded me that you can be fierce yet gentle, you can be firm yet kind, you can be strict yet loving. You can have hard conversations yet remain respectful.”

Porter Creek North MLA Geraldine Van Bibber described Kormendy as someone who ensured that “the old ways” were not forgotten, while also adapting to changing times.  “Her wisdom and strength added so much to our territory,” Van Bibber said.

Van Bibber also mentioned how Kormendy’s favourite colour was purple. “As I drove here yesterday, the lupins were everywhere and I thought of Peggy,” she said.


June 6, 2023

First Nations

Canada Post to pay tribute to Indigenous leaders with second stamp set in multi-year series

NationTalk: OTTAWA – Canada Post will once again mark National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 by issuing a set of stamps honouring three Indigenous leaders.

Nellie Cournoyea, George Manuel and Thelma Chalifoux will each be featured on a stamp recognizing their dedication to advocate for the rights of the Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities they proudly served.

This stamp issue is the second in Canada Post’s multi-year Indigenous Leaders stamp series, launched last year. Each stamp will be unveiled at local events in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, North Vancouver, British Columbia and St. Albert, Alberta.

Nellie Cournoyea stamp unveiling event: June 11, 1:30 pm (Mountain Time), Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.

Nellie Cournoyea (b. 1940) has devoted her life to fighting for Indigenous self-determination and Inuit empowerment. Selected as Premier of the Northwest Territories in 1991, she became the first Indigenous woman to head a provincial or territorial government in Canada. She played a key role in the discussions leading to the creation of Nunavut, and after leaving office in 1995, she served for 20 years as chair and chief executive officer of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Cournoyea is currently chair of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board and vice-chair of the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation.

George Manuel stamp unveiling event: June 12, 1 pm (Pacific Time), North Vancouver, B.C.

George Manuel (1921-1989) was a First Nations political leader, author and champion of Indigenous Peoples. Over the course of a political career that spanned four decades, he held many influential roles and worked to improve the social, economic and political conditions of First Nations people in Canada. His efforts contributed to the inclusion of Indigenous and treaty rights in the Canadian Constitution. Co-founder of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, Manuel was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and received many acknowledgments for his work, including an appointment as Officer of the Order of Canada.

Thelma Chalifoux stamp unveiling event: June 13, 1 pm (Mountain Time), St. Albert, Alta.

Thelma Chalifoux (1929-2017) was a Métis activist who channelled the strength she gained from her own personal challenges to help others and fight against discrimination. The first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1997, she devoted her life to improving the welfare of her people, particularly Métis women. She was instrumental in helping create provincial programs for Indigenous Peoples in the areas of housing, education and social assistance. Chalifoux also served as Métis Elder in Residence at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and helped found the Métis museum and resource centre Michif Cultural Connections, located in St. Albert.

The new stamps and collectibles will be available at and postal outlets across Canada starting June 21.

– 30 –

For more information:

Media Relations

June 2, 2023

First Nations

Northwestern Ontario ‘heartbroken’ to lose longtime Ojibway chief and role model

A photo of the late Arnold Gardner who was the Chief of the Eagle River First Nations. Courtesy: Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation)

Global News: Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle River First Nation) along with Treaty 3 territory is in mourning with the passing of Ogiichidaa (Chief) Arnold Gardner, a respected elder who has led his community since 1993 and formerly served as Grand Chief of Treaty 3.

Gardner passed away Wednesday at age 72.

“Arnold was renowned throughout Treaty 3, Canada and The United States,” said a statement from Migisi Sahgaigan council. “He was a man of the culture and was passionate about preserving the Anishinaabe way of life.”

In 1995 he walked across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax on what he called a “journey for wellness” to raise awareness about mental health, addictions and broken families from all walks of life.

A tweet from Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3 said the organization is collectively “heartbroken” as he was central to governance in the region and a favorite of staff. “His gentle smile, his calm but powerful words and his everlasting dedication to our nationhood will be deeply missed,” the statement said.

Many non-Indigenous organizations and politicians in northwestern Ontario joined in sharing their grief on social media upon learning of Gardner’s passing. “His philosophy was to always try new ideas, understanding that sometimes trying different approaches either result in success or a lesson learnt (sic), but the most important thing is to try,” the Dryden GM Ice Dogs hockey team said in a tribute on their Facebook page.

Kenora MP Eric Melillo wrote “I always enjoyed the opportunities I had to speak with him about local issues and learn from his decades of experience as a leader in our region.”
Gardner was re-elected chief last fall and his words live on in his chief’s message on the community’s website.

“Message to the youth is to listen, learn, and be brave. Try to follow the seven teachings. Be honest, courageous, truthful and brave. Love one another as a person and love yourself so you can give back and do things for other people. Be trusting.”

Wake and funeral services will take place this weekend at Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle River First Nation) located four hours northwest of Thunder Bay.

By Melissa Ridgen  Global News

May 9, 2023

First Nations

Remembering ‘Auntie Shirley’ Adamson, pioneering Indigenous leader in Yukon

Adamson died in Whitehorse last month at age 70

Shirley Adamson in 2018. For decades, Adamson — Zhürá — was an influential and high-profile figure in Yukon politics, business and cultural life. She died in April at age 70. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

CBC News: A clear-eyed, fearless and no-nonsense leader, an accomplished artist, a champion of Southern Tutchone language and culture, and a loving matriarch — that’s how people are remembering the late Shirley Adamson, who died last month in Whitehorse at the age of 70. 

“Part of Mom’s legacy is that she will be recognized as a real role model,” said Chantal Genier-Tucker, one of Adamson’s daughters. “Anyone who sees something wrong in the world and knows that there’s a better way — they will look to Mom and her legacy and be empowered by that.”

For decades, Adamson — Zhürá — was a high-profile figure in Yukon politics, business and cultural life. She served as the first chairperson of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Yukon vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. She also served as CEO of Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon, chair of the board for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and director with Northern Vision Development, among other things.

At the centre of it all was family, according to Genier-Tucker. “Gosh, we have so many memories of being together in our childhood and even in our adult years,” said Genier-Tucker. “That’s something that I’m extremely grateful for, I think we’re all very grateful for, is the importance of family.”

Christine Genier, another of Adamson’s daughters, said it’s difficult to describe her mom and how she helped inspire and shape her life. “It is indescribable, this immense gratitude. This immense gratitude of being raised by someone who wasn’t gonna be shaken by what was happening around her,” Genier said. “And [I] hope that even just a little bit of that has been passed on to me. That would be good.”

‘Incredible Elder and matriarch’

Local leaders in the Yukon have also paid tribute to Adamson. In a statement after Adamson died, Premier Ranj Pillai said he was mourning the “incredible Elder and matriarch.” “Her passing is a profound loss to her family, community, and to all those whose lives she touched with her wisdom, kindness and leadership,” Pillai said.  The premier also said Adamson played an instrumental role in negotiating land claims as the founding chairperson of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.

Ta’an Kwäch’än Chief Amanda Leas said in a statement that the loss of “Auntie Shirley” was immense for her community. Leas praised Adamson’s work toward self-government and Indigenous rights, and her dedication to preserving and promoting Southern Tutchone language and culture. “She gathered, kept and held her traditional teachings and was generous with sharing her experiences, knowledge, and wisdom with everyone she met and worked with throughout her life. She inspired us all,” Leas said.

A woman uses a megaphone to address a small group of people standing outside in winter.
Adamson at a rally in Whitehorse in 2018, demanding change in the justice system and supporting the family of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man who was fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in Saskatchewan in 2016. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Kluane Adamek, Yukon regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Adamson “witnessed and lived through some truly remarkable moments.” “Zhürá was a truly remarkable leader. She was fearless in the face of challenges, and she blazed the trail for the future, especially for women,” Adamek said in a written statement.

Adamek also praised Adamson’s commitment to young people, and the work she always did to inspire them and give them opportunities. “She led with integrity, and when she spoke about the future, she proudly shared her life’s work with emerging leaders,” Adamek said.

Genier had a harder time defining her mom’s legacy, saying it will take time to see it fully. But she described how part of Adamson’s legacy will be visible in her own family, as they pass down stories in the traditional language that Adamson championed all her life. Genier also highlighted her mom’s commitment to young people, and how she always encouraged them to believe in themselves. “I’ve been approached by so many of these young people in the last little while, and that love is palpable,” she said.

With files from Leonard Linklater

April 27, 2023

First Nations

Esquao Awards continue to celebrate the accomplishments of women

“All my life I have worked for the rights of Indigenous peoples, for our peoples, for their human rights, their treaty rights, I’ve always done that.” —Regena Crowchild

Rachelle Venne, CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (left, with Regena Crowchild, who will get a special award at the Esquao gala in Calgary next month. Strong Indigenous women will be recognized for contributions to their communities at the upcoming 27th Annual Esquao Awards gala evening to be held at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino in Calgary.

On May 12, First Nation, Métis and Inuit women from Alberta will receive awards recognizing their achievements accomplished while overcoming the challenges and obstacles that faced them. “Over the last 27 years we have been honouring women that have been nominated from their communities (for) doing great work in their communities,” said Rachelle Venne, CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.

“We are trying to amplify the spirit, strength and resiliency of Indigenous women in Alberta.” The awards were co-founded by Marggo Pariseau and Muriel Stanley Venne, who both made significant contributions advocating for Indigenous women, and moving their issues to the forefront.

The recipients of this year’s Esquao awards include the first Indigenous woman dentist, business owners, teacher schools and leaders.

Each year a special award is also given to one recipient. This year, the Circle of Hounour inductee, Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award will be presented to Regena Crowchild of Tsuut’ina Nation.

“Regena has some really great experiences over the years and I think is very well respected by chiefs and other leaders from the communities. We are very excited to have her,” Rachelle Venne said. “She was the first woman selected for council in her community in the 1970s for many terms and was recently re-elected in 2022.”

The Circle of Honour Inductee, Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award. is the only one the board of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women selects. It’s for women who are in leadership positions who have stood up and fought for the rights of Indigenous women in a significant way.

Crowchild, 79, more than fits that description. She has spent most of her career supporting Indigenous people, as a whole, to understand their Indigenous rights and to fight for those rights. All my life I have worked for the rights of Indigenous peoples, for our peoples, for their human rights, their treaty rights, I’ve always done that,” Crowchild said. “Many of our people went to residential school and never had the opportunity to learn about their history, and the textbooks don’t have the true history about our relationship with the Crown and with Canada, or the true history of the lands. That was my thing to do, my purpose as I understood it. It is a difficult fight and it still continues.”

Crowchild explained that when she was just a young child her father taught her to understand the details written into the treaties, to teach others about the rights outlined in those documents and to contribute to implementing those rights for her people. “I guess I was kind of a pioneer here,” said Crowchild, who was also the first woman elected to sit on the Indian Association of Alberta board.

Throughout the years Crowchild has travelled nationally to meet with leaders to discuss the relationship between Canada and First Peoples and how to better implement treaty rights. “The government of Canada did so much wrong to our people,” she said. “Canada has to pay for those wrongs they did to us.”

Crowchild said it is events like the Esquao Awards that encourages other women to get involved and show the important role women have in their communities, families and in the world. “These 16 awards are just awesome. It encourages the women and inspires them to do better and get out there and do things,” she said.

On May 12, Crowchild will proudly put on the ribbon skirt made for her by her daughter and gather with other like-minded women to celebrate their accomplishments.

January 10, 2023

First Nations

Statement by Premier Dennis King on the passing of Keptin John Joe Sark

NationTalk: Hon. Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island issued the following statement on the passing of Keptin John Joe Sark:

“A passionate defender of indigenous culture, John Joe Sark spent his life as a builder of bridges. As a Keptin of the Mi’Kmaq Nation, he worked to teach history and promote respect and understanding between cultures for generations of Islanders.

John Joe was a determined man of principle and fierce independence whose legacy can be found in the schools and public institutions that have acknowledged painful histories and started on the path towards reconciliation and in the future generations of Islanders who are learning more about Mi’Kmaq history and culture.

As an author, he helped to educate and inspire. As an ambassador of his people, he proudly stood in front of premiers, prime ministers and pontiffs to seek respect and reconciliation. He was honoured with the Order of Prince Edward Island only to later return it in principled protest.

I was honoured and proud to call John Joe a friend for many years. Through his friendship, he helped to shape my understanding of our shared history and to see our world through wider eyes. I will miss our time together. On behalf of the Province of Prince Edward Island, I wish to extend condolences and sympathies to the family and many friends of Keptin John Joe Sark who are mourning his passing.”

Media contact:
Adam Ross
Office of the Premier (link sends e-mail)

June 24, 2022

Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act receives Royal Assent

OTTAWA (June 24, 2022) – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe extends congratulations to the five (5) First Nations that have ratified the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement. Bill S-10, Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act has now received Royal Assent.

“On behalf of the Anishinabek Nation, I would like to extend our congratulations to the five First Nations on Bill S-10, Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act, receiving Royal Assent today. This marks yet another important milestone towards enactment. With Bill S-10 becoming law, communities are one step closer to realizing the true potential of the Agreement,” states Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.

On June 9, 2022, Bill S-10 was before the Senate for its first reading and by June 16, had completed its third reading. The Bill was before the House of Commons on June 17 for its first reading and received unanimous consent for approval on June 22.

The Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement outlines four areas of jurisdiction: Leadership Selection, Citizenship, Language and Culture, and Operation and Management of Government. These jurisdictional pillars will make sections of the Indian Act concerning governance and membership non-applicable. This is significant progress that will enable First Nations to invest and promote the revitalization of fundamental governance principles in their communities that prioritizes identity, culture, and language.

Now that Royal Assent has been received and the law has officially come into force, the leadership of the signatory First Nations eagerly anticipate enactment and the essential resource allocation they critically need. We further urge the government to ensure expedient enactment to guarantee these communities have their funding agreements by October 2022.


“The Anishinabek Nation Governance Act recognizes that signatory First Nations have jurisdiction over specific governance matters. These are inherent jurisdictions that Canada formally recognizes through Bill S-10. For Moose Deer Point First Nation, it is important to have the jurisdiction outside of the Indian Act and it is even more important that our E’dbendaagzijig will now have their voices heard in the criteria for leadership selection; how we will determine our citizenship; reclamation of our language and culture; and the operation and management of accountable government.”  Gimaa Kwe Rhonda Williams-Lovett, Moose Deer Point First Nation

“Reclamation of culture, language, and Anishinaabe worldviews are avenues to wellness for Anishinaabe people. The Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement Act provides a method to make some progress in that regard.”  Chief Larry Roque, Wahnapitae First Nation

“We are pleased to see unanimous support in Parliament for our governance aspirations. It recognizes that we have the right and ability to decide on important issues, like who our people are, for ourselves. This is just another step on our journey to become fully self-governing.”  Chief Scott McLeod, Nipissing First Nation

“The passing of Bill S-10 is important for Magnetawan First Nation. It affirms what we have always known and is now affirmed in a legal agreement with Canada. Our inherent right to self-government can be fully exercised  separately from the Indian Act in four areas. Our community can now begin the work needed to define the parameters in those areas as directed by the community.”  Chief Lloyd Myke, Magnetawan First Nation

“Bill S-10 is a first step in a movement away from the Indian Act. Much more work will need to be done to fully realize the potential Zhiibaahaasing First Nation has in self-determination. Canada’s acknowledgement of our inherent right to self-government and unanimous endorsement of this Bill is a positive step in the reconciliation process.” – Chief Irene Kells, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation

“Canada continues to work towards renewing nation-to-nation relationships and advancing self-determination, with Indigenous partners like the Anishinabek Nation. We will continue to support arrangements that are created by Indigenous communities, for Indigenous communities, so that they can achieve their own visions of success.” – The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Relevant links

The Anishinabek Nation is a political advocate for 39 member First Nations across Ontario, representing approximately 65,000 citizens. The Anishinabek Nation is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

June 21, 2022

Angela Davidson “Rainbow Eyes” appointed deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada

Toronto Star: Rainbow Eyes is the widely used nickname of Angela Davidson, a 35 year-old member of the Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala Nation of Knight Inlet, who is being appointed Tuesday as deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada. Her title will be Green Party Ooh-mah An-nise, which means-high ranking aunty in Kwakwala, the language of Rainbow Eyes’ people.

Rainbow Eyes, who, friends say, earned her nickname because of her inclusive attitude, had been arrested four times during B.C.’s Fairy Creek protests over old-growth logging, the largest civil disobedience protest in Canadian history. 

In many ways, Rainbow Eyes is a survivor of intergenerational trauma. Her awareness of that heritage began after a childhood in Calgary, when, as a young adult, she returned to her mother’s ancestral village of Tsatsisnukwomi in northern B.C. Her nation had been reduced to just five families after the 1860s smallpox epidemic, and her maternal grandfather, aunts and uncles are survivors of the notoriously brutal St. Michael’s Residential School at Alert Bay.

Rainbow Eyes’ father was born on Vancouver Island to British descendants. She grew up, she says, with one foot in her mother’s quiet Coast Salish traditions and the other in her father’s brash British humour. “It took a while for our traditional village to accept my father,” she said. “I had to learn to become comfortable with who I am.”

After attending CDI College, Rainbow Eyes learned to combine economics and climate protection working at Marquis-Alliance Energy Group in Calgary, helping oil companies manage their environmental impact….she began getting more in touch with her Indigenous traditions. That eventually included graduating from Vancouver Island University’s First Nations Stewardship program in 2018, then working as an Indigenous guardian in her traditional territory.

She went to visit the Fairy Creek Blockade in May 2021 and “fell in love with the movement,” she said…Rainbow Eyes is helping with the Fairy Creek Blockade’s application to the B.C. Supreme Court to drop charges against more than 300 protesters. The application, which is expected to be heard later this year, alleges systemic misconduct by the RCMP in arrests at Fairy Creek.

As Ooh-mah An-nise of the Green Party of Canada, Rainbow Eyes hopes to inspire people who have lost faith in the country’s political system, she says. She also hopes to make the party home for people across the political spectrum. She describes her vision now as an effort to “foster Indigenous reconciliation, grow community values and fight the climate crisis with sound economics.” But national leadership still sometimes feels like an impossible dream.

June 8, 2022

First Nations

Canada Post honours three Indigenous leaders

Harry Daniels, Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier and Jose Kusugak to be commemorated in upcoming stamp set

NationTalk: OTTAWA – On June 21 – National Indigenous Peoples Day – Canada Post will issue a new set of stamps to pay tribute to the lives and legacies of three Indigenous leaders. Harry Daniels, Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier and Jose Kusugak will each be featured on a stamp in recognition of their incredible commitment and contributions to strengthening the Métis, First Nations and Inuit communities they served.

The upcoming stamp set is the inaugural release in Canada Post’s new Indigenous Leaders stamp series. Prior to issuing the set on June 21, the stamps will each be unveiled at local events in Regina and Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

Harry Daniels stamp unveiling event: June 13, 11 am, Regina, Sask.

Harry Daniels (1940-2004) was a politician, activist, writer and actor who dedicated his life to the rights and well-being of Métis and non-status Indians in Canada. Among his most important contributions was ensuring their inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples by lobbying to have them included as one of the Indigenous Peoples recognized in the Constitution Act, 1982, and recognized as “Indians” under the British North America Act, 1867. In March 2004, he was awarded the Order of the Métis Nation by the Métis National Council.

Jose Kusugak stamp unveiling event: June 14, 6 pm, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Jose Kusugak (1950-2011) was an Inuit activist, linguist and broadcaster who played a critical role in the efforts that led to the creation of Nunavut in 1999 – for which many consider him a Father of Confederation. He dedicated his life to raising awareness of Inuit identity and issues in Canada, as well as promoting and preserving Inuit language and culture, and coined the phrase “First Canadians, Canadians First” to describe his people. Kusugak was also part of the first generation of Inuit children who were sent to residential schools.

Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier stamp unveiling: June 15, 2 pm, Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.

Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier (b. 1954) spent nearly 40 years as leader of the Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan – the most consecutive terms ever served by an elected First Nations chief in Canada. She led several projects related to education, wellness and social reform, while also working to preserve the culture, language and traditions of her people. In 2018, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. This spring, she was in the Indigenous delegation that met with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system, of which she is a survivor.

Stamps and collectibles will be available at and postal outlets across Canada starting June 21.

June 6, 2022

Anishinabek Nation celebrates inaugural Anishinaabe Giizhigad

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (June 6, 2022) – The Anishinabek Nation celebrates the inaugural June 6 Anishinabek Nation holiday, Anishinaabe Giizhigad, in honour of the historic proclamation of the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin (constitution).

“Today, we recognize June 6 as a day of great historical significance for the Anishinabek Nation, member First Nations, and citizens, and is cause for celebration across the Nation,” states Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe. “It is a day where we remember and acknowledge the assertion of our sovereignty and responsibilities that are foremost guided by the Seven Grandfather Teachings. It is a day where we celebrate Anishinabek and the resiliency of our people who have survived decades of assimilation and racism. Our beautiful culture, traditions, and people will continue on for generations to come. We encourage our E’Dbendaagzijig to join in on this wonderful day today and on every June 6 to come!”

The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin was ratified by the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council by Grand Council Resolution and confirmed by a Pipe Ceremony in Sheguiandah First Nation on June 6, 2012. The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin is a commitment to live by Anishinaabe law.

The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin was developed in consultation with Anishinabek First Nations leaders and citizens over the course of 13 years. Throughout this period, the consultation process was led by former Anishinabek Nation Head Getzit Mishomis Gordon Waindubence (Shiikenh)-baa, and included Dodemaag (Clan) teachings and principles of traditional governance.

In 2011, the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin Preamble, Ngo Dwe Waangizid Anishinaabe (One Anishinaabe Family), was approved by the Chiefs-in-Assembly. The Preamble contains instructions on how to live according to the Laws the Creator has given to the Anishinaabe. Mishomis Gordon Waindubence-baa sat with an Elders Council to create the Ngo Dwe Waangizid Anishinaabe, which provides the context, spirit, and intent in which the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin is understood.

The Anishinabek Nation Executive Leadership proclaimed the new holiday in November 2021.

The Anishinabek Nation is a political advocate for 39 member First Nations across Ontario, representing approximately 65,000 citizens. The Anishinabek Nation is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

May 27, 2022

First Nations

Murray Sinclair honoured with Order of Canada at Rideau Hall ceremony

APTN News:

Murray Sinclair received the Order of Canada Thursday for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and freedoms. Sinclair held his wife’s hand as the award was announced in Rideau Hall, and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented Sinclair with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview. Sinclair, 71, said at his age he has begun to reflect on his life, and he realizes that he’s had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work. Receiving the award recognizes the importance of that work, and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

“When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be,” he said.

Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools. Sinclair said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

“As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship. And I think we brought it to what happened here today,” he said.

The former senator is a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing the final report.Report an Error Tell us your Story

December 9, 2021

Aaron Sumexheltza: Provincial NDP’s new president

CFNR Network – Aaron Sumexheltza (Shoo-muh-hetsa), a former elected Chief for the Lower Nicola Indian Band, has been selected as the NDP provincial party’s next president.
A member of the NDP since 2013, Sumexheltza ran as the party’s candidate in the Fraser-Nicola riding last year. As President, he will be tasked with managing the day-to-day activities of the party, dealing with membership, and developing fundraising strategies, among other tasks.

November 17, 2021

Anishinabek Nation holiday, Anishinabek Giizhigad

Anishinabek Nation – The Anishinabek Nation Chiefs proclaimed June 6 the Anishinabek Nation holiday, Anishinabek Giizhigad, in honour of the historic proclamation of the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin (constitution). “On June 6, 2012, the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin was brought into ceremony by the Anishinabek Nation Elders. On that day, we asserted that we are sovereign with Inherent and Treaty Rights and responsibilities, and guided by the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Today, we recognize June 6 as a day of great importance for the Anishinabek Nation communities to celebrate,” states Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.

The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin was ratified by the Anishinabek Nation Grand Council by Grand Council Resolution and confirmed by a Pipe Ceremony in Sheguiandah First Nation on June 6, 2012. The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin is a commitment to establish a traditional government that will develop laws and policies for the protection and betterment of Anishinabek.

The Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin was developed in consultation with Anishinabek First Nations leaders and citizens over the course of 13 years. Throughout this period, the consultations process was done according to proper protocols, rules, order, and ceremonies, including Dodemaag (Clan) teachings by former Anishinabek Nation Head Getzit Nmishomis Gordon Waindubence (Shiikenh).

In 2011, the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin Preamble, Ngo Dwe Waangizid Anishinaabe (One Anishinaabe Family), was approved by Chiefs-in-Assembly. The Preamble contains instructions on how to live according to the Laws the Creator has given to the Anishinaabe. Nmishomis Gordon Waindubence sat with an Elders Council to create the Ngo Dwe Waangizid Anishinaabe, which provides the context and the spirit and intent in which the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin is understood.

“We encourage all Anishinabek Nation citizens in our 39 First Nations to embrace and honour this day and celebrate it in their own way,” states Grand Council Chief Niganobe. “We are a strong, beautiful, diverse people. We encourage our non-Indigenous counterparts to take the time to learn about our new holiday, culture, traditions and history, and join in celebrating with us.”

September 13, 2021

The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement

Anishinabek News – The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement, a historic self-government agreement on education, was ratified on August 16, 2017. The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement take precedence over the federal legislation. Canada is obligated to enact legislation to bring the negotiated agreements into effect. Therefore, it is a recognition of existing, Inherent Rights, not a creation of those rights.

What has been accomplished?

  • We have our Nation’s flag— our Eagle staffWe have an Anishinabek Nation constitution that was proclaimed in 2012, way ahead of the Agreements
  • We have our Anishinaabe Laws expressed by our Elders in the Preamble of the Anishinaabe Chi-Naaknigewin.
  • We have developed an Appeals and Redress System that is the beginning of an Anishinaabe system of justice.
  • We have concluded 30 First Nation constitutions that were developed by the community members and that guide their law-making processes.
  • We have an Anishinabek Education System under First Nation self-government that is soon entering its fourth year of successful operations.
  • We have conducted dozens of capacity development workshops on a wide range of First Nation governance topics.
  • We coordinated the Education Working Group for over 20 years as it developed the Anishinabek Education System.
  • We also coordinated the Governance Working Group. We developed an Anishinabek citizenship law.
  • We have held numerous conferences bringing Elders and youth together and bringing Anishinabek together to share and to develop our communities, and to create a vision of the future.
  • Most importantly, we helped our Head Getzit Shikenh in bringing our Anishinaabe Clan Teachings and Traditional Governance workshops to Anishinabek in First Nation citizens in their communities throughout the Anishinabek Nation territory.

June 15, 2021

Cree Nation Government response to Residential Schools

Cree Nation Government – Grand Chief Dr Abel Bosum (Cree Nation Government), Chief Daisy House (Cree Nation of Chisasibi), Bertie Wapachee (Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay) and Sarah Pashagumskum (Cree School Board) representatives of the Cree leadership in Quebec presented their position on the fight against the legacy of damage caused by the Indian Residential School experience in Canada and expressed the demands for the action of the Cree Nation. These actions are aimed at governments and organizations to support the healing of the deep scars caused by the written or systemic assimilation policies that they supported in the past or tolerate today.

These actions, detailed in the pages below, include the following:


  • Acknowledge the genocide, the intergenerational trauma, and systemic racism.
  • Undertake pedagogical review to ensure that all learn of the important contributions of Indigenous
  • Peoples as well issues addressed above.
  • Establish an Indian Residential School Museum in Montreal and Québec City.


  • Upon request, assist local groups formed to respond to the needs of former students to search and document the residential school sites such as Fort George Island.
  • Include Indigenous governments in any legislation which could establish public archives of Indigenous persons missing or deceased in any context.


  • Prioritize land-based traditional treatment facilities and resources.
  • Invest in the development of local health care capacity, in particular mental health.

The current crisis requires more than actions by one group or another, it requires more than calls to action, it requires personal commitment and the assumption of responsibility at all levels of Government.

The Press Release is accompanied with personal correspondence to establish agendas and concrete actions to all the relevant federal and provincial ministers of Canada, churches and other stakeholders.

See the attached for more details.

December 19, 2019

National Indigenous Economic Development Board

December 19, 2019

National Indigenous Economic Development Board

Launch of 2019 Indigenous Economic Reconciliation Report Recommendations on Reconciliation and Inclusive Economic Growth for Indigenous Peoples and Canada. The report was a result of a three-part series, in 2017 and 2018, on economic reconciliation and inclusive growth in Canada called “Expanding the Circle: What Reconciliation and Inclusive Economic Growth Can Mean for Indigenous Peoples and Canada?” 

The report concludes that the Government of Canada must take immediate, significant, and clear steps towards closing the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is not a partisan issue; it is a matter of The Honour of the Crown, based on the existing Aboriginal rights upheld and recognized in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Yet, reconciliation is not solely the government’s responsibility; all Canadians must be involved.

While there were common themes across the three events, some of what the Board heard at each event was unique from the perspective of First Nations, Métis and Inuit, which speaks to the importance of providing for distinctions-based approaches to economic reconciliation.

The report is divided into two main sections. The first part focuses on four key recommendations based on common themes and issues raised during the three forums:

  • Procurement: establish a comprehensive and easy to access directory of Indigenous businesses (similar to Australia’s Supply Nation), and provide meaningful funding to Indigenous businesses to increase awareness and readiness for procurement opportunities.
  • Access to capital: adequately fund Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs), provide AFIs loan loss protections, and devolve economic development programming to AFIs.
  • Capacity development: put in place incentives, including funding, internships and scholarships to increase Indigenous participation in business training and certification; and encourage post-secondary education institutions to increase access to these programs for Indigenous learners.
  • Wealth sharing: implement strategies and innovative options to increase equity positions and involvement of Indigenous peoples in resource development, and to support growth of traditional economies and participation in environmental stewardship.

November 7, 2019

Protocol on Cooperation and Communication

BC Assembly of Forst Nations – Protocol on Cooperation and Communication signed by 10 BC First Nation organizations and Institutions. The signatories commit to coordinating their efforts to support capacity development in governance and governance administration in First Nation communities in BC. The protocol voices the pressing need to assist all First Nations in BC in moving beyond the existing fiscal relationship with the Crown and the delivery of delegated programs services.

The protocol also addresses the need for relevant and effective information sharing to support First Nations in key fiscal issues, capacity development, and exercising their inherent right of self-determination, self-government, including authorities and jurisdictions.

The Signatories include:

  • British Columbia Assembly of First Nations
  • The First Nations Summit
  • The Union of BC Indian Chiefs
  • The First Nations Financial Management Board
  • The First Nations Tax Commission
  • The First Nations Finance Authority
  • The Lands Advisory Board
  • The Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of BC
  • The First Nations Public Service Secretariat
  • The New Relationship Trust

February 6, 2019

Anishinaabe Nation Gathering

Grand Council Treaty # 3 – This inaugural 4-day gathering, planned for Aug. 13, 2019 is a joint collaboration between Grand Council Treaty #3 and Southern Chiefs Organization. The intent of the gathering is to re-establish the Anishinaabe Nation prior to contact and breakdown the divisive International and Interprovincial borders.

Grand Council Treaty #3 is the Traditional government of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 and represents approximately 25,000 people within the 55,000 square miles of Northwestern Ontario and Southeastern Manitoba. The Anishinaabe Nation Gathering is a historic first, as it will include all Anishinaabe in Canada and United States, involving Elders, youth, men, women and leadership. Language, culture, taxation, trade, jurisdiction and autonomy are some of the areas slated to be on the agenda at the gathering

May 23, 2018


determiNation first-ever Indigenous-led summit that will bring together leaders to create a plan for moving beyond the Indian Act. determiNation is described as a national conference to plan for a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples based on rights, recognition and reconciliation. This conference will be structured around the themes of premises, principles, and institutional, legislative, and constitutional mechanisms, with the goal of creating a plan of action.


Community Empowerment

It is clear that the only way to redress the harms done through the imposition of colonial top-down structures through the Indian Act is to empower communities to chart their own self-determined futures.

  1. NAN calls upon the Government of Canada to clarify its commitment to repeal the Indian Act and to replace it with a legal and constitutional framework based on a Nation-to-Nation relationship and the principles set out in UNDRIP.
  2. NAN calls upon the Government of Canada to make resources available to enable NAN to support its communities to develop their own vision for what lies beyond the Indian Act.
  3. NAN to facilitate a (fully funded) community empowerment process across NAN territory to develop Indigenous laws and practices in areas now imposed through the Indian Act.
  4. The Government of Canada to further develop and expand this engagement to support a national process to assist all Indigenous communities develop their own laws and practices in areas now imposed through the Indian Act.
  5. Finally, a Community Empowerment Fund should be established by the Government of Canada to support an Indigenous-led, community-driven process for dismantling the Indian Act and replacing it with a Nation-to-Nation reconciliation framework.