Truth Telling in Education with Guest Writer Dr. Marcia Anderson

Facebook post from a participant in Women Warriors.

Our third guest writer in our truth-telling series identifies as Cree-Saulteaux, and grew up in the North End of Winnipeg, with family roots in Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation.

Dr. Marcia Anderson (Power of Mentorship profile featured below) currently practices both internal medicine and public health and is the Executive Director of Indigenous Academic Affairs in the Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. She has 2 beautiful, intelligent, strong daughters currently in nursery school and Grade 2.

When one of the participants of Women Warriors posted this picture (above) on social media of a family history school assignment, I asked if I could discuss it in my newsletter. I posted it on Twitter where Dr. Anderson commented that the same type of questions had been given to her child and she had contacted the school with her concerns as an Indigenous parent.

Dr.  Anderson states in an email to the principle that “questions (like these) are written as if everyone who is in the class came from somewhere else. The underlying assumption could either be that there were no people here prior to European Settlers and other immigrants or that there are no Indigenous children in the class. Either way, this absence of recognition of Indigenous peoples starts insidiously very early in education. It can be damaging to both Indigenous children trying to understand their place in Canada or the class environment, and to the other children who are taught passively that there is not a story of First Peoples here by the absence of that as an option in the questions.”

She helps to revise the questions to reflect Indigenous Peoples history in Canada and asks that the questions “be recirculated because it is important that all of the children (and their parents) recognize the story of our families’ ancestors as Cree, Anishinaabe, and Dakota as equally valid stories of being that have led us to this point where our girls share a learning environment.”

Dr. Anderson further educates on the term “Turtle Island” by stating:
Turtle Island is a name commonly used by Indigenous peoples to refer to North America. Turtles are common in many Nation’s stories and teachings, for example carrying the teaching of truth which is the foundation of all other teachings. Some link the name Turtle Island to the Haudenosonee Creation Story where the continent was built on the back of a great turtle. It’s important to recognize that there were names for these lands and waters before they were called North America or Canada or the names we know today.

I want to thank Dr. Anderson for sharing her teachings with us in this newsletter. I want to draw awareness to the fact that teaching non-Indigenous peoples takes our time, energy and a certain degree of education. It is heavy lifting on our part and you can see why some Indigenous parents may be intimidated to contact their children’s school to discuss this type of systemic racism.

Connecting to the Past: Grandparent/Parent Interview

Person Interviewed (and their relationship to you, grandparent, great aunt, etc.)_________________________
Interviewer (student) _____________________________

  1. Did your family immigrate from elsewhere or are they from Turtle Island?
  2. If your family immigrated, when (about what year or decade) did your first family member come to Canada?
  3. Did he/she come alone or as a family?
  4. What was their relationship to me?
  5. If they came from another country, where did the first family member come from?
  • If they came from Turtle Island, which Nation/community are they from?
  1. Are there any family members still in your country or Nation of origin?
  2. If they moved from outside of Winnipeg/Canada, do they have a story they’d like to share of how they traveled to Winnipeg/Canada from their country or Nation of origin?
  3. Have you ever visited your country/Nation of origin? If so, what did you find particularly interesting
  4. Did you (grandparent/parent) earn a living when you were young? What was your first job?
  5. What were your favourite holidays? How did you celebrate? Did you have special holiday traditions or foods at family celebrations? Does someone still make these? Please feel free to attach a recipe, if you would like.
  6. What special traditions have you carried down through your family?
  7. Do you remember your bedroom? What was your neighbourhood like?
  8. What did you do for fun when you were young? Did you have a favourite toy?­­­­­­­­­
  9. Can you share a story about your country of origin? (Please draw a picture to go with your story).
  10. (For the student): I will be researching the country or Nation/Community on Turtle Island  ___________________________ for my “We Are Family” project.

If you would like a word document of the revised assignment for your classroom, please contact me (Shelley@womenwarriors.club) and I will email it to you.

Furthermore, I had an incident with another one of my participants this week in which three authority figures attempted to discourage her from enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in French immersion school. They made the assumption that because she looks Indigenous, she does not speak French, but what they failed to ask was her background information. She is Cree-Metis and many of her relatives speak French, as the Metis traditional language is Michif (a mixture of Cree & French).

What makes me angry about this situation is that the educator she spoke with and a community support agency assumed they knew best about where to place her child. While she explicitly stated she wanted her child to learn French, they discouraged her from registering her daughter in French immersion, and instead of supporting her request by offering resources, they automatically said no. They were robbing her of the opportunity for her child to learn French, part of their traditional language. (I’m happy to report that I gave her the contact information for the French immersion school (which my girls attend) and she’s taking a tour and meeting the kindergarten teacher this week).

The insidious nature of racism within our education system is something that we all must be aware of. I am not pointing fingers at any particular person or institution, but what I am highlighting is the ways in which whitewashing (privileging Western European settler knowledge over Indigenous knowledge) and racism (in the form of erasure of Indigenous history) is hidden in plain sight.

In an excerpt from my SOCI 288 essay, Reconciliation as a Social Movement, I discuss how we all must contribute to reconciliation:

Reconciliation is not only the responsibility of Indigenous peoples, and Justice Sinclair states in the CBC News, Politics article that, “’Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem — it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us’” (2015). According to the Statistic Canada website Indigenous peoples make-up only “4.3% of the total Canadian population” (2016), thereby revealing that the majority, 95% of the Canadian population are non-Indigenous. It is obvious that the power imbalance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is present in their population numbers. The heavy work that is the reconciliation social movement cannot be shouldered by only 4.3% of the population.

The end of the Commission did not mean the end of reconciliation, but the beginning of a long journey of educating Canadians about residential schools, understanding the role that the Canadian government played in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples and taking collective responsibility to makes amends. On the Macleans.ca website, in his speech given at the closing ceremony, Chief Wilton Littlechild states, “I know that reconciliation will not occur in one lifetime. It will require future generation to know our story and take on the duty of reconciliation. We need to educate our youth, and create the tools and put them in place so that our children and our children’s children can use them…there are no easy answers, no magic wand to speed up the reconciliation process” (2015).

I assert that the education system is the first place that we need to enact reconciliation, and we need everyone to play a part. That means, teaching First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspective in your classroom even if you feel uncomfortable, as revealed by the non-Indigenous ally, and writer of our first post, Aleata Harty-Blank. She states, “we need to take the time to learn and perhaps even understand the stories, only then can humanity progress in a meaningful way.”


In 2016 Women Warriors was held at Jack Kemp Community School and I brought my three girls to a class. I loved having kids in the program and allowing them to exercise with their Moms. I would love to pursue a Jr. Warriors for girls ages 10-15 that includes free exercise classes, nutrition education and body positive messaging. I think our program is a natural fit with school programming.

Dr. Anderson spoke at a research conference I attended last year – Group for Research with Indigenous Peoples (GRIP) forum, University of Calgary, May 2017. Dr. Anderson presented on the University of Manitoba reconciliation initiative. She compared inequality (experienced by Indigenous people in many areas including health, housing, violence/safety) to poor quality soil in potted plants; plants in poor living conditions will not grow as strong and vibrant as those plants in high-quality soil.

Please watch Dr. Marcia Anderson’s TEDx Manitoba talk: Indigenous Knowledge to Close Gaps in Indigenous Health.
The Power of Mentorship
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life? 
My Grandma. She worked so hard to take care of her family. She loved hard. When it was time to have fun she would go for it- I have lots of memories of her dressing up in ridiculous costumes to make people laugh.
2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
She just was- she was our family matriarch. In other mentoring relationships that I’ve had it was more based on a connection, and being in spaces where I could observe how they navigated difficult situations.
3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
The first lesson from my Grandma was definitely to do everything the best I could whether it’s mothering my kids, taking time to be with my family, or being there to help people when they need me. A second lesson that’s been really important is from another mentor of mine, Dr. Barry Lavallee, who taught me how to hold an uncomfortable silence, to dig in and let people feel that discomfort so they can grow and learn. A third was from Maria Campbell who many years ago was doing a keynote and talked about believing that we have a right to the space we are in, to take it up and to own it. That last one was a gamechanger for me.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Being present and putting the effort in to learn from your mentor. Also recognizing how you also help or give back to your mentor by showing respect for their experience and knowledge and offering your own.
5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
It’s energizing to see people I have mentored achieve something that was meaningful to them. I’ve shared a lot of laughs and sometimes tears. Fashion advice and lingo from the youth! Also- future colleagues that we already have shared values, approaches, passion, and commitment.
6. What personal development practices do you have?
I regularly work with a life/ leadership coach which has been really helpful. I read a lot and have taken a lot of leadership courses- these do help build skills but also help me reflect. I consistently try to emphasize my own self-care through nurturing my spirit and my body.
7. What book most impacted your life?
Great question. It’s hard to pick just one. The lessons in The Four Agreements, especially not taking anything personally, was really helpful for me. My Dad’s family are very strong Christians so I was shaped by some teachings from the Bible, like love and respect (and have let some of them go). My friend Katharena Vermette’s book The Break touched my heart and also inspired me. I find a lot of strength to keep going, to still rise, in the writing of Maya Angelou. I read a lot of Indigenous writers who help me view the world and shape my understanding of Indigenous peoples’ health. I love the work of Lawrence Hill and his themes of race, racism, and health – especially mental health. As someone who loves to read, I can’t pick just one!

Expansion to Treaty 7

Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Pilot – Facilitator Training

Bev Renaud, Indigenous Community Social Worker for Calgary Neighbourhoods, City of Calgary welcomes Dr. Wicklum, U of C Master’s student, Megan and I to Treaty 7 with a land acknowledgment and opening prayer from Elder Florence.

It was an honor to present our program and research findings from the past two years, including University of Calgary Master’s student, Megan Sampson’s preliminary findings on food security to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th.

The attendees were receptive and discussed how our program aligns with the 2017 City of Calgary reconciliation initiative, which “adopted the Indigenous Policy Framework to help guide The City’s efforts to be responsive to the White Goose Flying Report and the needs of Indigenous peoples in Calgary.”[1]

In specific, our program relates to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action:

#22: Aboriginal Healing Practices
We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

#89: Physical activity Promotion
We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples. 

One attendee, from the Community Hubs Initiative, “a partnership between United Way Calgary and Area, The City of Calgary and the Rotary Club of Calgary, in support of the Enough For All strategy” stated our program compliments their mission of “Empowering residents to shape and build the kind of community they want to live in and raise their families in.”[2] The foundation of our program includes building community and being community driven – meaning we listen to the needs of the participants and help them to connect to community resources and programs.

Bev Renaud, our host on Treaty 7 and a passionate community advocate for Indigenous peoples, announced that Women Warriors Calgary pilot is full with 60 registered participants and only 25 available spots.

Sonja and I spent two days training our new facilitators, Loretta (Cree/Metis) and Tia (Blackfoot) and enjoyed learning about their cultural practices and visions for the program. They are both involved with community work, Loretta with Mahmawi-atoskiwin program for Indigenous families and Tia as an Indigenous entrepreneur pursuing her goal of running an on-the-land camp for youth and whom previously worked for the YWCA as an Indigenous Youth Programmer.

Also, we had the pleasure of training two non-Indigenous City of Calgary supports for the program, Joleen, a recreation specialist and Nicole, community social worker and Masters of Public Health graduate. She had some great insights to share with us on pre/post program questionnaires.

I admit to being fully biased, since I had an amazing weekend educating and learning, but I could not have picked better-suited facilitators or a more passionate group of ladies than Loretta, Tia, Joleen, and Nicole.  Our round circle discussions had some laughs and tears, and as a group composed of half Indigenous and half non-Indigenous, we had the privilege of sharing cultural teachings (mostly delivered by Loretta) and understand Indigenous women’s health and wellness based on the social determinates of health perspective.

We have been contacted by a number of reserves interested in starting their own Women Warriors programs and between Sonja and myself, we are trying our best to respond within a reasonable time frame. Please send inquires to Shelley@womenwarriors.club. We are currently in the works of adding a Calgary tab to the website so everyone can keep up to date on the pilot and read the Woman Warrior Wednesday profiles.


[2] City of Calgary. (2017). Community Hub. Retrieved March 23, 2018 from http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/CNS/Pages/Strong-Neighbourhoods/Community-Hubs.aspx


Megan discussing her research findings from our last Women Warriors program, Oct/Nov 2017 in Lloydminster with social workers from the City of Calgary. Read her newsletter, Food Security and Needs in Lloydminster and Onion Lake Cree Nation.

 

Round circle discussion with Loretta (left) and Joleen. Loretta would like to share the cultural practice of smudging with participants in the Calgary program.

 

Sonja (left) and Tia. It’s exciting that Sonja can be more involved with the Calgary program and will attend the pre/post program to help with measurements and any questions that Loretta or Tia may have.

 

Sonja demonstrated how to the waist and hip measurements and how to use the blood pressure machine to our facilitators. Both the City of Calgary and Onion Lake Cree Nation have biometric measurements as part of the University of Calgary research.

 

Bev had her sister-in-law bead this incredible medallion for me. I almost cried when it was gifted to me – one of the most thoughtful and beautiful gifts I’ve received.


Truth-Telling in Education 

I was inspired to start a “Truth-telling” column after reading this University of Alberta Faculty of Law interview with Metis author and activist, Chelsea Vowel in which she states:

“After Colten [Boushie] and Tina [Fontaine], and the total lack of justice for them, I’ve really decided that reconciliation is a concept whose time has not yet come. We need to put it on the shelf and go back to truth first. We’re not ready for reconciliation because Indigenous people are still not treated with equality, and until we fix that power differential we cannot resolve anything. We need to turn our minds to telling the truth and understanding that colonization is ongoing and that white supremacy is a real thing and we’re not going to get rid of it by pretending it doesn’t exist. We have to actively dismantle those systems and if we can’t even name them or admit they’re there, then they will just remain in the background and continue to warp all that we try to do.”

My first truth-teller was our Master’s student, Megan Sampson writing about the history of Lloydminster and area:
1) Indigenous Women’s Health, Colonization & Truth-Telling (+Lloydminster’s Plains History)
2) Lloydminster’s Plains History Part 2 & International Women’s Day (+Dr. Williams Mentor Profile)

My goal is to continue to engage non-Indigenous allies in this truth-telling so that we can all learn from each other on how to better communicate and engage in dialogue.

Our second non-Indigenous ally guest writer is engaged in reconciliation within education as a teacher and mother. Aleata Harty-Blank, a former teacher in Kitscoty and now a resident of Kimberley, BC spends a great deal of time on skis with her husband and their five-year-old daughter.

Aleata Harty-Blank and her daughter.

When I first began teaching history, over a decade ago, I taught from the textbook. I taught to the exam. I was a new teacher and I followed the rules. As I settled in to my profession and the content of what I was teaching, it became increasingly clear to me that much of what I was teaching was one-sided, only told a piece of the story and while multiple perspectives were encouraged, everything was still written, in my opinion, in a way that suggested that one perspective, the European perspective, was superior. I felt that I was doing my students, and ultimately an entire generation a disservice to continue teaching this way. I began looking for my own resources. My students needed to know there was more to the story. In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable. Who was I, a privileged white girl, to tell the First Nations, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) story? But on the same note, I thought, even if I don’t do the FNMI perspective the full justice it deserves, at least I’m doing something.

Teaching FNMI perspective is incredibly important to me and I found in many cases that students were coming to me with that same us and them perspective I had been raised with – Us being the superior white folk. I was seeing and hearing first hand, the multigenerational effects of racism. What could I do? It was time to start speaking the hard truths, the truths that for too long had been swept under the rug. I further educated myself and the further I dug the more I was left wondering; how was I never taught this? I certainly didn’t learn it from my parents and what I learned at school, was incredibly superficial; tepees, longhouses, pemmican, bannock and of course the notion that had the white man not come along and saved the First Nations peoples, they’d likely still be living in and eating the aforementioned provisions.

When we know better, we do better. I knew better. I had to do better. I came across so many valuable resources. They helped with my understanding and became incredibly important tools in my classroom: powerful multimedia like We Were Children and 8th Fire; Incredible books like The Outer CircleThe Secret Path and I am Not a Number. Activities like KAIROS Blanket exercise and visits to former Residential Schools guided by survivors. I cannot say enough about the power of these resources. They have left many of my students in complete awe. Genuinely reeling from the fact that up until this point they had never understood intergenerational trauma, treaty rights and the bigger picture effects of colonization. Time after time I hear kids say, “why are we just learning about this now?”

I feel blessed that I get to raise my own daughter knowing she won’t have to wait to learn about colonization, trauma and reconciliation from a teacher. But so many will. I don’t have the answers, but I know that time and education are the only way. I’ve been labelled a liberal snowflake more than once for attempting to take on causes that apparently don’t affect me, but if educating youth to understand, to respect and to do better than generations before them makes me lesser of a person in the eyes of some, then I’ll happily wear the label. I will continue to live my mantra that “Everyone has a story” and when we take the time to learn and perhaps even understand the stories, only then can humanity progress in a meaningful way.

Next week I will address how to incorporate the FNMI perspective within our education system with the assistance of:
Marcia Anderson, MD MPH FRCPC
Executive Director, Indigenous Academic Affairs
Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba

She had a similar situation to one of my Women Warriors participants when a teacher sent home a “Connecting to the Past” assignment.

She wrote in an email to the teacher that “the initial questions are written as if everyone who is in the class came from somewhere else. The underlying assumption could either be that there were no people here prior to European Settlers and other immigrants or that there are no Indigenous children in the class. Either way this absence of recognition of Indigenous peoples starts insidiously very early in education and can be damaging to both Indigenous children trying to understand their place in Canada or the class environment and to the other children who are taught passively that there is not a story of First Peoples here by the absence of that as an option in the questions.”

Part 2 of 2: Plains History of Lloydminster & Area

By Megan SampsonGraduate Student – Anthropology, University of Calgary
Part 1 of 2 available here.

Onion Lake Powwow July 15, 2017

The Canadian government responded to Indigenous peoples’ assertions of sovereignty in the region through the implementation of violent and degrading policies. The Indian Act, which was passed in1876, is widely regarded as racist, sexist, paternernalistic and aimed at the assimilation of First Nations culture into Euro-Canadian society (Henderson 2006, RCAP 1996, Milloy 2008). The Act relegated First Nations to reserves where they were to become culturally remade “in the image of a white rural farmer” (Barron 1988: 26). Yet, despite being relegated to lands deemed unfavourable for agriculture, First Nations in Saskatchewan began to thrive in their pursuits. This led to undesired competition, and the implementation of Peasant Farm Policy, in place from 1889 to 1897. This policy was justified on the grounds that First Nations should learn agriculture first on a small scale, using simple tools. It restricted the use of labour-saving machinery and, in combination with the Severalty policy which restricted the acreage of land available to each family, reduced the outputs of First Nations individuals to the extent that most were only able to produce at subsistence levels (and often less) (Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012; Canadian Museum of History n.d.). Furthermore, a Permit system was implemented which stipulated that First Nations individuals wishing to sell agricultural produce or livestock to non-Indigenous peoples must have a permit signed by their Indian agent or Superintendent to do so. It was illegal for individuals or businesses off reserve to purchase from First Nation farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan under this system, causing “irreparable harm to the emerging initiatives of Aboriginal farmers” (Tang 2003:7).

One of Canada’s most shameful policies relating to First Nations originated in Battleford, less than 150 kilometers from Lloydminster: the pass system. According to this system, individuals were not permitted to leave the premises of their reserve without written consent from an Indian Agent and a signed document outlining the purpose and duration of this absence (Barron 1988; Purich 1986; Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012). It has commonly been compared to the South African system of Apartheid, and is famously rumoured to have influenced it (Steckley 2016; Horwitz and Newman 2011; Barron 1988). Barron’s (1988) analysis of correspondences between “assistant Indian commissioner” Hayter Reed and surveyor and commissioner Edgar Dewdney appear to reveal that this system originated out of an initiative at Battleford to reduce Indigenous mobility. According to this interpretation, the system was never securely rooted in legislation, and lacked legal sanction. It was justified by claiming to “protect” First Nations from the perceived vices available in urban settings, to separate them for the purposes of “training” them to be integrated into white society, and to protect the property of settlers from destruction at the hands of First Nations. It was enforced by arresting First Nations found off of reserves without a pass on the grounds of trespassing or vagrancy (Barron 1988; Tang 2003; Funk and Lobe 1991). While Barron notes that First Nations often aggressively refused to obey this repressive and unjust policy, and commonly “subverted” or “avoid[ed]” it (1988: 35), Tang (2003) describes it as being effective in restricting the flow of goods and services between settlers and First Nations. The persistent poverty and food insecurity experienced by several First Nations in these regions still today is unsurprising when one considers the painstaking efforts made to effectively and intentionally cut them out of the settler economy (which they were first forcefully incorporated into through the fur trade and other means).

Canada’s residential school legacy also has deep roots to the plains. Although their origins begin much earlier, in New France as early as the 1830’s, the federal government of Canada developed and implemented an educational policy in the 1880’s promoting the model of custodial schools which now make up our nation’s infamous residential school legacy. These schools were operated in partnership with the Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, and began opening in the prairies in 1883. They would later spread to Ontario and Quebec (Miller 2012). Under the residential school system, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children were forcefully removed from their homes and held in schools where their traditional practices and languages were forbidden. These schools varied in the cultural diversity of attendees and distance from reserves, among other things, and Indigenous children varied in the length of time they spent in these schools and the amount of contact they were able to maintain with their families and communities (Chrisjohn and Young 1997); however, “it is widely accepted that the treatment children [received] in Indian residential schools caused grievous multigenerational harm” (Daniels 2006: 100). In 1920, the Indian Act made attendance in these schools compulsory for all First Nations, who were not permitted to seek education elsewhere. Parents who failed to comply and register their children in these schools or turn them over to Indian Agents, RCMP officers, or church officials faced jail sentences, or withheld food rations and/or treaty payments (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2015; Owen n.d.). Although Inuit and Metis peoples are not regulated by the Indian Act, and at various points in history there were conflicts between the federal and provincial governments regarding whose responsibility it was to “educate” these peoples, it is known that many Inuit, Metis, and non-status Indigenous children were made to attend residential schools and facilities like them (such as hostels, mission schools, and boarding schools) for the purposes of assimilation at various points in time (Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015; Gadoua 2010; Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015). Two of these schools operated on Onion Lake Cree Nation; one was destroyed by fire in 1943, the other’s doors remained open until 1974.

For inquiries about this history or Megan’s research on food security please contact her mbsampso@ucalgary.ca.
Please read Megan’s other contributions to the Women Warriors newsletter.

  1. Food Security in Lloydminster – Preliminary Findings 
  2. Reflections From the Tamarack Institutes Evaluating Community Impact Workshop 

Additional Resource – Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk, Ph.D.


I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. In order to view my articles, you must subscribe to the Northern News Services here. My article was released on March 7th. Listen to my full interview with Honourable Minister Caroline Cochrane on the Women Warriors podcast.

Women Warriors Updates

1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: April/May
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is Bev Renaud, Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW. Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca

  • Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th and be doing a presentation to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th at 9 am.

2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator. Please contact Alicia Oliver for details: alicia.oliver@onionlakehealth.org

3) The Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation are piloting an Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification starting in April. One of our Women Warriors participants, Tara Waskewitch from Onion Lake Cree Nation has been chosen to participate. It’s exciting times for us to be able to offer Women Warriors on reserve with their own fitness trainers.


I met Dr. Lewis Williams at the Tamarack Institute’s Evaluating Community Impacts in Saskatoon, November 2017. Please read about it here.

International Women’s Day: The Power of Mentorship

Today, March 8th, 2018 is International Women’s Day with the campaign theme #PressforProgress. There are several actions that the website www.internationalwomensday.com calls for individuals to act upon today including:
1) Maintain a gender parity mindset.
2) Challenge stereotypes and bias.
3) Forge positive visibility of women.
4) Influence others’ beliefs and actions.
5) Celebrate women’s achievements, more specifically, celebrate women role models and their journeys.

Today I’m celebrating Dr. Lewis Williams, an accomplished Maori scholar, researcher, and overall inspiring woman that I had the pleasure of meeting in November in Saskatoon at the Tamarack Evaluating Community Impact workshop. She is humble, open, and direct – all qualities that I appreciate. She sent me an academic article that literally blew my mind, and I wanted to share with the researchers on my email list for further investigation: Williams, L. (2013). Deepening Ecological Relationality through Critical Onto-Epistemological Inquiry: Where Transformative Learning Meets Sustainable Science. Journal Of Transformative Education11(2), 95-113.

In it, she discusses a decolonizing research methodology, Intuitive Inquiry. She states, “Intuitive Inquiry consciously positions the researcher and his or her experience at the core of the research endeavor. Through its reintegration of the inner, subjective, intuitive, and spiritual with the outer, external, sensory, and more ‘‘objective’’ ways of knowing, Intuitive Inquiry (Anderson, 2000, 2004) establishes an intimate dialogue between the knower and that which he or she is attempting to know. It re-establishes knowledge not as the accumulation of facts, but as the integration of all our experiences in the world. This is consonant with ideas in Maoritanga and other Indigenous cultures where knowledge is held sacred, derived from the integration into our centre, of different ways of knowing that include and transcend the world of our five senses (Cajete, 2000; Royal, 2003).

Right now I’m taking my first research methodologies course, and Dr. Williams article has me excited to move on to decolonizing research methodologies. Her article has given me hope that Indigenous ways of knowing and being, through more than our five senses is a valid way to research. The rest of the academic article reads like a story, which is my favorite way to learn. (Also why I love Dr. Karlee Fellner‘s dissertation,  Returning to our Medicines:  Decolonizing and Indigenizing Mental Health Services to Better Serve Urban Indigenous Communities.)  Thank you, Dr. Williams (and Dr. Fellner) for your genius work decolonizing academia and inspiring upcoming academics to explore Indigenous research methodogies.

Born in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Lewis is a Ngai Te Rangi woman and also of Gaelic ancestry. She is the Founding Director of the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience (AIR) and a Senior Research Fellow with Whakauae Research Services. During 2018 a particular focus is her personal walk of intergenerational resilence with her own whanau/family on her traditional territory of the Tauranga Moana, Bay of Plenty Aotearoa. She is passionate about finding and flowing with the Deep and Life-giving currents that underpin our cosmos.

1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
That’s a difficult question to answer.  I have been fortunate to have had many – mostly informal, I believe spirit has always guided mentors into my life. Often at first mentorship has not always been evident. Rather, it has gently and gradually emerged, often not even spoken of, yet through the relationship, an understanding built up.

Perhaps my two most fundamental mentors, (if I think of ancestral pou/posts that support the Whare Tupuna/ancestral house) are my Kuias (kuia means woman Elder) Aunty Maria Ngatai and Aunty Ngaroimata Cavill. Both entered my life around the same time when I was in my late 40s. While both have since passed to the spirit world, they remain important guides and mentors in my life.

I am going to talk about Aunty Maria as for various reasons she is very present with me at the moment. Aunty Maria was born in Te Puna in 1930 and named Maria Hokimate Ormsby.  Her whakapapa (geneology) is of both the Ngati Ranginui and Ngai Te Rangi tribes and we both whakapapa back to the ancestress Ruawahine Puhi of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe. Aunty Maria was married to Uncle Kihi, the Rangatira (chief) of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe and together they had five children. She was a self-made woman and very about ‘service’ to people and community, and nationally recognized as such. While they had very little money in the early days, Aunty Maria was the one who got their kiwi fruit farm up and going and made it really successful. Larger than life, she never saw the point of going far from home, because to her, the garden of life was plentiful just where she was- on her own rohe/territory. She was outspoken, warm, loving and generous, and very direct and strong.

2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor? 
I found Aunty Maria because I followed a very significant dream I had about an ancestor of mine Jane Faulkner, daughter of Ruawahine Puhi. The dream had me searching on many levels and took me back to our traditional lands at a time when our ancestral fires were just about extinguished. Through a friend I was introduced to Aunty Maria. She made it easy and more or less from the start opened her home to me. At this stage, I had finished work at the University of Saskatchewan and so was free to dig deeply into my Ngaiterangi self. We spend many, many hours together at her house where I would listen to lots of family and ancestral stories, or else we’d go out together round about, walk the lands and she’d get uncle Kihi to show me stuff.

In the Maori wananga (learning tradition) the emphasis is on wisdom – the integration of experience into the heart of one’s being. As my (unspoken) mentor, aunty maria was very much like this with me – journeying alongside, gently providing words of guidance at times, allowing me to access deeper levels of myself and therefore create the new sense of order of self and the universe that I needed to.

3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor? 
The first lesson would have to be that it’s “all about relationships”. Aunty was continually building relationships with warmth and love.
The second lesson is about staying in connection. Aunty was a very strong and forthright person and spoke her mind. Yes disagreements with others did not make her shy away, she truly believed in maintaining connections.
The third lesson is about humility and service. Aunty Maria was a very spiritual women and no role was too ‘low’ or ‘high’ for her. She took things on, was grateful for what she had and was always so positive.

4. What qualities make a good mentee? 
Listen and watch. Be humble, be open, be curious.

5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
From the mentoring I have received, I have benefited in many ways – feeling seen, a greater sense of knowing where I have been and where I am going.
Both a greater sense of Turangawaewae (place to stand) and also responsibility intergenerationally – to those before me and after me.

As a mentor, I very much believe that life is a journey of spirit and that we all have a unique purpose and contribution to make with our lives. I approach mentoring in this way. So it gives me a great sense of contributing to something worthwhile if I can be a part of helping another being find and stay on their unique path of contribution to the world.

6. What personal development practices do you have?
Yoga, meditation, being with nature, dreamwork, shamanic journeying – all to do with inner and outer listening.  Also in particular at the moment taking care with the little things and expanding my capacity to be with what is unpleasant and bringing greater equanimity to life.

7. What book most impacted your life?
That’s a hard one – influential books would be “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tole, and “The Woven Universe. Selected Writings of the Rev Maori Marsden” by Charles Royal.

Indigenous Women’s Health, Colonization & Truth-Telling

Understanding How Indigenous Women’s Health, Colonization & the Truth of Our History Are Interwoven

Women Warriors Expansion Meeting in Onion Lake, October 2017 (from left): Myself, Dolores Pahtyaken, OLCN Council Member, Dr. Sonja Wicklum, Megan Sampson, University of Calgary Master’s Student.

As we put the final touches on the Women Warriors facilitators manual and I prepare my slideshow to train the new facilitators in Calgary on March 16th and 17th, I am reflective of the importance of understanding how colonialism impacts Indigenous women’s health.

In the academic article, Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism: The Impacts on the Health of Aboriginal Women in Canada, Bourassa, Mckay-McNabb & Hampton (2004) discuss this matrix of oppression as revealed by health statistics:

Aboriginal women have a lower life expectancy, elevated morbidity rates, and elevated suicide rates in comparison to non-Aboriginal women (Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence, 2004). Aboriginal women living on reserves have significantly higher rates of coronary heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease and other chronic illnesses than non-Aboriginal Canadian women (Waldram, Herring, and Young, 2000). A significantly greater percentage of Aboriginal women living off reserve, in all age groups, report fair or poor health compared to non-Aboriginal women; 41 percent of Aboriginal women aged 55-64 reported fair or poor health, compared to 19 percent of women in the same age group among the total Canadian population (Statistics Canada).[1]

The constant cycle of news stories pertaining to Indigenous women’s abuse, neglect and violence highlights the ongoing legacy of colonialism:
In Canada, Indigenous women are five times more likely to die a violent death
Jury finds Raymond Cormier not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine
Red Deer man admits separate killings of two Onion Lake Cree Nation women

While this program provides free fitness classes and nutrition education, the facilitators must also have the cultural competency and vocabulary to express the daily-lived reality of colonization. These concepts include:

  1. Colonization – the action or process of settling among, and establishing control over, the indigenous people of an area.
  2. Residential School – Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture.
  3. Double Burden – Aboriginal women in Canada frequently experience challenges and discrimination that are not necessarily shared by non-Aboriginal women or Aboriginal men. Aboriginal women have been described as facing a “double-burden” – for being discriminated against as a woman and further for being Indigenous. (Please review Marginalization of Aboriginal Women). If we add weight bias to this discrimination, some Indigenous women experience a triple burden.
  4. Reconciliation – The action of restoring estranged people or parties to friendship, the result of which is becoming reconciled. In relation to Indigenous peoples and their history, it is the responsibility of every Canadian to understand the injustices committed in their country’s name. Every citizen needs to learn the history and legacy of Canada’s residential schools and realize that contemporary expressions of racist and colonial policies of cultural genocide and assimilation continue to this day.
  5. Intergenerational Trauma – the transmission of historical oppression and its negative consequences across generations. There is evidence of the impact of intergenerational trauma on the health and well-being of and social disparities facing Indigenous peoples in Canada and other countries.
  6. Social Determinants of Health – these are the social and economic factors in people’s lives that can, directly and indirectly, affect a person’s health. For example, if they are not able to afford to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore cannot possibly eat the recommended amount daily this would be a ‘direct’ effect. An example of an ‘indirect’ effect could include not having had healthy role modeling of food preparation and food purchasing by a parental figure. Social determinants of health can affect health and health behaviors in many different ways. Indigenous peoples are often in situations where they face inequality of these factors that affect health. Certain specific Indigenous social determinants of health have been outlined. These impact Indigenous peoples only and can be added to the more common ones that impact everyone. The common ones are gender (male versus female), Aboriginal status, housing, income, education level and work. Add to these the following Indigenous specific determinants: participation in traditional activities, balance, life control, environmental education, material resources, social resources and environmental/cultural connections. The facilitator needs to understand that all of these factors influence a participant’s life and their ability to make ‘healthy choices’ or ‘change’ their behavior. A facilitator should be careful to never question a ‘choice’, as the participant may not actually be making a ‘choice’, they may not have a choice. A facilitator should support participants to identify what is influencing their choices and what they can actually control. Try to avoid making people feel guilty about their choices.

In addition, the truth of colonial history is important to understanding why Indigenous peoples are “excessively vulnerable to cerebrovascular disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, suicide, cancer, depression, substance use, HIVIAIDS, and violence” (Bourassa, Mckay-McNabb & Hampton, p. 27).

With that in mind, our Master’s student from the University of Calgary, Megan Sampson has researched the Plains History of Lloydminster to better understand how the colonial practices and policies in this area have impacted the health of our participants. Please read part 1 of 2 written below. Megan’s thesis includes this history and her research findings from her two months of living in Lloydminster and participating in the Women Warriors program. If you’re interested in learning more about her research on food security, please contact her at mbsampso@ucalgary.ca.

I believe that it would be beneficial for each Women Warriors program, wherever it expands to, to investigate its own colonial history to better understand how it is impacting their participant’s health. During my training in Calgary I will discuss this idea with the new facilitators. I will be doing a short lunch hour presentation on the Friday (Mar. 16th) for some of the City of Calgary’s management team and other stakeholders.


[1] Bourassa, C., Mckay-McNabb, K., & Hampton, M. (2004). Racism, sexism, and colonialism: the impact on the health of Aboriginal women in Canada. Canadian Woman Studies, (1), 23.


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Onion Lake Cree Nation’s Women Warriors program, which is also being researched by the University of Calgary, is set to begin late Spring. The main contact person for this program will be Alicia Oliver (third from left), RD Onion Lake Health Centre. Email: alicia.oliver@onionlakehealth.org
Please listen to the Women Warriors podcast to learn more about our program.

 

Self-Care: A How-to Guide to Loving Yourself & Setting Boundaries.

It’s important to practice self-love in the midst of negativity. Here are some of the Women Warriors self-care practices.

I use yoga, flute music, and weight lifting to reduce stress. – Verna

Depending on how stressed I may use more than one strategy.
1) Long hot bath, smooth jazz or other favorite music & candles, 2) Walk in the pasture (we live on 1/4 section) and have a chat with the horses. They always listen and never argue, and when they think they have heard enough they walk away. 3) I go out to my special sitting/praying rock and just be. 4) A good book and a cup of tea or a cold drink if it is hot!
 – Linda


Women Warriors Updates
1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: April/May
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is: Bev Renaud, Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW. Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
  • Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator. Please contact Alicia Oliver for details: alicia.oliver@onionlakehealth.org

3) I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. In order to view my articles, you must subscribe to the Northern News Services here. My next article, Honorable Minister Caroline Cochrane’s Insights for Women Entering Politics will be released on March 7th.


Part 1 of 2: Plains History – Lloydminster & Area
by Megan Sampson

“Welcome to Lloydminster, Canada’s only Border City, and home to the world’s largest border markers! These 100 ft. pillars signify the provincial boundary and the fourth meridian which marks the border. They represent the four pillars of our city: Oil and Gas, the Barr Colonists, Agriculture, and the Native North Americans (. . . )”

If you tune into Lloydminster Tourism Radio, you’re familiar with these words. However, as one of the “four pillars” of Lloydminster’s society, it is suspicious how these “Native North Americans” lacks mention in most of the places one might most expect to find such information. At City Hall, you will find a plethora of tourism resources describing the city and it’s history, yet Indigenous history is not alluded to in these pamphlets and brochures. The official website of the city makes no mention of Indigenous peoples in its “History of Lloydminster”. Although research reveals that the Lloydminster Cultural and Science Centre (formerly the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Centre) has in the past hosted brief exhibits and displays of Indigenous culture, it lacks consistent access to displays of Indigenous history and tradition on the land. In the Lloydminster Public Library you will find a display modelling Inuit artwork; this display is beautiful, and appropriate for a place of public learning, yet one can’t help but be reminded of the apparent lack of Plains Cree artwork (and representation more broadly) in the city.
The Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre’s website state’s that its objective is to “promote better understanding and relations between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Members of the Community”. This is a tall task, for how can better understanding and relations occur when the history of one of these parties is all but erased from public discourse? How can this understanding be fostered when acts of colonial violence, such as the abduction and murder of Violet Heathen and Jeannette Chief, are not contextualized and interpreted as symptoms of a long-standing and systemically embedded racism? When poverty, health inequity, substance use disorders, trauma, and injustice (such as that experienced by the family of Colten Boushie’s mourning family) is viewed as if it appeared out of a vacuum rather than as a predictable result of long-term oppression?
In stark contrast to the history of the Indigenous peoples of the territory where Lloydminster now resides, the city’s colonial history is abundantly apparent and even celebrated. Every Lloydminster resident is aware of how the Barr Colonists trekked into this unfavourable terrain, placed their ploughs to the soil, and from their blood, sweat, and tears created industry. Yet, the territory where Lloydminster is now situated has a history, which far outdates the arrival of the colonists in 1903.
Canada’s plains were the site of some of the most poignant and aggressive acts of colonial violence. Pre-contact, plains Nations thrived off of an abundant food supply primarily consisting of buffalo. This was a staple, which they saw decimated by the insatiable demand of French, British, and Scottish traders for furs and pemmican once European commerce engulfed the region. Although the Hudson’s Bay Company did not establish their first inland post until 1774, European penetration of the Canadian plains long preceded this. There is evidence to suggest that the decimation of buffalo herds was a calculated act on the part of colonial governments to quell Indigenous capacity for resistance (Phippen 2016; Foster 2015; Merchant 2007; Croal and Darou 2002).
Widespread starvation and the introduction of European diseases for which they lacked immunity left plains Nations in a compromised position. Yet, in historical documents describing Treaty 6 negotiations, it is evident that they stood their ground in demanding certain necessary provisions to protect their interests. Only reluctantly, and at the insistence of First Nations, were agricultural provisions and famine relief included in the treaty’s text (St. Germain 2001; Daschuk 2013). Furthermore, while plains Nations were promised action to protect buffalo herds, these stipulations were excluded from the text document and never acted upon in any meaningful way (St Germain 2001). There are vast discrepancies between settler and Indigenous accounts of the true spirit and intent of the numbered treaties, and the Indigenous accounts, recorded orally and passed on through generations, are typically disregarded, which is of great consequence to Indigenous peoples. Oral histories passed down by Elders (such as those cited in Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council et al 1995 and Taylor 1999) suggesting that Indigenous signatories believed them to be peace treaties and formal agreements to share the land, rather than land surrenders. These documents are recorded in English, not the Indigenous languages of the First Nations who signed them, and there is evidence to suggest that their content was not adequately translated and conveyed to these signatories, and that certain promised provisions were intentionally left out (Hildebrandt et al 1995; Taylor 1999). It is under such conditions that Treaty 6 was signed by Cree, Chipewyan, and Assiniboine chiefs and headmen in 1876 at Fort Pitt—a mere 65 kilometers from where Lloydminster now exists.
It was around this same time when a large migration of Metis people, a distinct nation of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry (primarily Cree, Ojibwa, and Salteaux), began migrating from Manitoba (from places such as the Red River Valley and Portage La Prairie) to Saskatchewan. This migration was in response to a federal delay on delivering cash payments and land holdings they promised in the form of scrip, in response to the Red River Rebellion and Metis assertion of their property rights (Thistle 2016). Denial of farmland in the form of scrip stalling resulted in widespread hunger, and the land which was offered contradicted Metis settlement patterns and interfered with river access. The Metis responded by again resisting, under the leadership of Louis Riel and Alexander Dumont, beginning with a food raid at Duck Lake resulting in a military stand-off. This Red River Resistance coincided with a resistance by the Cree at Frog Lake, Frenchman Butte, and Fort Pitt in 1985  (each of these sites being within a 100-kilometer radius of today’s Lloydminster). It is worth noting that the latter site was successfully captured by Cree warriors at this time. In his 1924 work, ‘Lloydminster, or, 5000 miles with the Barr Colonists’, J. Hanna McCormick notes:
“Many of the vital points in the Riel Rebellion of 1870, and later the
rising of ’85, were in this immediate neighborhood, and many people
now living in the district remember and have close knowledge of those
exciting times. The reader can grasp the sentiment Barr Colonists must
feel when these events are recalled and placed before them [. . .]” (16)
It is therefore apparent that the Barr Colonists themselves had at least a basic appreciation of the vast and complex Indigenous history of governance and resistance in the territory they came to settle.
Part 2 will be released next week. Please read Megan’s other contributions to the Women Warriors newsletter.

  1. Food Security in Lloydminster – Preliminary Findings 
  2. Reflections From the Tamarack Institutes Evaluating Community Impact Workshop 

Raising Indigenous Children in Saskatchewan After the Gerald Stanley Verdict

Insights from Indigenous Mothers

Brandy instructed PowFit for Women Warriors, Spring of 2016.

Brandy-Lee Maxie is a storyteller, entrepreneur, and mother of three children ages 15, 12, and 9 from the White Bear First Nations in Saskatchewan. 

Tonight is a hard night to feel like Reconciliation in Canada is a possibility – that concept just got further away from being achievable. Racism just walked away from a murder conviction and yet another Indigenous youth was left murdered, dehumanized and without justice. Another name added to the list of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Men and Women in Canada, go ahead and say his name…Colton Boushie. Today Colton’s killer, Gerald Stanley, was acquitted of all changes and to many people in Saskatchewan, it comes as no surprise. Racism has not changed very much in the prairie provinces and still rings loud and proud for the most part. Indigenous people face the highest rates of violence, poverty, social issues, injustices, and death. As a Mother, I wanted to have this hope for reconciliation within my children’s lifetime, but I don’t feel very hopeful right now. I’m worried now more than ever about my Sons becoming teenage boys in Saskatchewan.

What hurts me the most about all of this is knowing how young Colton was and knowing that my children are not too far from that age. As a Mother with two Assiniboine/Anishnaabe Sons, my heart is broken by how blatantly open and disgusting racism in Saskatchewan is in 2018. Colton Boushie’s murder represents a very real possibility in my Sons futures in rural Saskatchewan. Will they break down one day in an area that only has white farmers who are now armed, dangerous and overly confident that Native lives don’t matter? I’m seeing posts like “Yes finally justice for white farmers… the laws are changing so we can shoot Indians dead if they come on our land” and racism being celebrated so openly tonight. I’m worried to see the outcome for Tina Fontaine and I highly anticipate the same injustices. My beautiful daughter will soon be the age that Tina Fontaine was when she was murdered and it makes my stomach twist up to think that she is now in that demographic of most targeted and at risk for violence in Canada. When will it ever end?

As I decolonize my mind and learn to be Indian again, I also try to teach my children along the way so that they don’t have to be my age trying to figure out their identity. It is quite the process though because they are so consumed with this colonized educational system and we are under this constant threat of Child and Family services making sure that they stay in that forced assimilation cycle. I think education is very important, I just see more value in education that includes Indigenous history, language, culture, Treaties, and teachings. Trying to walk my children through the concept of reconciliation must first start with their understanding of their history and who they are, and that comes with some hard discussions about our harsh collective reality which might bring up some intergenerational trauma. Before we can even get around to talking about how they can walk side by side in peaceful coexistence with Canadians, they need to understand what Treaties and sacrifices were made for that discussion to even exist. But they also need to know what promises were broken and the Canadian blueprint of killing the Indian in the child, a blueprint of genocide that they just keep redesigning to suit the times.

Tonight, I truly believe that reconciliation is nothing more than a hashtag to create this illusion of unity to justify their overpriced Canada 150 parties. There is no reconciliation when you continue to devalue our lives, and there is no reconciliation when systematic genocide and oppression continues to be the basis of Canadian law and politics. Canada has a real dark history and a very shameful present, with racism being the backbone of this “Nation” and until that changes then I see no point in teaching my children false narratives and political lies. Instead, I will teach them things like knowing their rights, surviving an emergency without walking into someone’s yard for help, how to disrupt the systems of their oppression and how to endure a life of being Indigenous.


Shelley Wiart is a proud member of the North Slave Metis Alliance and cofounder of Women Warriors, an Indigenous focused holistic health program aimed at type II diabetes awareness & prevention.

Last visit to Yellowknife my dad told me his parents had not prepared him for the racism that existed down South. He grew up in the Northwest Territories his whole life and left, with his mom (my Grandma Anne), to live in Calgary while she completed her social work degree at the University of Calgary. He told me many stories of the racism he encountered while living in Calgary during the early 80’s, including being jumped and beaten outside a bar by Cowboys.

I message him last week to get his consent to tell our reunion story in the Yellowknifer newspaper.

He text me, “Hi Sweetie: You’re doing noble work whenever and wherever you take a stand against racism and bigotry. History has taught us that one’s silence is one’s condonement of wrongdoing and/or of the status quo. For example, slavery and segregation in the USA didn’t end without blood being spilled nor did the right for women to vote come without the blood of many determined women. Society only changes when the conditions for change are ripe. There has to be a lot of change agents contributing to the change bucket – drop by drop. With that in mind, I don’t have any problem with you telling your adoption story. If you’re comfortable and willing to tell your story to the world, I’m good with it. I’m just happy and proud to have a beautiful daughter out of this whole thing. An injustice was imposed upon us because of the ugliness of racism -that’s the ugly truth.”

Here’s the real distinction that I understand between myself and the participants in my group, Women Warriors. My children are blonde-haired and blue-eyed with skin representative of their Dutch father. I can never and will never know what it is like to raise a visibly Indigenous child in this area of Treaty 6. I do, however, understand the ugliness of racism and the ways that families are torn apart because of it.

When the verdict was delivered last night for the Gerald Stanley trial, my first thought was about the Indigenous women in my group, and how they must feel as Mothers. To feel that their childrens lives are at risk becuase of the colour of their skin, and that justice in Canada is an illusion. I cried and wondered what I can say and do to help the women in this community that I love?

With the advice of my dad ringing in my ears, I refuse to be silent and I’m going to continue contributing to the change bucket. I can’t change the broken justice system, or delete the ugly racist comments that emerged on Lloydminster facebook groups last night. What is within my realm of control is helping my group be strong in the face of adversity.

Women Warriors has obtained funding to run a program in Onion Lake Cree Nation this year. I can help the women in this community by focusing on their mental, physical and spiritual well-being. We need each other more than ever, and we need a place to feel safe to express our fears and worries about our children’s futures. We need the healing energy that comes when a group of women gathers and shares their lives.

Last Thursday I attended the Indigenous women’s leadership series hosted by the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women in Edmonton. I listened as Muriel Stanley Venne, a highly decorated Indigneous woman and long time advocate for human rights stated, regardless of race, “our pain is all the same.”

I ask the non-Indigenous allies of this newsletter to imagine that Colton Boushie was your child. Advocate like Colton Boushie was your child. Speak up like Colton Boushie was your child. Do not stay silent in the face of this injustice. I will not use the word “reconcilation” anymore. How can we talk about reconcilation without justice?

Advocacy & Leadership

My Letter to the Editor of the Lloydminster Booster/Source

On February 8th it was a pleasure to attend the Institue for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women- Indigenous Women in Leadership Speakers Series. I was inspired by founder, Muriel Stanley Venne’s advocacy work, and leadership.
From left: Myself, Carly Morton-Germann, Roxy Naistus, Muriel Stanley Venne.
Front: Host of the leadership series, Stephanie Harpe.

Last Sunday I had to remove myself from social media because of the explosion of hate-filled racist comments that were circulating online. I felt anger, frustration, but most of all sorrow. Some of these people were my friends on Facebook, and now they are not.

I was stunned by the racism, however, many Indigenous peoples like Andrea Landry (@AndreaLandry1) stated on Twitter,  “This level of racism has always been here. The only thing that’s different now is that they are no longer keeping it quiet.”

Two days before the Gerald Stanley verdict I had been in conversation with the editor of the Lloydminster Booster/Source to potentially do a reconciliation column. I sent him my editorials that had been published in News North, Being An Informed Indigenous Ally and the Yellowknifer, Reconciliation in Health & Healing in the North. He told me he would consult with his bosses. I’m trying not to assume that means no, but with the state of relationships, and the amount of racist commentary on public forums, I’m not hopeful.

Reconciliation is still a relatively unknown entity in this community, with the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation committee just getting started. As stated in the Lloydminster Source on February 14th, “This week City council has accepted the declaration from the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation and has authorized the mayor to sign the declaration. There are two key areas of work the Heart of Treaty 6 aims to develop stronger relationships and trust among communities, organizations, and individuals.”

I wrote a letter to the editor, which will be published next Tuesday in the Meridian Booster on the state of relationships in our community. I believe that the trust factor is at an all-time low. Also, that leaders must pave the way for relationship building.

I must admit the featured letter below is my second attempt. I had posted the first attempt on my personal facebook and I was attacked by trolls telling me I was asking for “special treatment” for Indigenous peoples. I’m thankful that I posted it because that feedback made me realize that emotion has no place in advocacy. I must use hard facts from documents that exist pertaining to reconciliation and human rights.

When I contacted the editor about my potential letter to the editor he stated in his email to me, “with the papers being pretty tight in recent weeks it’s very tough to get submitted content in. So, if you write a letter to the editor please keep it under 380 words so I can make it fit.” Most editorials allow at least 500 words, but I’m always up for a challenge.

358 words advocating for the human right to feel safe in our community.

“In the spirit of reconciliation, before the Stanley verdict, I contacted the City of Lloydminster to ask about their municipal government Indigenous cultural awareness program, which was a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada:

Professional Development and Training for Public Servants
57. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

On February 2nd, 2018 the Mayors office issued me this statement:

“Our community is comprised of a rich and diverse mix of cultures; this Council welcomes all opportunity to learn more about those cultures and their respective beliefs, traditions, and histories. Each year, your Mayor and Council have the privilege of attending dozens of cultural events, including spiritual ceremonies, festivals, celebrations, dinners and the like. The City of Lloydminster is also currently examining how participation in the Declaration from the Heart of Treaty Six Reconciliation initiative may further support strong, communicative relationships with community-based organizations, governments, and businesses in the Lloydminster region.”  -Mayor Gerald Aalbers

I ask for the leadership in this community including community-based organizations, governments, and businesses to take a strong stance, either verbally or in the form of a statement, against racist or hateful dialogue against anyone in this community. As stated by the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, Article 3: Everyone has the right to live, to be free, and to feel safe. All people of this community regardless of race, age, or religion have the right to feel safe.

I believe that the skilled –based training recommended by the TRC in “intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human right, and anti-racism” can help our leaders build a strong foundation for “strong communicative relationships” that is needed after this controversial verdict. I ask the leadership of this city, and provinces to call on its citizens to remain respectful of all peoples.”

As a taxpayer in this community, I sent letters to my political leaders, Mayor Aalbers, MLA for Saskatchewan, Colleen Young and MLA for Alberta, Richard Starke. (I suggest you do the same to advocate for your rights). The 2016 Lloydminster census data states that 10% of our population identifies as Indigenous. The national average of Indigenous peoples sits at about 4% of the total population – we have a higher than average base of Indigenous taxpayers in Lloydminster.

I was not asking for a comment on the verdict, as that would be inappropriate and crossing the line between justice and politics. I did ask for them to please consider issuing a public statement from their offices addressing the racist dialogue and growing division in our community.

Another critic pointed out that if Mayor Aalbers is held accountable by his taxpayers, then so should Indigenous leaders from this area like Chief Wallace Fox of Onion Lake Cree Nation or Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations. Let me reiterate that I am not a member of these bands or organizations and I do not pay taxes to either. I am a taxpayer of the Lloydminster community and I have a right to ask my leadership to advocate on my behalf.

The true leadership that emerged from Saskatchewan is Saskatoon’s Mayor Charlie Clark. He wrote a public post on his Facebook account on Monday, February 12th:

“As Mayor, I have made it central to my leadership that we are stronger united than divided.

I have, and will, stand alongside anyone who says they are prepared to work together to address the deep divisions in our society that have been revealed with the shooting of Colten Boushie and the trial.

It is more important than ever to confront the undercurrent of racism that has become escalated since this happened. We have been aware of racism and discrimination in our city and province, but the level of contempt and hatred that has emerged in comments online and in daily interactions has revealed the magnitude of these sentiments.

This cannot be tolerated if we are to build a better society. They are a risk to our future.

We have a choice in this moment: to either find a way to come together as people sharing this land and this community, or to allow the divisions to get deeper and tear us apart.

This is about a relationship and what we risk if we give up on each other. We have been celebrating and talking about reconciliation during the good times, but we need to continue this work during the difficult times as well.

This is the choice I am asking you all to make. Choose a future together, let us build relationships with each other, and be, as our provincial motto states, “From many peoples, strength.” ”

In a time of crisis when people are looking to their leadership to guide them, the kind of person I want to follow is the one that makes human decency their platform and calls for relationship building. Also, thanks to Muriel Stanley Venne for inspiring me to advocate through the hard times.

Take ownership for the community you live in and stand up for your beliefs. There are many ways to do it, including writing to your government representatives or the newspaper. Anything is better than nothing. In the wise words of Martin Luther King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Saskatoon StarPhoenix article:
We cannot let this situation tear us apart’: Saskatoon mayor calls for unity after Stanley verdict


Self-Care: A How-to Guide to Loving Yourself & Setting Boundaries.

It’s important in the midst of negativity to practice self-love. I had a friend call me on Thursday afternoon and I had a good cry, then we talked about all the things we love and how we take care of ourselves. She lifted my spirits and I realized that it would be helpful to ask women to share their self-care practices. Here are some of the Women Warriors self-care practices.

I’m so into essential oils with my air diffusers, bath bombs with a few drops of oils as well. I also really enjoy herbal teas. Even if its just that 20 mins a day to enjoy those things you enjoy doing. Once the kids are in bed I make my tea and get my infuser going, either watch my favorite show or just enjoy the quiet. There’s never enough time in the day to get ahead but it’s important to take the time for yourself.  – Linda

I absolutely love hot showers and or baths with candles. Maybe my fascination with candles is because that is what my name means. But I also enjoy listening to guided meditation even if it is only for thirty minutes, but I usually try for an hour. And I still love my old rock fountain. It is so very peaceful. – Shondyl

My everyday self-care practices are: I always start my day with prayer (and I pray to God our Creator) and it doesn’t have to be a long prayer. I just thank him for waking me for a new day; a new chance to be better and pray for the protection of my kids and granddaughters. I love to do mini-meditations on Youtube (because I am one that cannot sit an hour in meditation) there are so many and you will know which one resonates with you. Throughout my day I constantly have little “positive reminders” even if it’s just, “I got this,” “things will get better,” “I am not alone.” I know it sounds corny but it really works. At the end of my day, I take an “energy infused bath” so I load it with certain crystals and Epsom salts and candles and that’s my “defuser” just wash everything I’ve read or seen or went through. And, of course, end in prayer thanking him for the lessons learned that day and it’s not any big moments.. its the laughs with my kids listening to their stories… it’s those moments that are so powerful and filled with all the love and determination I need to go on. Lately, I had to stop engaging in all the negative social media from both sides.. so I will just post and share the positive or funny posts and then get off! Because I have experienced first hand just how painful racism is on both sides, it’s easy to trigger these feelings from my past experiences. I know exactly where my boundaries are and it is just that – not engaging in these online debates because it’s so easy to speak from the hurt, instead of trying to reason with people, because not everyone has an open mind. And lastly, it is so important to surround yourself with like-minded people that share your views and concerns and create that positive circle of support in your life so that when you do face trials, you can reach out and know you will be heard and supported in a  positive way. Participant of Women Warriors


Women Warriors Updates

1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: April/May
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is:
Bev Renaud
Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW.
Calgary Neighbourhoods
The City of Calgary | email: Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator.
3) I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. You can view articles here


 

Tala Tootoosis speaking at a ribbon skirt workshop.

 

The Power of Mentorship
Tala Tootoosis is a 35-year-old single mother of three. She comes from the resilient bloodlines of Nakota Sioux, Plains Cree, and Haudenosaunnee. She has been doing motivational speaking for over 12 years on recovery from addictions with holistic healing. She has expanded her skills to teaching about recovery practices and has a new workshop she created on crystal meth addictions.Crystal Meth Epidemic – Case Planning Tools for Youth in Care
Presenter: Tala Tootoosis, BISW, Substance Abuse Prevention Facilitator, Traditional Teachings and Cultural Advocate for Youth – Tala will share information about crystal meth, her experience as a recovering addict and provide case planning tools for adults who work with youth in care
Target audience: Frontline workers, social workers, family workers, addiction counselors, NADAP workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, chief and councils, school coordinators, therapists. If you are interested please email Tala: inspiredndn@mail.com.
She is also a talented designer and creates works of art seen on her Facebook page, Ribbon Skirts.
Interview with Tala The Ribbon Skirt: Symbol of surviving cultural genocide
Facebook video of Tala speaking about her journey from addictions to recovery.

1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
Lindsay Knight

2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I met her at a hip-hop show, she was performing. I heard a woman rap like so solid, she had so much power in her voice. I looked up to her and how she dressed, like she was from Brooklyn and her mind was from the resilient grandmothers of both our bloodlines. I ran into her again when she was part of the FSIN youth justice secretariat, she was our youth leader. I told her I wanted to be like her and learn from her and she was all humbled. She even told me that it was her grandpa and my grandpa who were the ones who helped be the founders of the FSIN (Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations).

3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?

  • Always be humble.
  • Don’t be a sellout.
  • Fight for the cause.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
If you are being a mentee, you have to be willing to learn something new every second, every minute, every day, to never think you know everything. You have to be willing to be wrong sometimes, to be humbled, to be told what you need to do to better yourself. You have to work on your own trauma, your own sobriety, your own healing, you have to always be working on you to be able to help others, being a mentee means you are becoming a mentor.

5. What are the benefits and/or rewards you received from mentoring?
I am still being mentored by her, we are sisters now, I always know she will never judge me, she will never look down on me, she will never criticize me, she will never belittle my words, thoughts or actions, she always supports me and encourages me. This teaches me to be this way towards others and those who I now mentor. I know I can go to her for sound advice as well and that gives me the strength to know I am exactly where I am supposed to be – I feel safe, I feel accepted, and I feel confident in my decisions.

6. What personal development practices do you have?
I do my best to work on my own healing all the time and try new ways of healing, I share these teachings as much as possible and always do my best to try new things to help me help people and share my teachings. I always center myself in my spirituality and self-love, as many mistakes as I have made my Creator has always been there for me as well as the spiritual leaders who support me.

7. What book most impacted your life?
Two books from the same author have helped me: Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love.

Finding Hope: Ceremony, Relationships & Reciprocity

A Story of How We Are All Connected

 

Dr. Lickers & I at the National Association of Friendship Centres Indigenous Innovation Summit in Edmonton, AB, November, 2016. I asked him about the types of ceremonies he practices he said, “smudging, being on the land…when you get too far away from ceremony it’s easy to get lost.”

Yesterday, after Raymond Cormier’s acquittal of second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine I watched as Native Twitter erupted: Heartbreak. Grief. Sorrow. Outrage. Anger. Frustration. Disbelief.

I posted: My heart is broken for the family of Tina Fontaine. What does it take to get justice in this country for #Indigenous peoples? Where do we go from here? I’m at a loss. #JusticeforTinaFontaine

Iñupiat Alaska native artist, Tristan Morgan ‏@tristan_jpg stated:
I’m speechless. I can’t stop crying. We need justice. We need healing. We need to protect our indigenous youth, our indigenous women. The pain of #MMIW runs deep. Sending love and prayers to Tina’s family.

Only two weeks the Gerald Stanley verdict, another traumatic court ruling that devalues the lives of Indigenous youth in Canada. The Indigenous community is in a state of mourning and I’ve read many posts about the side effects of this injustice manifesting in people’s bodies and spirits.

Nahanni Fontaine, Indigenous NDP MLA for St. John’s states:
Why can’t I stop crying? Because #TinaFontaine was not only our daughter or relative stolen, defiled, murdered, bound, weighed down with rocks & tossed into a muddy river, she represents all MMIWG across Canada. And if she, as an exemplar victim, can’t get justice, who can?

Today, I have no comforting words or suggestions for fixing a broken system.

I’ve been feeling violated myself, after an incident with the Lloydminster media, and I’ve been on a social media break for my own mental health. It’s damaging to the mind, body, and spirit to sit and read about the continual heartbreak and injustice for Indigenous peoples in this country.

I’ve decided to share a story of how we are all connected and how we can lift each other up during times of despair, grief, and hardship. Finding hope is fundamental in hard times and through the following story by PhD candidate, Randi Ray and mentor profile of Dr. Michael Lickers, hope exists in ceremony, relationships, and reciprocity.

This story starts in Edmonton at the National Association of Friendship Centres Indigenous Innovation Summit, November of 2016. I met Dr. Lickers at our breakfast table and we have remained in contact ever since.

It continues with my help connecting the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation (AIWF) with Indigenous researchers at the Institute for Aboriginal People’s Health (IAPH), Canadian Institute of Health Research. Dr. Lickers agreed to help me any way he could with the evaluation component of this project. On my first phone meeting between myself, the AIWF, and IAPH there was an Indigenous researcher, Randi Ray. I did not know at the time of the phone call, but she knew Dr. Lickers and asked to be on the phone call. When I relayed it to Dr. Lickers he told me a story of connection. I emailed Randi to ask about meeting Dr. Lickers and she sent me this heartwarming story.

The Gift of Mentorship by Randi Ray

Randi Ray, a member of Flying Post First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, is a PhD student at Nipissing University in education sustainability, focusing on First Nations leadership in education in Northern Ontario.

I will never forget my first encounter November 2015 with Dr. Lickers. I ended up walking into a packed presentation room during the INDSPIRE conference and decided to stand in. In a state of complete ‘awe’ afterward, I thanked the creator and spent the following hour in a corner tweaking my (then) Ph.D. proposal to reflect the curiosity that was instilled in me that day. At lunch break, I saw him getting a coffee – and decided to ask him his age. According to my calculations based on his professional and lived experience, he had to be about 102 and to be honest, I was a little confused. Dr. Lickers invited me to join his colleagues and other academics for lunch. As an aspiring Indigenous academic, I was very humbled.

At the time, I was wearing a turtle pin (the logo of the Institution that I represented). Micheal must have been intrigued by the pin I was wearing and asked for it. Without hesitation, I took it off and gave it to him. Immediately after, he asked for my address, as he was going to gift me something in exchange, reinforcing how much he truly values reciprocal relationships. Two days after, and I returned to Ontario I had a package at my door. Particularly that week, I was having a hard time personally. I opened the beautiful package of sweetgrass, semaa, smoked jarred salmon, a healing rock, and white buffalo sage. With tears of joy in my eyes, I thanked Micheal for the gift and felt the strength to overcome the barriers I was faced with at that time.

From that point on, Micheal, now Dr. Lickers has been a mentor to me throughout the past two years of my PhD journey. Although I have not seen Dr. Lickers since 2015, the relationship that we have built has motivated my academic learning and more importantly, he reminds me how important developing and maintaining reciprocal relationships is. The passion he has for his community and projects radiates through him and I am excited to see what he decides to do next – and will do whatever I can to support him on his journey.

A true role model in every sense of the term but I am grateful more than anything to have him as a friend.

This is a photo of the package Dr. Lickers (read his profile below) sent me years ago… I still have some sweetgrass. I use the pink cloth to cover my smudge bowl still, I used to smudge with my drum group and shared the smoked salmon during a bear-feast celebration in our community. Such an amazing gift.


Women Warriors Session March 2016.

Self-Care: A How-to Guide to Loving Yourself & Setting Boundaries.

It’s important to practice self-love in the midst of negativity. Here are some of the Women Warriors self-care practices.

I use my puzzles as self-care. I get lost in my own world while puzzling.Ashley

If I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed … I take a hot bubble bath…with lots of bubbles, and play my reggaeton music, and pretend I’m somewhere hot and tropical. I also go for a drive around town with my music blasted… I need music in my life!Rita

Self-care practices that I have are taking a break from the outside world, disconnect turn off my cell unplug my home phone. Bathing with Epson salts, carrying around stones eg rose quartz and black obsidian ( cleaning them when I feel am feeling heavy) this help keep me grounded, deep breathing exercises ( breathing in white light breathing out heaviness) cleaning the house, quilting is my all time favourite quiet me time it is a time to be creative and I am able to get into a meditative state. I often hear from loved ones when sewing as I am calm and doing repetitive motions so my mind is relaxed.
Setting boundaries to keep negativity out: As a medium, I have to disconnect after readings and the first thing I do is smudge and pray. I am present in the moment of a reading and have to let it all go once the client has gone. Cutting cords with people who bring me down or are negative. I do however know that boundaries have to be worked on constantly as I am always learning and growing and boundaries can be moved with everyone in my life. I also have learned over the last few years that not all lessons are my life lessons, sometimes I am there to help others or am along for the ride while they are figuring out how to deal or not deal with the lesson. I have also tried to unseat and where the other person is coming from when they are pushing or disrespecting my boundaries and will forgive their actions not for them but for me. My mantra is Live it, Learn from it and Let it go. Lol, there are still things that still drive me nuts but I disconnect from them or the situation and focus on my family, friends and myself.Carly


1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: April/May
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is:
Bev Renaud
Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW.
Calgary Neighbourhoods
The City of Calgary | email: Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator.
3) I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. You can view articles here.


The Power of Mentorship

Dr. Michael Lickers is a Mohawk Educator from the Six Nations of the Grand River. He has lived and worked internationally and across this country with the past 25 years being in Calgary. Dr. Lickers currently works at Suncor Energy as a Senior Advisor of Indigenous Relations and Community Development and works closely with Community Investment and the Suncor Energy Foundation. 

Dr. Lickers teaches Indigenous courses at St, Mary’s University in Calgary, ranging from Indigenous History, Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Knowledge Field Courses. Dr. Lickers has taught courses at the University of Calgary and internationally. With close to 30 years in the nonprofit sector, Dr. Lickers brings a unique world-view of the sector, its challenges, and possibilities. Author of several books and articles on Indigenous leadership,  youth leadership, and International Indigenous youth leadership, Dr. Lickers continues to work closely with Indigenous youth to encourage their full participation, that their voice is forthright in planning, engages in often difficult conversations and strives to inspire the next generation of leaders.

  1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?

Great question! There have been several people that I would consider ‘mentors’ as was shared in the commentary by Helen Knott. The term mentor is equally complex; there are formal and informal mentors. When you think of the ones you thought gave the most, I would say they would have been informal. Non-formal mentors such as my Father and mother for their constant appreciation of culture and the land, my relatives (Uncle Daryl and Auntie Laurie and others) for their continued guidance with life’s questions. Elders that have been guides for me in ceremony and continue to do so, (Wata (Christine) Joseph, Gordon Twance, George Hunt Sr., Catherine Powderface, Rick Hill, Casey Eagle Speaker, Reg Crowshoe, Clifford Powderface and many others.
Formal mentors and leaders such as Rick George former CEO Suncor Energy, Cathy Glover, Director of Community Investment and the Suncor Energy Foundation, Roberta Jamieson CEO and President of Indspire, and many others that have shared their knowledge of leadership, and commitment to Indigenous communities, all shared the best of their knowledge and experiences.

  1. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?

Your family you do not choose, however they are in most cases your best mentors. They have lived a full life and can offer some of the best considerations when dealing with my personal challenges. The leaders were people that I could approach, and ask questions of and through that they became mentors with continued interactions. I mostly asked, outright if they could offer some guidance or direction if they felt comfortable mentoring me.

The Elders are people that you feel comfortable with, not all Elders will resonate with you, not all Elders have the knowledge you seek or answer to the questions, or they may not be suitable for you as a person, not yet. In my current role, I was asked to mentor a Sr. Leader, I believe because I can offer some knowledge that person seeks to understand. I also need to be aware that it involves time and commitment to do so. On the other hand, I too am being mentored, and the relationship has blossomed to a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow and understand other ways of thinking and knowing.

  1. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?

Be, do, seek to understand and encourage. I know, four but it is because I can do that…Be who you are and know that, understand yourself and what you are seeking, it is kind of like a vision quest or rite of passage. Do take the time and learn, listen (which is the most important) and share openly (which is why trust is so important). Seek to understand, that which is the question; if it is about your role, or direction, or future tasks, you need to seek to understand that before you can ask the question. Nothing is done the same way, or doing it the same way and expecting anything to change is the definition of insanity, so seek to understand so you can change. And encourage, it is not easy this life, or the tasks we have, so one of the most important lessons for me was that I felt that I was always encouraged, whether that was trying a different approach or a completely different attitude.

I would say that “active and deep listening” is a skill set that most amazing mentors have. They are not sitting there waiting for you to finish a comment or speaking so that they can tell you what great things they did…that is not mentoring. Being present, listening with your head and heart are very important, and allow the person to share what they want, most likely they will hear themselves speak and then understand what they need to do. They are honest with you about you. Moreover, there must be a certain level of trustestablished prior or in an agreement that you and your mentor agree upon verbally or in writing.

  1. What qualities make a good mentee?

As a mentee, you have done your homework, sought out a possible mentor, one you wish to be like or that has the experience you seek. Mentees want to succeed and are motivated to do so; a good mentee must commit enough time to make mentoring worthwhile. Have a positive attitude to the mentoring/mentee process, and respect the person who you have engaged. You have the willingness to learn new things, and be honest with yourself and your mentor. You can clearly communicate your thoughts and questions. I would add that as a mentee you show confidence in what you are doing and for what reason.

  1. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?

For me personally, it has been an honour to be a mentor. It is personally satisfying and rewarding to see young people who have been part of my life, take on so many wonderful roles in their own lives. To know that you have had a small part in supporting their direction provides abundant satisfaction. To witness young people who are now in leadership roles, government, law, medicine, sciences and many other critical roles; there is no greater reward than helping others grow to reach their dreams.

  1. What personal development practices do you have?

First, ceremony is a big part of my life it is what grounds me personally. I would then say that always looking for a person who would mentor, guide, and challenge me is a personal goal. There are amazing Indigenous leaders out there that have provided opportunities for advancement in their own lives, and now reaching out to younger people to share and be mentors, seek them out as you would seek to understand.

  1. What book most impacted your life?

Ha!! Read for pleasure…has not happened in a while. I have recently completed the grueling task of a Ph.D.; the books I was reading were about leadership, Indigenous leadership, youth leadership, Indigenous youth leadership, developmental stages of youth, and methodologies. I did come across one book that took a specific interest in me…
Murphy, E. (1993). The genius of Sitting Bull: 13 heroic strategies for today’s business leaders. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

 

Proud Metis

My Insights as an Indigenous Adoptee

North Slave Metis Alliance Board Members & President (l to r): Alan Harman, President, Bill Enge, Marc Whitford, and Arnold Enge.

On January 20th, 2018 I attended my first North Slave Métis Alliance (NSMA) annual general assembly. This AGA was important to me because I did not grow up with my Metis culture or with my biological family. I was adopted at birth and I found my birth father, Bill Enge, the President of the NSMA in 2006. When I met him, at the age of 26, I was given the gift of learning what it meant to be Métis. His position as a political leader and champion of Métis rights has given me a thorough education. I am grateful to be connected to my culture and I would like to share my story of reunion with my family and why I’m a proud Métis cultural ambassador.

First, let me share my personal journey of reuniting with my family (also available on the Women Warriors podcast) and my re-education as an Indigenous adoptee learning my culture.

The first act that my biological mother committed on my behalf was to give me up for adoption. She tells me when we have reunited 29 years later that her mother gave her an ultimatum, give me up for adoption or be cut off from all family support. It was 1980 and her family was wealthy, conservative, and White. Her mother disapproved of my Métis father and racism separated us.

Here begins my lifelong journey back to my ancestral homeland and culture.

I grew up in the agricultural community of Castor, Alberta, a population of one thousand, consisting of members of predominately European descent. My parents were of French and German descent, and we were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. I used to sneak into my parent’s filing cabinet and look at my adoption papers – Metis descent. What did that mean? I had no idea what a Metis was, and there was no cultural activities or education in my small community.

The questions surrounding my identity peaked after working and traveling around the world on board a cruise ship for a year and realizing the importance of knowing where you are from – your roots and heritage.

I stepped off the plane in Yellowknife to meet my birth father, and my family, the Enge’s and experienced an immediate sense of belonging. I had read about the concept of blood memory – a term used in Indigenous culture referring to memory stored in the cells and passed on genetically. I felt connected to my biological family, and I was grateful for the opportunity to meet all of them including my grandmother, Anne, a respected Métis Elder, and leader. She was a true Matriarch and a strong Indigenous woman that had overcome great odds in her lifetime to make meaningful contributions to Yellowknife.

For the past eleven years, Bill has been an important part of my life. He has taught me about our family history including our ancestral ties to Francois Beaulieu (II), “Le Patriarche” – a legend in Northern Métis history, and our rightful claim, as Powley-tested North Slave Métis, to our ancestral homelands, the region north and east of Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories.

Since I’ve known him, Bill has always been locked in litigation with the Crown. We have celebrated several legal victories together, including the 2013 Bathurst Caribou lawsuit, and most recently the Federal Court of Canada decision that the North Slave Métis Alliance (NSMA) was not adequately consulted by Canada respecting the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Land and Resources Agreement-in-Principle signed July 31, 2015 (NWTMN AiP).

When I met my distant cousin, Julie Lys this past summer she talked about the importance of knowing family genealogy. I understand this knowledge on a deep level. To me, it’s more than a piece of paper with a map of your family tree. It’s the stories that come with that lineage and the strength that is born out of knowing who you are. I will never take my family history for granted, because for most of my life – 26 years, I didn’t have it. I am proud Métis because I know the battle stories of my ancestors and family members, and I honor their struggle with a great sense of pride, and enthusiasm in sharing my culture.


My cousin, Julie, myself and my daughter, Kayla at the National Aboriginal Day celebrations in Yellowknife, 2017.

 

Legal counsel for the North Slave Metis Alliance, Chris Devlin & Kate Gower of @DGW_Law explaining to members at our AGA the legal intricacies of our court win against the Gov’t of Canada. #courtvictory #Metis #legalhistory #lawsuit #NWT.

 

The North Slave Metis Alliance AGA included a presentation by our legal team, Chris Devlin & Kate Gower @DGW_Law on our legal victories against the GNWT & Govt of Canada starting in 2013 to current win Oct. 2017. President, Bill Enge discussed asserting our rights based on our #Metis ancestry – all of our members are Powley tested Metis.

 

My beautiful, new moccasins purchased at the Gallery of the Midnight Sun, Old Town, YK. Our kittens went crazy when they smelled them! #NWT #YK #supportindigenousartists

 

Our Metis cat. My girls named him Josh, but his Metis name is Francois! The painting is by NWT artist, James Wedzin.

 

How I Know My Cat is Metis

Every morning, around 6 am this cat comes into my room, and he lets out the loudest, most demanding MEOW for his food. He doesn’t quit until that bowl is in front of him. He’s a vocal advocate for his rights, exactly as the Metis have been to get their rights recognized as one of the three Aboriginal groups in S.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This cat has the makeup of a Metis – he won’t shut up until he’s recognized, he’s in it for the long haul and he makes sure he gets his fair share. Then he naps.

Women Warriors Updates

Several exciting announcements:
1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: March 14, 21 April 4, 11, 18, 25 May 2
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training a facilitator of this program in late February.

The contact person for this pilot is:
Bev Renaud
Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW.
Calgary Neighbourhoods
The City of Calgary | email: Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca 

* If you are interested in running a Women Warriors program in your community please contact me for details.

2) I have been invited by the editor of the Yellowknifer, James O’Connor to be a bi-weekly contributor. I will be sharing all my Metis insights and experience as the facilitator of Women Warriors with the residents of the Northwest Territories. You can access my op-ed pieces on the website Northern News Service Online. You can subscribe online or view articles on their Facebook page.

3) Women Warriors was featured in the Globe & Mail’s weekly newsletter, Amplify.

4) The Women Warriors podcast is now featured on Nuxalk Radio 91.1 FM, broadcasted from Bella Coola, BC.
* Nuxalk Radio aims to be a part of building a grassroots Indigenous radio network with the focus on maintaining our languages, healing and empowering our Nations.
* A recent review on iTunes from PepperK2 states, “This podcast is incredibly empowering. I listen to them with my daughter and she loves them too. Please make more!”
* Please do me a favor and leave a review on iTunes if you have received any benefit or enjoyment from my podcast.

5) I’m excited to announce that the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, which I featured in my newsletter, Reconciliation in Health Research: Spirituality and Science were awarded the $1 million dollars Arctic Inspiration Prize. NWT winners of $1 million prize promise ‘a brighter future’. I wrote an article for the Yellowknifer about it that will be published next Wednesday. We are in the midst of planning an Elder and researcher gathering in Yellowknife this coming summer/fall.

6) My last newsletter, Being an Informed Indigenous Ally – Insights and Resources for Non-Indigenous Community Members is being published this coming Monday in Yellowknife’s other paper, News North.

7) The funding fate of the Onion Lake Cree Nation program will be decided next Wednesday, February 7th. I will let you know the outcome as soon as I know.


I am still accepting the Power of Mentorship profiles. Due to the fact that this newsletter is lengthy with many updates, I will be sending out a separate mentorship newsletter this coming week. I’m excited to share with you the profiles of Tala Tootoosis and Marcel Petit. Please email me if you’re interested in contributing. Shelley@womenwarriors.club.

Reconciliation in Health & Healing in the North

The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation wins the $1 Million Dollar Arctic Inspiration Prize

Members of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation going home with their cheque from left: Jean Erasmus, Nicole Redvers, William Greenland, Donald Prince, Magnolia Unka-Wool, (MP) Michael MacLeod. Front from left: Rassi Nashalik, Be’sha Blondin

This article was published in the Yellowknifer newspaper on Wednesday, February 7th. It was based on the original Women Warriors newsletter, Reconciliation in Health Research: Spirituality & Science published December 14, 2017. 

When I met Dr. Nicole Redvers, the chair of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundationand Elder Be’sha Blondin at the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife this past November they had no administrative help and no access to federal funding for their program, The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Project.

What they lacked in funding they made up in passion and commitment to making operational, their urban land-based healing program, targeting at-risk First Nations, Metis, and Inuit in Yellowknife. Their goal was to keep it simple – grassroots – canvas tents set up for Elders, staffed half days during the week, to share their traditional knowledge, provide mentorship and traditional counseling, share their traditional language, do traditional food preparation, and facilitate cultural gatherings.

From the start, they were concerned about funding. Their current grant would run out in June 2018 and they could not rely on the Government or Western institutions for money because of skepticism of Indigenous based healing programs. Evaluations to prove the validity of health practices often rely on hard, biomedical outcomes, which are not compatible with the spiritual nature of Indigenous healing.

Elder Be’sha states, “The cultural way is very different than the modern system – the way they look at people. The modern system doesn’t have a spirit, but the traditional way has a spirit. We make sure when a person comes in for healing that it’s up to me to diagnose them for healing. Before I can heal that person I need to know their story because what that story tells me is what created them to be where they’re at. I look at it as a spiritual person and healer; I make sure they have a way of healing themselves first.”

Also, the policy framework of health institutions and research often has the assumptions of Indigenous inferiority – how can speaking your language or making a drum possibly heal trauma and disease?

Nicole states, “The primary point is demonstrating that when people go back to culture, not necessarily just going out on the land, because there are lots of on-the-land programs that do cultural work, but they don’t do healing – let’s bring in this healing aspect as an effective tool and revitalization process where young and old reconnect with the healing traditions of their culture. It is addressing some of the traumatic issues people have had in their lives, and finding ways to get people excited about coming to work on the issues they have in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable.”

Nicole highlighted during our meeting that western medicine was not helping Indigenous people heal from the legacy of residential school. She states, “What we’re doing right now is not working. And what we’re doing is trying to indigenize western models of care, which is not the same as Indigenous healing. We need to ensure that the structure is what we need and to fit western medical protocols into that as opposed to the other way around.”

The outcome from our meeting was the collective agreement that this coming summer Dr. Redvers, the Elders and knowledge holders from the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation (AIWF), and allied scholars would meet in Yellowknife to create new methodologies and frameworks for capturing outcomes from on-the-land cultural activities and traditional healing practices. We recognize the need for change in how we deal with traditional medicine projects, and the creation of funding policies that align with the sacred work of traditional healers, while not sacrificing the sacredness of the practice.

The $1 million dollars Arctic Inspiration Prize has given the AIWF the opportunity to conduct long-term research and create new, culturally appropriate methodologies and frameworks. This program, which likely would not have been funded by Western institutions, has become the ultimate act of reconciliation in Indigenous health.

It has also given the Elders the opportunity to pass on their traditional knowledge, which was at risk of being lost due to the lack of spaces to practice traditional healing, and because our elders are passing away.

This prize, and the further committed $60 million dollars on behalf of the founders of AIP, Ms. Sima Sharifi, and Mr. Arnold Witzig, has given the Metis, Inuit and First Nations of the North the ability to heal on our own terms. It is a gift of health, and an important step in recognizing that Indigenous ways of knowing, and healing are as valid as Western methods.


The sixth annual Arctic Inspiration Prize Awards Ceremony was held in Ottawa, Ontario, January 31, 2018.

 

Jean Erasmus states on her facebook profile, “Having a nearly million dollar cheque in my hand was awesome!”

 

Please listen to my interview with Jean on the Women Warriors Podcast
Season 2, Episode 2: Jean Cardinal (Erasmus) on Vulnerability as Medicine & Supporting Men on Their Healing Journeys

Jean is the co-founder of Dene Wellness Warriors, an Indigenous focused wellness business based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories that offers one-to-one counseling, wellness coaching, and workshop facilitation. She is a member of the Canadian Professional Counselors Association, and she is the only Indigenous therapist recognized by Health Canada to work with Residential School Survivors and their families. Dene Wellness Warriors has recently been contracted to facilitate a New Day Program, a program for men who have used violence in their relationships but want to change this behavior to better their relationships with themselves, their partners, their children and their communities.

Marcel Petit is a proud Metis. He is a well-known Saskatchewan filmmaker and photographer. He has worked with several community action groups in the Saskatoon area, such as STOPS to Violence, STR8-UP, Core Neighbourhood Youth Coop, Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre, Saskatoon Indian Metis Friendship Centre and Saskatoon Open Door Society.

 

Oct 2016. Marcel was a presenter at our violence awareness and prevention conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior. He discussed the importance of art in healing and his photovoice workshop with Women Warriors.

 

With the theme of this weeks newsletter being reconciliation and Indigenous healing, I’d like to discuss supporting our men on their healing journeys. When I hosted our violence awareness and prevention conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior in October 2016, the feedback that I received from the 90 attendees, composed of mainly Indigenous women, is they want more healing resources and conferences for their men.

This request to heal our men is echoed in many articles I read on CBC North including:
1) Abused as a child, became abusive husband: Man testifies at MMIWG Yellowknife, then supports others
‘We are healing. But without you we are nothing. Women give life,’ says James Jenka.

2) MMIWG hearings shed light on lack of mental health services in Canada’s north
Families testified about struggles with poverty, addiction, abuse, and violence.

Excerpt from the article:
Advocate Lydia Bardack, that has worked in the justice field for many years in Yellowknife states, “I know we want to focus on the women, but the women are asking for help for their men.”
She says sheltering a woman from an abusive relationship is a start, but there has to be a focus on preventing the trauma in the first place.
She frequently speaks with men in custody who have witnessed and suffered abuse as children and later became violent as adults, which is why she says programs need to focus on helping them.
“Because if we want to keep the women and children safe, we have to heal the men.”

3) In this Globe and Mail article, Fred Sasakamoose: Survivor, trailblazer, leader, hero, Fred speaks about the devastating effects of residential school on his emotional well-being. He states, “It was hard to continue because my life was always away from my parents. I never received a hug or a kiss for 10 years.”

My friend and artist, Marcel Petit openly shares his healing journey with people. I met Marcel in 2016 in his role as a SaskCulture Community Engagement Animator. I invited him to Lloydminster to do a Photovoice workshop with members of Women Warriors so they could present their viewpoints on health and safety at our conference, Rise Up Mighty Warrior. You can view these photo voice presentation on the Women Warriors Youtube channel: Ashley and Chris.

Marcel shared with me that his mother was a residential school survivor and placed him in foster care at a young age. During our interview last Sunday he talked about his unstable childhood. He stated, “Everyone kept leaving me. In your spirit you become disposable. That’s how I felt and I didn’t realize how much I hated myself and my mom. I didn’t want to be my family. I wanted them out of my life. I spent twenty years of my life trying to die.”

The trauma from his childhood manifested in alcoholism, anger, and self-hatred. The turning point came at the age of 31 years old, when he was stabbed 19 times in Wekwheti, NWT and knowing if he didn’t quit drinking and hiding from his past, he was signing his own suicide.

His greatest mentor and healing ally became his mom. He stated, “She was the cause and effect of everything that was awful about me in the first place. My mom taught me that everything we need is inside of us. We just need to wake-up.”

Marcel’s healing involved participating in Sundance, sweats, weekly counseling sessions, and forgiveness. He said about his mom, “I had to learn to forgive her. I learned about her experience in residential school and all the things that happened to her including sexual abuse. She didn’t leave because she hated me. She let me go because she needed to. I had to learn how to forgive, and how to forgive myself.”

Marcel now mentors youth and talks about how every single relationship brings him healing because “most of these kids we work with are a reflection of ourselves.”

He discussed a specific youth that triggered him after disclosing that his mom had been murdered and found by a garbage dump. He stated, “I just wanted him to cry. I hate the fact that kids have to be so strong. It killed me to know this kid can’t be a kid, and I know what that feels like. I told him ‘just cry’ and don’t hold that stuff in.”

He believes that “Indigenous peoples are born with resilience. It is in us. It’s a prerequisite because of the hell we’ve been through in this country.”

His advice for healing from trauma, “First step, talk about it. Don’t hold it in. Don’t make it about you. Don’t hate your parents for what they are. Talk and deal with it. You’ll never fully be you until you figure out who you are. Go stand where your Great-grandparents have. Those ancestors overcame great odds to make sure we knew our culture. And don’t pretend to be perfect. We’re going to make mistakes when we’re changing patterns.”

The Power of Mentorship with Marcel Petit 
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
The most important person in my life was my mother without her guidance and love I wouldn’t have found my way out of the dark2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I was lucky she was always there, I just needed to open my eyes and ears3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
Confidence is inside you
Forgiveness
What do you want from life

4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Share Knowledge
Guidance without judgment
Conversation
Commitment
Honesty
Generosity
Just be there

5. What have benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
‘I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve worked with over the past 20+ years. It has been such an amazing journey. The rewards has been just the honoured to work with and alongside some amazing people along their journey

6. What personal development practices do you have?
Meditation
Breathing
Reading
Art (film, Photo)
Camping

7. What book most impacted your life?
The One and Half Men (the story of Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris) and any book on Poetry.


I am now a proud bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on the North please subscribe to their newspapers here. My content for the newspaper will be original so you won’t want to miss out. Also, make sure to subscribe to the Women Warriors newsletter here.

Being an Informed Indigenous Ally

Insights & Resources for Non-Indigenous Community Members.

Women Warriors at the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Walk hosted by Lakeland College, October 2017.

When I first moved to Lloydminster in 2009, I came from Edmonton where I attended the University of Alberta during the school year and lived in Yellowknife during the summer months. My family is from Yellowknife and I visit them on a regular basis. The most difficult adjustment I had when I first moved here, and continue to have, as an Indigenous adoptee with both settler adoptive parents and an Indigenous birth father, is the lack of spaces in this community for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to intermingle and spend time learning from each other.

It was out of my need to have the same type of space that Yellowknife offers – a safe space for all cultures and peoples to interact – that I created Women Warriors. It is an Indigenous focused program, but I encouraged all women from this community to join. I loved having a diverse group of ladies, including non-Indigenous and Indigenous, coming together to honor our mind, body, and spirit well-being and share our universal stories of womanhood.

During my two years as facilitator of Women Warriors I watched beautiful friendships blossom between non-Indigenous and Indigenous women. We supported each other in the group, had the privilege of learning more about the Cree culture, since most participants were from Onion Lake Cree Nation, and we attended events together like the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Walk held at Lakeland College this past October. In the picture featured above there are two non-Indigenous allies in the group, Helen and Brenda that were great supporters of the program.

This past Monday I returned from Yellowknife, where I attended the North Slave Metis Alliance’s Annual General Assembly, to some controversy over the Indigenous student lounge that opened at Lakeland College this month. It pained me to read comments on social media, and in the comment sections of online media, questioning why Indigenous students should have “special treatment” with their own space – even going as far to label it a backwards step in the process of reconciliation.

Every time I return from Yellowknife, where my family is politically active, and proud Metis, I am reminded of the stark contrast between Yellowknife and Lloydminster in the understanding of Indigenous peoples history and the relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples. I return from Yellowknife knowing what true reconciliation can look like in Canadian society, and I’m reminded why I must fight for the rights of Indigenous peoples and take a stand against ignorance, prejudice, and racism.

I would like to share with you the conclusion of my Sociology 288 essay titled, Reconciliation as a Social Movement.

Conclusion: It’s Not Out There. It’s Us. 
In conclusion, Canada’s colonial history and use of residential schools to commit cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples can no longer be denied. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada used the testimony of residential school survivors to create ninety-four Calls to Action that are the basis of the reconciliation social movement. The point of contention in the reconciliation social movement lies in the incongruent definitions of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. The first step in implementing reconciliation is to acknowledge that racism still exists within our institutions and is an ideology that continues to serve the purpose of keeping Indigenous peoples oppressed. If the success of this social movement is the implementation of every Call to Action, then Canada is currently failing; however, I argue that reconciliation is a multi-generational movement that is difficult to evaluate. The World Wide Web plays an important role in building relationships and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Social media including individual personal accounts via blogs allows for niche perspectives on reconciliation. Also, the web offers Indigenous peoples the ability to counter mainstream media messages about them and help non-Indigenous Canadians understand reconciliation and their role implementing it.
The TRC Summary Report (2015) states, “Reconciliation begins with each and every one of us” (p. 238) and I was encouraged by this report and sentiment to enact reconciliation in my daily life. Social media and the World Wide Web allow me, a Metis mother, a minority in this social movement, to share my stories of reconciliation via my website, newsletter and my podcast (womenwarriors.club). I feel a responsibility to engage in this social movement, to create a dialogue with all Canadians, and help my daughters and future generations understand why it is important that we build respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. While I know that this social movement will take many generations to realize the impacts of residential schools on Indigenous peoples and the ways that colonialism continues to benefit all Canadians, I am hopeful that each small act committed by reconciliation change makers will have an impact.

I know that Lloydminster has many allies in the reconciliation movement and I’m hopeful that they will continue to learn about the history of colonization and how they can be an informed Indigenous ally in this community. I honor those people that I see countering racist ideology and white privilege, because I know it’s not easy to take a stand against our neighbors, families and friends. However, it is our individual responsibility to create the type of future we want for our children – one that is free from intolerance and ignorance.

As someone that created a safe space for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to meet and share their cultures, and learn from one another, I know the value of these types of spaces. I believe that Lakeland College took a brave step towards reconciliation in this community, and I will continue to write about and support reconciliation in any way that I can. With that in mind, Lloydminster now has a reconciliation group called, “The Heart of Treaty 6 (formally known as Reconciliation Fort Pitt). It is a group of individuals, community-based organizations, governments and businesses from Onion Lake Cree Nation, Lloydminster, Frog Lake First Nation and Poundmaker Cree Nation.
They have been discussing the strengths of the group and how to take action on reconciliation, and what it can look like in north-west Saskatchewan” (Lloydminster Source, Improving the history of our future). If you’re interested in learning more on how to be an informed ally, please contact this group and learn about the events they are hosting in Lloydminster.

Resources for being an informed Indigenous ally:


Updates on Women Warriors 

I’m excited to share that Women Warriors was featured in the Globe and Mail’s weekly newsletter, Amplify. You must subscribe in order to view the article. Subscribe here.Here’s an excerpt from the article…

“Shelley Wiart remembers watching her dad suffer with Type 2 diabetes in 2015, and thinking how susceptible she’d be if she didn’t make changes. Having struggled with her own weight issues – at 21 she was 220 pounds – the 37-year-old Métis woman and mother of three living in Lloydminster, Alta., decided she needed to learn how to eat and exercise properly.”

Women Warriors Pilot Program in Calgary –  The City of Calgary will be piloting a Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Program. I will be training a facilitator and Dr. Wicklum has agreed to help with their pilot.
The contact person for this program is:
Bev Renaud
Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW.
Calgary Neighbourhoods
The City of Calgary | email: Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca


Rick Harp is the host of Media Indigena, my favorite Indigenous podcast.

The Power of Mentorship

With the theme of this week’s newsletter being an informed Indigenous ally, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite Indigenous podcast, Media Indigena. It’s important that Indigenous voices have their own media sources to discuss the current event relevant to them, from an Indigenous perspective. Each week, host Rick Harp has a roundtable discussion on hot topics affecting Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. I make a monthly donation of $5 to this podcast because I believe this podcast is an important tool to build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. If there is only one thing that you can commit time to, to learn how to be an Indigenous ally, make it this weekly podcast. Also, if you receive any form of education from it, be sure to make a donation in the form of a monthly Patron sponsorship or a one-time donation.

Read everything and anything I can. Plus, if you’re wanting to learn something new, chances are good that someone’s posted how-to videos on YouTube that would be helpful. And, of course, I try to connect and network with people in the same boat—aka peers who don’t see my success and their success as mutually exclusive.

1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?

As someone who grew up in the city, my access to Indigenous mentors was not what I would have liked, so I had to take what I could get, wherever I could get it. I also feel mentorship can come in many forms: sometimes books can be a trusted source of advice to guide and inform your actions. Among my more memorable in-person Indigenous mentors was my boss at my first big broadcasting job at an all-Aboriginal media outlet. We were all part of a start-up enterprise, built from scratch and in a hurry. He had a vision for the operation that ensured we knew not only what we were doing but why we were doing it. His constructive feedback on our approach challenged us to tell stories that mattered in the clearest way possible. He also let us try new things: some of which worked, some of which didn’t.

2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?

In this case, it was built into the job: he was the most senior editorial person at the station. That said, I don’t know if everyone always took the opportunity to seek or utilize his counsel to the fullest.

3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?

These will be media-centric, but they likely apply to other spheres. One, think deeply about what story you’re trying to tell before you set out to document it with real people in the real world. We were taught to focus it down to its barest core: ‘somebody doing something for a reason,’ i.e. who-what-why. It’s deceptively simple but when you establish the ‘why,’ it anchors the purpose of your work.

Two, when in a leadership position, take risks on your people (as I feel my boss did by hiring me, a relative newbie to the role of hosting a television program) and in turn let them take risks in their work. Obviously, some risks are more potentially consequential than others but there’s no reason experimentation shouldn’t be encouraged and explored: so often, ‘mistakes’ breed and precede something better. There’s a saying I like: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Again, there’s a lot of ‘failure’ on the road to success.

Three, take time out to celebrate your team’s successes. Sometimes, we look ahead so much we neglect to look back at how far we’ve come.

4. What qualities make a good mentee?

I’d say take the approach that no experience is wasted; many times, skills acquired in one job can transfer over to other areas. Ask questions: some mentors don’t necessarily know all that they know, if you catch my drift. Demonstrating curiosity can help you stand out.

5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
By helping and supporting someone the way someone had enabled you to get where you are, you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. I’d say that’s the chief reward of any mentor-like role I’ve ever played.

6. What personal development practices do you have?

Read everything and anything I can. Plus, if you’re wanting to learn something new, chances are good that someone’s posted how-to videos on YouTube that would be helpful. And, of course, I try to connect and network with people in the same boat—aka peers who don’t see my success and their success as mutually exclusive.

7. What book most impacted your life?

This is a hard question to answer for me, because different books have greatly impacted me at different stages in life. If I had to pick one, though, I’d say The Autobiography of Malcolm X.