Category: newsletters

Back to School a Tough Lesson in Spending

Back-to-school shopping with my three daughters.

The lazy days of summer are coming to end. I’ve had a wonderful summer full of adventures with my three daughters – we spent a month in Yellowknife – and we have returned to our home in Lloydminster, Alberta. Our school start date was September 4th and this year I’ve prepared for a child in kindergarten, Grade 2, and Grade 4.

Over the years I’ve developed a four-stage plan of attack scheduled over the last two weeks of August. It can be overwhelming for my wallet and my nerves to do everything the week beforehand. I am sharing my back-to-school strategy and the associated costs so that I can create awareness of the emotional and financial investment that back-to-school requires on behalf of parents.

Above all, I recognize that I am in a privileged position with the benefit of support systems. I can afford to purchase new school supplies, clothes, and extracurricular activities for my daughters. I’m disclosing my costs with the aim of evoking change within our social and education systems by addressing the first barrier for parents when it comes to education, back-to-school expenses.

Stage 1: Register children for September programs. 
The registration fee for my three daughters in Girl Guides, Brownies, and Sparks was $364. The registration fee for fall/winter weekly half-hour piano instruction was $560. My oldest two daughters musical theater program was $950. Fall swimming lessons for the youngest two was $84. A grand total of September programs with payment required upfront $1, 958.

Stage 2: Purchase clothes and shoes.
I released my three excited fashionistas’ on the Children’s Place clothing store. I allowed them to each pick two pairs of pants and two shirts each for a total of $154. Their shoes purchased at Sketchers were a total of $180. A grand total of clothes and shoes $334.

Stage 3: Purchase school supplies and pay school fees.
Most schools now send out the option of purchasing school supplies through them with an online payment method. My friend with four children has done this option multiple times and has been disappointed with the quality of the school supplies. I decided to do the old-fashioned let them pick their own supplies. After an hour of shopping, and questioning my sanity we spent a total of $250. In addition, I owe $115 for school fees including project/activities and agendas. A grand total of school supplies and fees $365.

Stage 4: Haircuts and colors.  
Fortunately, I am a licensed hairstylist so I cut and color my daughters’ hair at cost. The trend for kids right now is rainbow hair that usually requires two different sets of foils: one to lighten the hair, and one to apply the vibrant colors such as purple, pink, and blue. Haircuts for children usually range from $15-$30. Multiple sets of foils with three colors range from $60-$150. If I were to bring my three girls to a salon for a haircut and rainbow color I would be charged approximately $300.

Drumroll for the total cost of back-to-school for my three daughters…….$2, 957.

I have not charged for my emotional labor including organizing their schedules or going to the store to watch them model cat t-shirts. Furthermore, I have more spare time than most parents to enact this back-to-school strategy because I do not work a full-time job (other than the tremendous effort it requires to parent my children).

Like the majority of parents, my wallet and stress levels have an inverse relationship. The financial stress of education begins in August before the school year has begun.

There are members of our Women Warriors group fundraising to purchase supplies and clothes for their children. I have compassion for their struggle – single income households with three to five children – that do not have the extra cash for these expenses.

I found a solution to this financial burden, and a motivator for consistent school attendance in the novel, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place by Bjorn Lomborg. The author explains how programs – known as conditional cash transfers – pay parents for their child’s school attendance.

The logistics of payments could be worked out to be a monthly payment or my suggestion of a lump sum payment in August that allows parents to set their children up for a successful school year.

The intergenerational cycle of poverty is broken, Lumborg states, “because the programs increase the intensity of child investment in school as well as child time in school.”

“In addition to positive schooling outcomes, these transfers have lowered the poverty rate, improved the nutritional status of poor households, and have increased the proportion of children receiving vaccinations and other health services.”

For the naysayers yelling, “Socialist idealist!” at me, I yell back, “Pay now or pay later!”

Pay now for children to get their education or pay later when they become a burden on the social systems because they are uneducated. An uneducated adult will cost the social system a great deal more than my $3000 back to school investment.

Watch Bjorn Lomborg’s TED talk: Global priorities bigger than climate change

In relation to families struggling to supply basic back-to-school supplies:
Pay phone bill or buy school supplies? Low-income families struggle as kids go back to school.
Edmonton families struggling to afford school supplies on the rise

Please register for the Women Warriors Onion Lake Cree Nation program with Alicia 306.344.2330. Free to participate.


September 10, 2018. I had an awesome workout at Determined Bootcamp with the owner and instructor for Women Warriors, Rita! She will be instructing at our Onion Lake Cree Nation program this fall.


Sunrise over the Great Slave Lake from my balcony. July 2018.


Our floatplane ride (article below). Air Tindi Pilot Mike Adams, and my three daughters, Harper, Kayla, and Aubrey. August 3, 2018.


View from the float plane of downtown Yellowknife and Great Slave Lake. August 3, 2018.


Houseboats on Yellowknife Bay, Great Slave Lake. August 3, 2018.


The Healing Properties of Great Slave Lake

This past summer I went back to Yellowknife to heal from a broken heart. A family members addiction had me deeply troubled, and I needed a break. A break from giving to others because my cup was empty. Between my family member’s addiction, finishing my university studies, parenting three young children, writing my newsletter and Yellowknifer news column and making arrangements for the expansion to Onion Lake, I was done. If you would have stuck a fork in me I would have deflated like the turkey in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
I decided to take the summer off to spend with my girls and my family. It was the best form of medicine. I did not schedule a single thing for myself to do, except following the advice of Maria OneSpot’s WW profile, “To wake up with the sun because it is who we are as a spiritual people to rise with the sun.”

And I wrote. Every morning I sat on the balcony of our condo, overlooking the Great Slave Lake, and I filled three 250 page Hilroy notebooks with all my grief, sadness, hopes, dreams, and future plans. Somewhere between the last week of June and the first week of August I recovered.

I believe that the Great Slave Lake assisted in my healing. Even though I was not physically on the water, the view calmed me and gave me strength.

I share my experience with the healing properties of water because I want to honor all the Indigenous women that sacrifice for our waters. Indigenous women are water protectors. For those Indigenous women that have taken on the role to educate on the spiritual properties of water and to teach people to respect and honor water, I thank you.

This past week, a friend and former member of Women Warriors told me that community members from Onion Lake Cree Nation were doing a water ceremony at the bridge. I told her next time I would like to join. She replied, “The more people we get to pray for the water the stronger our prayers will be. The land and water are for everyone – we have to keep the waters clean.”

In the meantime, please check out the amazing work of Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe teen and water protector nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

The following is my Yellowknifer article published August 8th, 2018. It provides both non-Indigenous and Indigenous understanding on the healing properties of water. If you want a more in-depth understanding of Indigenous women’s roles as water protectors please read this article, Water Song: Indigenous Women and Water

For the past month in Yellowknife, I rose early in the morning, sat on the balcony of my condo in Northern Heights and inhaled the fresh air and spectacular view of the Great Slave Lake. I felt at peace watching the pink glow of sunrise, and the calm waters.

This past week I read a Global news article, “Science confirms that living near a large body of water makes us calmer and healthier.” Curious as to how bodies of water increase our well being, I set off an extensive Google search.

The term, blue space is used to describes places that have visible water such as lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. Yellowknife is surrounded by blue space including the Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife River, and the many small-scattered lakes visible from the air.

The research pertaining to blue space, explained by marine biologist, Wallace J. Nichols in his bestselling book, Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do, states that water promotes mental health and happiness.

He continues: “Water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of well-being and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate, and safe, better workouts. Aquatic therapists are increasingly looking to the water to help treat and manage PTSD, addiction, anxiety disorders, autism and more.”

I’ve also learned being near water boosts creativity, can enhance the quality of conversations and provides a backdrop to important parts of living — like play, romance and grieving.

“All of this depends on these waters being safe, clean and healthy, of course,” states Nichols.

First Nations have known the spiritual and health benefits of water for millennia. The Assembly of First Nations website honors the traditional teachings of water and declares it as the giver of all life. (Disclaimer: I do not have the authority to share cultural teachings of water. Please consult your local Elder to learn about the traditional teachings in your area).

“Water is the most life-sustaining gift on Mother Earth and is the interconnection among all living beings,’ it reads.

“Water sustains us, flows between us, within us, and replenishes us.  Water is the blood of Mother Earth and, as such, cleanses not only herself but all living things.  Water comes in many forms and all are needed for the health of Mother Earth and for our health. Water gives us the spiritual teaching that we too flow into the Great Ocean at the end of our life journey. Water is the home of many living things that contribute to the health and well-being of everything not in the water.”

As part of Old Town’s Ramble and Ride on August 3rd-5th, I booked a floatplane scenic tour with Air Tindi. The special deal, $80 per adult and $60 per child, was the perfect ending to our vacation. It was awe-inspiring to view Yellowknife and surrounding area from an aerial perspective. The most surprising aspect was the vastness of the Great Slave Lake – it stretched as far as the eye could see.

An interesting fact on the Spectacular NWT website is that the lake is roughly the same size as the country of Belgium. Also, that it is North America’s deepest lake and could easily drown the CN Tower.

Viewing it from the air made me realize how integral the Great Slave Lake was to daily life, including the activities of boating, fishing, paddle boarding, and float planes and how everyone is reaping the benefits of living near it. The Great Slave Lake allows for a unique feature of Yellowknife – people living on houseboats on Yellowknife Bay. The five communities that live on its shores – Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Resolution, Lutselk’e, and Behchoko – are all blessed to be near its healing powers.

Tobacco & Cannabis Workshop

Dr. Peter Selby, Clinical Scientist, Addictions Division & Director, Medical Education, CAMH & Rosa Dragonetti, Teach Manager & Manager for Nictotine Dependency Service, CAMH.

This past semester I undertook my own research project as part of my research methodologies course through the University of Athabasca. My exploratory study gathered preliminary information on smoking and cannabis behaviors, attitudes about upcoming legalization, opinions on community-driven tobacco interventions, and characteristics of the population, composed of participants from Women Warriors.

As part of my research, I interviewed my friend, Gift Madojemu, MPH, Health Promotions Specialist, Tobacco Project Coordinator, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre. After our phone interview in April, she invited me to attend a tobacco and cannabis workshop the health center was hosting on June 18th.

The workshop was hosted by two medical experts on addictions: clinical scientist, Dr. Peter Selby, Addictions Division & Director, Medical Education, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) & Rosa Dragonetti, Teach Manager & Manager for Nicotine Dependency Service with the center.

Dr. Selby started the workshop with the interesting fact that, “100% of addictive substance are 99.9% organic products synthesized. Drugs of abuse are all white looking.” He also referred to the pure white crystal, sugar and how the highs of “sugar brain” are parallel to the effects of cocaine on the brain. (Please watch Fed Up Documentary with Katie Couric for more info on sugar, addiction, and obesity.)

He shared the difference between traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco, “traditional tobacco is highly acidic and cannot go into the lungs when inhaled, whilst nicotine must be alkaline to get into the body, which is done by adding ammonia to commercial tobacco.”
The most important information I took away on commercial tobacco abuse is the effects of exposure to tobacco in pregnancy.

Dr. Selby stated, “Seven thousand chemicals get concentrated on the fetus and result in babies being born smaller due to lack of oxygen and nutrient supply. In terms of mental effects, there are earlier behavior problems in children. For male children, there is a direct correlation between cigarette smoke exposure and antisocial behavior. For the female fetus, they are born with fewer eggs, which may lead to fertility issues later in life, and they reach menopause earlier, by at least one year, which also affects their heart health.”

Dr. Selby stated, “Each day 100 people die from smoking-related illnesses. First Nations experience twice the rates due to their socioeconomic and educational disadvantage.” He highlights that for Indigenous peoples in the North these statistics did not exist pre-colonization because “tobacco is a completely imported illness and disease.”

Also, he stated we must assess how to conduct tobacco interventions and cessation with Indigenous peoples. “Taking away a substance that people use for self-soothing – will they replace it with something more harmful?”

The majority of attendees at this conference, approximately 90 of us, were there to learn about cannabis and its impact in our communities. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced implementation for the cannabis legalization law is October 17.

Two Indigenous attendees at this event shared their personal experience with unhealthy marijuana use during their 20’s, which robbed them of their ambition and culminated in lost years of their life. They did, however, seek help returned to school and became leaders in their community. They both shared their worry over the vulnerability of young people in their community

Dr. Selby stated, “The capture rate of cannabis addiction is very low, about 8-10% of the population develops an addiction to cannabis. Adolescents are at the highest risk of addiction – their brains are vulnerable, which is why it’s important to push use as far out as possible. It is the daily exposure that is the most important factor for addiction. We can prevent kids from getting addicted for life by developing innovations to reduce harm.”

My main insight from attending this workshop is the importance of community connection and open communication with youth to prevent addiction. The harm reduction strategy we need to adopt for our youth includes delaying use, particularly before age 16, and learning how to talk to them without judgment. A valuable resource you can access for cannabis education and youth is the Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk With Your Teen.

If someone you know has addictions issues, Dr. Selby recommended the book, Get Your Loved Ones Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening.

Check out CAMH Resources & Publications on Mental Health and Addiction
Do you know Cannabis?
Cannabis: What Parents, Guardians and Caregivers need to know.

Gift Madojemu, MPH, Health Promotions Specialist, Tobacco Project Coordinator, Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre. Gift has an incredible passion for health promotions and her insights on Indigenous peoples and tobacco helped me to understand the best delivery methods and where to focus resources.


The tools presented at the workshop were Motivational interviewing and Storyweaving as a means for teaching the spirit of MI. It has the Indigenous origin of storytelling and it’s an important way to learn MI. I’m not sure our group grasped the concept because our round circle immediately turned into a traditional talking circle.

Envisioning a Future Rid of Racial Intolerance

On the 10th anniversary of the Government of Canada’s apology for the Residential School system and its legacy, I would like to share with you how I honor survivors and how I teach my daughters ages 8, 7, and 5 about reconciliation.

Last summer we visited the Glenbow Museum in Calgary to view Indigenous artist Kent Monkman’s exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience. It features paintings dedicated to the colonial history of Canada, including a graphic depiction of Indigenous children being forcibly removed by RCMP, priests and nuns to be taken to residential school. It is titled, The Scream and you can view it on

When we arrive at the painting I watch my girls closely to see how they react to the violence. The RCMP officers, priests, and nuns are ripping children from their parent’s arms, and I can feel the agony of the parents and siblings being torn apart. I hear the crow overhead cawing amongst the screams, and crying – confusion and panic fill the painting. I see the older kids running for their lives into the bush.

There is a lone RCMP officer standing calm, feeling justified with his shotgun. Is he going to shoot the parents that refuse to give up their children? Is he going to shoot the children that run? Why does he need a gun against defenseless women and children?

My eight year old stands close, head tilted and arms crossed looking at the mother being held back by two RCMP officers, her hair is being ripped from her head, while a priest carries off her child still in diapers.

“They were taken from their mommies and daddies and not allowed to see them?” asked my then six-year-old.

“Yes, and they were not allowed to speak their language and their long hair was cut off. The adults in charge verbally and physically abused some of the children. Sometimes they were separated from their brothers or sisters, and they had to be brave all alone. Sometimes they did not have enough food to eat. Some of them tried to run away back to their families. It was lonely and sad for them.”

I did not include the fact many of those children never returned home from residential school, and they were buried in unmarked graves, with no explanation or details given to their parents.

They were also too young for me to explain the sexual abuse and the horrific corporal punishment including the use of electric chairs, as described by St. Anne residential school survivors.

Or the fact that my own grandmother, their great-grandmother, was a residential school survivor and had contracted tuberculosis there, as was the fate of many children in these schools.

I did not tell them that the government knew these children were suffering and dying from preventable diseases:

“The high death rate of the children was a concern of the Chief Medical Officer for the Departments of the Interior and Indian Affairs, Peter Bryce. Bryce released his Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the North West Territories in 1907. The report provided grim facts regarding the devastating effects of tuberculosis on the children, 24 percent of the children, within the first 15 years, had died.”

When they asked who took the children I told them the facts: the Government of Canada, the RCMP, and several different churches including the Roman Catholic Church.

I tell my girls that it is our responsibility to remember the history of residential schools and that the Government of Canada admitted they were wrong to forcibly remove Indigenous children from their parents and strip them of their culture. Also, that Indigenous people still suffer from the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse incurred in residential schools.

I tell them that reconciliation is about truth, and making amends for Canada’s painful past. Also, that residential school survivor’s voices must be central to this work.

At the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, closing ceremony Chief Wilton Littlechild stated, “I know that reconciliation will not occur in one lifetime. It will require future generations 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.”

The most important contribution I can make to reconciliation is to educate my daughters on Canada’s colonial history, it’s forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples and the responsibility of the Canadian government to make amends. It is my hope that this next generation of Canadians will be more compassionate citizens with the skills to build respectful relationships.

The future that I envision for my daughters is free from racial intolerance. It includes a government that respects the human rights of every single Canadian. It is a Canada where hypocrisy does not go unnoticed, but we forgive daily those that trespass against us. Now that’s something I can high-five about!

I am now writing my final paper for my research methodologies course for the Women Warriors Commercial Tobacco Interventions & Cannabis Strategy. Thank you to all our Women Warriors that filled out the survey. I’m taking your questions to the experts this Monday in North Battleford.


Women Warriors Onion Lake Cree Nation is scheduled for this coming fall 2018. We are excited to be offering two twelve week programs. I’ll keep you posted on where to register.


Women Warriors Calgary program, April-May 2018. We are discussing future Women Warrior Calgary programs this month.


Keep Calm & Legalize On (Dr. Saah Interview) + Cannabis & Indigenous Women’s Health

 Women Warriors Yellowknifer News Column. Printed May 16th, 2018

Dr. Rebecca Saah is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health at the University of Calgary. She will be in Yellowknife on June 11th to present to high schools, health professionals, and recreation leaders on cannabis legalization and youth.


As cannabis legalization looms the questions surrounding safe usage, distribution and the stigma of drug usage is a swirling debate of misinformation and fear. As a leader of a health promotions program, I wanted concrete information and guidelines to share with my Women Warrior participants.

I used my connections through Women Warriors to the University of Calgary and interviewed Dr. Rebecca Saah, assistant professor in the Department of Community Health. Her research is focused on youth cannabis use and the public health policy implications of cannabis legalization in Canada.

Substance Use & Criminalization

Dr. Saah said all demographics of Canadians smoke pot and an important reason for legalizing cannabis is, “the harms of criminalizing the drug have outweighed the benefit. It is an ineffective use of law enforcement and the courts, and the fact is this stigma is not benign.” She’s referring to the fact that being charged with the possession of marijuana carries the same or similar consequences as more problematic substances such as meth, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. “The harms to people from cannabis use are considerably lesser than substances such as cocaine or tobacco. All drugs should not be treated the same.”

Dr. Saah discussed how having a criminal record carries life-long consequences including the inability to cross the border to the US or not being able to work with children or vulnerable populations. For example, not being able to coach your child’s sports team.

In addition, People of Colour and Indigenous peoples have been over policed and stigmatized regarding pot use and/or possession by law enforcement and the courts. The article, “Black and Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada’s weed arrests” states, “Indigenous people in Regina were nearly nine times more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession than white people during that time period. Meanwhile, black people in Halifax were more than five times more likely to get arrested for possessing weed than white people.”

While Ottawa debates granting amnesty for past convictions, the damage of a criminal record and the social stigma of being a convicted drug user or dealer has disproportionately affected minority groups. The incoming cannabis legalization means an important discussion on how to change the dialogue surrounding the stigma of substance abuse and why the war on drugs has been racialized.

Dr. Saah directed me to an expert in the field of race, crime and criminal justice, Dr. Owusu-Bempah, assistant professor at the U of T. In a recent article authored by him, Cannabis Legalization and Equity in Canada, he states, “minor cannabis offences can also serve as a “gateway” into the criminal justice system for people who become “known to police,” which increases their chances of further criminalization and social marginalization.”

Education: Harm Reduction 

Saah’s main goal during this time of cannabis legalization is harm reduction meaning learning about cannabis and its effects, safer ways of using it, and educating people on what is permitted and not permitted in the legal framework. People using cannabis now and buying it from an illicit source, get little to no information about what they are consuming. This is of particular concern in regards to the THC content of cannabis (the psychoactive ingredient that produces the ‘high’).

In terms of retail outlets, specifically that sell alcohol and cannabis at the same location – which will be the case in Yellowknife – Saah said it’s a controversial issue in public health.

“People think separate is better but we don’t have a lot of good research on the effects when alcohol and cannabis are sold together. It is assumed that it will encourage co-use of the substance, and in Ontario, they have gone for separate state outlets. There are dissenting opinions in the public health research community – some people don’t think it’s a problem, but some do.”

Consumption methods of cannabis include smoking, vaporizing, infused edibles and sublingual products, which is the application of the product under your tongue. The Canadian Cannabis survey, released December 2017 states, “smoking cannabis was the most common method of consumption with 94% reporting this form of use, another 34% using edibles, 20% vaporizing using a vape pen, and 14% vaporizing using a vaporizer.” From a harm reduction perspective, vaporizing is a safer mode of use than smoking because there is less risk of lung irritation and respiratory problems.

“Edibles can’t be bought from a store. The federal government has been cautious about not including them in the current framework because initially when legalization rolled out in Colorado this created problems for with inexperienced users and accidental pediatric ingestions because they allowed for candy. We will probably never allow for candy. We’re going to start without edibles and see how it goes. The Federal legislation leaves this open so they can grandfather it in later without passing a new bill,” she said.

As far as trends in consumption, “We are moving from smoking to vaping, and other ways of consuming like sublingual oils that people use medically because many people don’t like the smell and want to use discreetly. What we found in Colorado is that edibles take over 50% of the market share and I think especially with older people that are interested in using for chronic conditions like pain and insomnia, they will not be smoking in their homes. Consumers will be looking for an oil or a capsule they can consume.”

Public health concerns center on the accidental ingestion of cannabis products by pets or kids. “It’s a place of education, and it’s the same practice we use for alcohol.  We keep it out of the hands of children, and take precautions in the household.”

Youth & Cannabis

The Canadian Cannabis survey states that young people are the predominant users of cannabis. The reported usage over the past twelve months for respondents “aged 16-19 years and aged 20-24 was 41% and 45% respectively” and “the average age of initiating cannabis use was 18.7 years.”

“I wish we were as concerned about the impact of poverty, violence and early childhood trauma on the teenage brain as we are about cannabis and youth usage,” said Saah. There is a need for public education surrounding the implications of cannabis use by young adults.

“The research is there – while there are some real risks, we can’t say they are causal, and we can’t attribute all of the harms to cannabis alone. We know there is a relationship between heavy and early use of cannabis in bringing on schizophrenia in people that are vulnerable, but we can’t say it’s only cannabis. The safest thing to say is that early-onset use and frequent use are risks for brain and mental health and for longer-term problematic use of substances. It’s the same for alcohol and tobacco – if you’re starting using these things in early adolescents like 13 or 14 years old, it’s a risk for development.”

Saah said a better question to ask surrounding early youth usage is, “what’s going on in these kids’ context that they’re starting these substances at 13. There are probably other risk factors that are wrapping around them. I would like to see more ways to strengthen teen resiliency in family and community rather than a focus on cannabis per se. I think making cannabis legal will open up the conversation for youth, not overnight but over time and erode the traction that the illicit market has.”

Saah said the best way to educate youth on cannabis legalization and health implications is, “face-to-face interaction and open discussion. I think it’s not so much about getting the health facts accurate as it is about having an open mind and talking to young people about what they see as the benefits and risks. This is what we do with sexual education and to protect against unwanted pregnancy or talking about consent. Think about our model for sexual education and could we do the same thing around cannabis?”

May 17, 2018. The government of Canada signs Health MOU with Onion Lake Cree Nation. Left, Minister of Indigenous Services, Jane Philpott & Council member, Dolores Pahtayken at the signing.


I am currently working on a tobacco and cannabis survey for participants of Women Warriors as my research project this semester. I will analyze my findings over the summer and work in collaboration with the Onion Lake Health Centre to create an appendix for the Women Warriors manual and help with community education. The Women Warriors program is scheduled to start mid-September on Onion Lake Cree Nation, our first on-reserve program.


GRIP (Group for Research with Indigenous Peoples) Forum, University of Calgary, May 15, 2018. Women Warriors grad student, Megan Sampson was invited to present a poster on her research findings.

Cannabis & Indigenous Women’s Health

An important part of cannabis legalization is consultation with Indigenous communities about potential business opportunities as growers and distributors of cannabis. Eagle Feather News reported that “The Saskatchewan government announced in early January that 60 Saskatchewan communities will be issued permits to sell cannabis after it becomes federally legalized in July 2018. Three of those 60 communities are Onion Lake Cree Nation, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation – the only three First Nation communities chosen by the province.”

There are many benefits for First Nations interested in joining the cannabis marketplace. As Chief Pasap states in this article, Cannabis is coming and some Indigenous communities want in, “The economic development side [will] create jobs. There are profits that could go to addiction awareness, sports programs, financing other businesses, and poverty reduction,” he said. “The benefits of cannabis are becoming a local distributor for medical users, getting rid of drug dealers and dealing with cannabis that is laced with other drugs and quality control.”

On March 19th and 20th, Cheryl Maurice, CEO of Digital Buffalo held a conference about Indigenous inclusion in the hemp and cannabis industries. She said it was well attended by First Nations leaders looking to partner with business leaders in the cannabis industry. Cheryl said, “our mandate is to partner with local First Nations and promote entrepreneurship.” If you are interested in learning more about cannabis business opportunities please contact Cheryl at the email above.

My experience as the facilitator of an Indigenous women’s health promotions program is that cannabis will be an important tool for improving Indigenous women’s health outcomes. One of the most requested resources in the program was mental health support. Now that the threat of incarceration has been removed, I posit that Indigenous women will be more open to accessing marijuana for their health needs including anxiety, PTSD, depression, and chronic pain/illness.

In addition, the revenue from cannabis sales on-reserve could improve Indigenous women’s social determinates of health such as high levels of unemployment and poor housing making it difficult for Indigenous peoples to stay in their home communities. In order to improve their life situation, they are forced from their reserves to an urban setting, cast away from their social safety net. This dislocation interrupts their sense of identity and feelings of belonging to a community and causes an increase in social anxiety.

The aspect of legalization I’m concerned with is educating participants on the legal framework to keep them safe from incareration and criminal charges. This Regina Leader-Post article has some informative do’s and don’ts of legal cannabis. Also, many of our participants have asked about youth usage and long-term effects of cannabis. These questions are guiding me as I create my tobacco/cannabis survey and decide what to put in the appendix.

Check out this Government of the Northwest Territories resource page for cannabis that features audio about the health effect of cannabis in the following Indigenous languages: Chipewyan, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, and Tlicho.

Please send me any questions or suggestions you have about Indigenous peoples & communities and cannabis legalization.


Mother’s Day, Updates on Calgary & Indigenous Law Conference

A poem to celebrate all the amazing and inspiring Mother’s in our communities.

This photo was taken by Women Warrior participant, Ashley for our photovoice project on Indigenous women’s health and safety. You can view her video on our Youtube channel here.

I see you.
The tired eyes.The leaky breasts.
Yawns escape as we talk. Three hours of sleep.
A cocktail of hormones and emotions.
How is it possible to be drunk on love with borderline depression?
No one told you it would be this hard.
Growing a human and shedding your skin.

I see you.
The tired eyes.
Groundhog Day Year Three:
Changing diapers, saying no, snacks, naps, and play dough.
There is no glamour in eating leftover food off the kitchen table
And potty training.
You question your sanity and if the Mom brain is permanent.
No one told you about the mind-numbing repetition.
Nurturing a human and longing for the past.

I see you.
The tired eyes.
Trouble at school, attitude and frustration.
You must be doing something wrong because you’re at a loss.
Your child is wandering away from you.
It’s like a guiding a mountain climber with a match.
You can’t see all the danger and you feel responsible for their demise.
Guiding a human and letting go at the same time.

I see you.
Looking in the mirror at a body that doesn’t feel like your own.
Droopy breasts, stretch marks, Mom stomach.
Silent judgment.
A body that grew, nurtured, and guided a child to life.

I see you.
The beauty of a Mother’s soul.
You gave and received a gift greater than yourself.
If only you could love yourself the same way your child does

Calgary Women Warriors Urban poling (Nordic walking) class.
Bev Renaud, City of Calgary social worker (far right in black) emailed me yesterday about this week’s class stating:
Last evening the ladies had a blast we had an instructor facilitate Dance-Play, so much fun, laughing, exertion and the most exciting aspect of our circle last night was the ladies did not want to leave they sat and chatted, asked questions, laughed it was a wonderful evening.


Calgary program round circle discussion. Facilitator, Loretta (green shirt) shares the cultural practice of smudging with participants every week.


Calgary participant, Heather (in pink) states: Being in a fitness program with a sisterhood of women who share common bonds helps make it easier to challenge myself physically. Pushing my limits of comfort in order to achieve my health goals.
Instead of feeling like we are competing, I feel like we are working together to achieve to common goal of healthier bodies, better nutrition and healing community. Women Warriors is the revolution I needed for my physical wellness!


Facilitator, Loretta’s reflections since the Calgary start date of April 4th.


I attended a Reconciliation, Heart of Treaty 6 signing event at Lakeland College mid-April. One of our Women Warriors Lloydminster participants, Helen dropped by to visit before urban poling in Bud Miller.


On April 26th-27th I attended an Indigenous Law Conference in Vancouver with my dad (pictured left), President of the North Slave Metis Alliance, Bill Enge. We attended because prominent Vancouver based Metis lawyer, Jean Teillet was presenting on NSMA lawsuit wins.

A Story of Unrequited Love

(This story was featured on May 2nd in the Women Warriors Yellowknifer news column).

Last week I received a last minute invite from my dad, the President of the North Slave Metis Alliance (NSMA), Bill Enge to attend a two-day Indigenous law conference in Vancouver starting April 25th.  It was a welcome reprieve from the eternal winter in Alberta; I live in Canada’s only border city, Lloydminster, where the news reported in mid-April a record-breaking number of cold days this winter – 167 consecutive days of minimum temperatures at or below zero degrees.I did not have to be coerced into fresh coastal air, green grass, sunshine and the entertaining conversations with my dad and Uncle, Arnold Enge. I arranged childcare, postponed my university studies, and hopped on a plane for the city of amazing wine, food, culture, and beauty.

The highlight of the law conference, and the reason that the NSMA board, including Marc Whitford, and Bob Mercredi were all in attendance, was prominent Vancouver based Metis lawyer, and great-grandniece of famed Métis leader Louis Riel, Jean Teillet was presenting on Metis law cases from across Canada. She included in her presentation the NSMA Bathurst caribou lawsuit win against the N.W.T and the latest win in October 2017 of the federal and territorial government’s failure to properly consult NSMA on land claim negotiations.

Bill was in his glory as he quizzed Jean on legal definitions and Metis rights after her presentation. You could tell she was hesitant to answer some of his more controversial law questions – the moderator intervened on her behalf before anything too dicey rolled across the stage and the lawyers, including Crown prosecutors and government officials ducked for cover.

After the presentation Jean strolled up to Bill and chided him for speaking above everyone’s head, as few people have the amount of Metis legal experience and knowledge that both of them do. Personally, I think she didn’t want to answer his questions in a room full of lawyers and was using avoidance tactics to divert controversy – that’s why she’s paid the big money!

The best part of their exchange was Bill posing with Jean for a picture, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, as he professed his admiration for her law skills. I laughed as I snapped a photo of her begrudgingly standing beside a giant Metis guy wearing shorts at a law conference. I admit that Bill doesn’t always have the most professional garb in the room, but when it comes to Metis rights, activism, and the law, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate.

I suspect Bill will never find another Metis woman after his own heart and as well versed on Indigenous law, and Metis rights as Jean; however, it is unrequited love. It still doesn’t deter him from getting a picture with her any chance he gets, and gushing about her afterwards.

I posted their photo on Twitter and tagged her in it. The next day she liked the tweet and I texted Bill to tell him the exciting news. He replied, “I love that photo with her…I think I’ll frame it…she’s my hero.”

My lesson after this law conference and Bill’s enthusiasm, regardless of Jean’s ambivalence, is that passion will get you far in life, and while Jean was a little annoyed by Bill’s questions, and his persistence, I think she has hard earned respect for his legal knowledge and passion for Metis rights. I know I do, and it’s always fun to watch him in action.

As Bill’s birthday present I think I’ll make a Jean Teillet collage of all their photos together and frame it. I’ll send Jean one to her University of British Colombia campus office with a personal invite to visit us in Yellowknife. After all, the NSMA made legal history with our recent lawsuit win, and she acknowledged the importance of it at this law conference – we must be doing something right!

Bill saw this restaurant, Tomahawks on Diners, Drive-In and Dives and we had to go. Best banana cream pie he’s ever had! I had apple crumble and it was amazing! Check it out in North Vancouver!


Best running weather is late April in Vancouver when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. I ran around Stanley Park for an hour and a half one morning. I always say the reason Vancouverites are fit is that the beauty of the landscape and city motivates them to get outside.


Next week’s newsletter with feature an interview I did for the Yellowknifer with Dr. Rebecca Saah, assistant professor in the Department of Community Health. Her research is focused on youth cannabis use and the public health policy implications of cannabis legalization in Canada. She will be in Yellowknife on June 11th to present to high schools, health professionals, and recreation leaders on cannabis legalization and youth.
  • I’m also working on an appendix for our manual that includes tobacco/cannabis education for our Women Warriors participants. I will be attending a workshop in North Battleford on June 17th hosted by Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre. The guest speakers, are Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, CAMH, faculty members –Dr. Peter Selby and Ms. Rosa Dragonetti.
  • The month of July I will be in Yellowknife with my family and doing some volunteer work with the Yellowknife Women’s Society/Centre for Northern Families.
  • The Onion Lake Cree Nation Women Warriors program has been postponed until September.

Please contact me through email if you have any questions about the Women Warriors program.
I am currently busy finishing a research methodologies course through the University of Athabasca, but I will do my best to answer all inquiries or direct you to my collaborator, Dr. Wicklum.

PS. To all the researchers on my email list – I have just started to learn how to research and I CANNOT believe the amount of consideration that goes into every detail. Also, I am extremely biased. LOL! Happy researching everyone!

My Journey of Weight Loss

The Teachings of the Medicine Wheel.

Losing weight is soul-crushing; it involves deprivation, shame, and guilt. Most weight loss programs, fads or diets require restricting calories, omitting food groups from your diet, and the sting of failure every time you step on that scale and it fails to reflect your monumental efforts of deprivation. This leads to a downward spiral of negative self-talk and damages your self-worth. When your scale becomes the measure of your self-worth, you will be defeated no matter what the number.

The secret to my weight loss and why I’ve managed to lose 65 lbs and maintain my weight loss over the course of thirteen years and three pregnancies is not an answer most people would expect. It wasn’t Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers, or the Atkins Diet, or the cabbage soup diet, or the Ideal Protein diet, or weight loss pills like Hydroxycut. Of course, over the years I tried some of these programs, but like most “dieters” I’d lose the weight and it would come back.

My weight loss was soul work. It was healing from childhood trauma, learning self-love, and reframing my relationship with my body. No weight loss coach or points system can do this work. It involved going to therapy, digging up and processing all the painful memories of my mother fat shaming me, being bullied at school, and my hateful thought process about my body.

It was the realization that fad diets and pills were my forms of punishment for hating myself. It was also healing my relationship with food and learning how to use food, not as a coping mechanism, but as a healing force in my life.

In the Women Warriors program we use the Medicine Wheel teaching because, through my experience, I learned good health is about the interconnectedness of our mind, body, and spirit. It is the teaching that without balance in all of these areas, we can never be healthy. When I only focused on the physical aspect of my well being – my weight – I was never successful in keeping it off.

I love the traditional cultural teaching that women are sacred life-givers, and we need to honor our bodies; our bodies are a celebration of our strength and the inherent beauty of our roles as Mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunties.

These teachings are in juxtaposition to popular cultures view of deprivation, and whipping ourselves into the ideal body aesthetic – thigh gaps, six-packs, and as a recent Cosmo headline states “#Buttgoals Shape an Epic Ass in just 8 Minutes a Day.”

As a mother of three daughters ages 8, 6, and 5, I am aware of the importance of role modeling and teaching healthy habits. My collaborator on Women Warriors and obesity expert, Dr. Wicklum states you should never put children on a diet or restrict what they eat, such as limiting carbohydrates.

I eat the food I expect my girls to eat including fruits and vegetable at every meal, and I teach them that food is fuel for our body. Also, I bring them with me to the running track. I make it a fun experience and I talk about how we’re building muscle and gaining strength. Finally, I never use the word “fat” and I never make negative comments about my body or other women’s bodies.

A core message that we share with our participants is that the process of losing and gaining weight is very complex. We should never oversimplify this process or judge others based on their weight. Also, my weight loss is the exception and not the rule. There are many anecdotal stories of weight loss that are misleading and harmful. For example, extreme weight loss stories from the contestants of the Biggest Loser.

Today, I’m grateful for this journey because it fuels my passion – providing free fitness classes, and nutrition education, with an emphasis on holistic health with Women Warriors. This quote by George Leonard rings true for me every day: “The work we do on ourselves is the work we do on the world.”

This column appeared in the Yellowknife newspaper on April 2nd, 2018. You can subscribe and view stories from the North on their website: Northern News Services.

1999 – 220 lbs vs 2017 156 lbs.


Easter break workout at the Servus Sports Centre running track with my three daughters. Stretching out!


Women Warriors Calgary program started on April 4th! There are 24 registered participants with two facilitators, Loretta and Tia. There were support people helping with the pre-program paperwork including Dr. Wicklum and City of Calgary social workers.


Round circle discussion. The program is 8 weeks with one class per week of different exercise classes and nutrition education. We’ll be featuring a Woman Warrior Wednesday profile on our website.


Introducing the Calgary facilitator of Women Warriors, Tia Black.
I am from Siksika/Kainai but reside in the beautiful city of Calgary. I am excited to be apart of an amazing team and given this opportunity to help create the Women Warrior community. I love how the program is structured and it’s holistic view. I am a single mother of one and know the importance of creating healthy habits for our children.

Updates on Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) Program
Thanks to all our Women Warriors in the Lloydminster and OLCN area for your patience as we set-up the Women Warriors OLCN program. I posted this message on April 6th to all past participants on the facebook group to explain why it’s taking longer than usual to begin the program this year:
I wanted to let you know that we’re almost at the finish line of setting up the program. Due to the fact that we’ve moved from Lloyd to Onion Lake means some extra steps in the research process including ethics. Ethics is the process where researchers must adhere to a code of conduct and the First Nations must have control over the data that is generated from this program.
This process includes letters of support from Chief and Council, a safe storage place for the data controlled by OL and the on-reserve ethics committee must review the project. It’s a safeguard against outsiders coming into your community and mining the reserve for data, then leaving and never coming back to inform the community of what they found.

As most of you know, I was not a researcher when this program started (which is the reason I returned to university – so that I can be involved and informed) and I’ve been learning along the way. I like to tell all of you so you know what’s involved in projects like Women Warriors. I wish it was quicker, but we’ve made progress and hopefully, we’ll start in May!

Patient Advocacy & Navigating Health Care 

Indigenous women have been described as facing a “double-burden” – for being discriminated against as a woman and further for being Indigenous. If we add weight bias, defined by the Canadian Obesity Network as “the negative stereotyping of individuals living with obesity,” some Indigenous women experience a triple burden. It is important to be aware of these concepts to understand the dynamics at work when Indigenous women access services, programs, or health care.Some people may feel scared to see their doctor and confront their health issues. Please keep in mind that Indigenous women may be deterred from seeing their doctor due to their anxiety about systemic racism within the healthcare system, or made to feel bad about their weight or health issues.

Often people in positions of authority, like a doctor, can make women second-guess themselves. They may leave their doctor’s appointment feeling insecure about their ability to effectively communicate and/or feel it is a waste of time to seek help from someone who is not culturally sensitive.

The best way to prepare them is to have a discussion about their previous experiences:

  • Do you get the help you are seeking when you visit your family physician?
  • Have you had a negative experience with the medical system?
  • Have you brought along a family member to support you at your doctor’s appointment?
  • What would make you feel prepared to have a good visit with your family doctor?

Remind them that a family doctor is on a set schedule of appointments and that they may feel rushed when they visit them. If this is the case, they should tell their doctor all of their concerns and then prioritize them and, as necessary, talk to their doctor about setting up multiple appointments to address all of their health concerns.

Over the past two years of creating and facilitating the Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Program, I have heard many stories from participants regarding racism within the health care system and their frustration receiving quality care as an obese patient. The primary purpose of our program is to provide free fitness classes and nutrition education with an Indigenous focus. Our secondary function is to help participants connect with health care professionals, and teach participants to become their own best advocates within the healthcare system.

The above information was from my podcast interview with Dr. Sonja Wicklum, co-founder of the Women Warriors program, family medical doctor, and clinical assistant professor in the department of family medicine of the University of Calgary.

In our podcast interview, she states, “I tell my own patients that our system is not set up for long visits as a rule. If you have multiple questions prioritize them and then if the answers take a significant amount of time for the first few, then book back for the next week and ask more questions. Your physician will have no problem doing that. I think you have to have an element of practicality about our health care system.”

Please view this article, based on the research by Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, family doctor and associate professor at the University of Calgary’s department of family medicine & Dr. Rita Henderson, department of family medicine (both researchers on Women Warriors).

Doctors, nurses ‘bring a lot of biases’ to work with Indigenous patients, study finds: Study looked at health care experiences of Indigenous people with diabetes in Canada

Click the infographic above to download a PDF version

Social Media Spring Detox & Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification

Why You Need to Take a Break From Social Media



Last August I undertook my first social media detox and removed all my social media apps – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat and Pinterest – from my phone for two weeks while I was on family vacation with my three girls in Calgary. It was my first taste of freedom from our instant update, click bait, thumbs-up gratification life. (You can read my poem about it in my previous newsletter, I Took a Social Media Break)

I was rewarded with mental clarity, focus, and presence. The boredom gaps that I was filling with my mindless cell phone wandering were replaced with being in the moment with my girls, a richer, more fulfilling, and in-tuned way of life. I decided to make it a quarterly routine, and I’ll share why you should consider a social media spring detox.

I’m in the midst of completing my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Athabasca and I’m always staring at a screen. All of my textbooks and readings are digital, and I constantly write in word documents. I imagine the majority of our workforce survives from starting at screens; I call them digital slaves.

Think of Facebook CEO, Mark Zukerberg’s testimony before the US Senate last week, a deadpan performance that left me wondering if his company sent an android in his place. His robotic answer that Facebook should not be regulated, even after the privacy invasion of 87 million people in which their data was harvested by a quiz app and sold to Cambridge Analytica, was my incentive to delete Facebook.

If you have no issues with your privacy being invaded then I suggest you read George Orwell’s 1984 and watch the movie, Snowden. The invasion of our privacy to collect our data has become a profitable business and is the excuse for the arm of the public to reach into our private sphere. It will not stop without regulation, and our only form of protest is the non-participation in a system that literally makes millions of dollars from us.

Besides our privacy invasion, social media steals something sacred from us that no generation before us has had to combat – our spaces of boredom, and the time we need to tune into ourselves – our thoughts, desires, dreams, and awareness of our wounds that need healing. The only way for these spaces to open up requires stillness and silence. A difficult feat in a society that has been trained to keep a short attention span, and be constantly entertained.

Screens are everywhere in our society dousing us with a fire hose of information/misinformation, fake realities constructed by friends and corporations, and a comparison chart that breeds contempt and self-loathing. How can she afford that vacation? How did he get that promotion…I should be further along in my career! Their kids are perfect – do they have a post about it every day?! How did she lose all that weight, and why can’t I?!

Even the creator of the most famous screens in history, the iPhone, and iPad, Steve Jobs stated in an interview on that he didn’t allow his children to use his technology, “We actually we don’t allow the iPad in the home. We think it’s too dangerous for them in effect.”

The “effect” Jobs speaks of is the rewiring of our brains due to the dopamine feedback loop built into social media. The former vice president of Facebook’s user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya states in an interview posted on the website,, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” He’s referring to the instant gratification we receive from the dopamine hits which instills in us a false sense of self-worth and validation through artificial “likes, hearts and thumbs-ups.”

It’s only through a social media detox that I realize the insidious nature of artificial connection at our fingertips. How all these small stolen moments of scrolling leads to a spiritual deficit and creates a barrier to authentic relationships. It also reminds me to stay in my own lane, and take responsibility for my thoughts, and deeds. When I do so, I become more productive, the quality of time I spend with people increases and most importantly, I feel peace. I don’t feel pressured to “like” anyone or anything, and that I “like” myself without social media.

If you’re considering a social media detox, my best advice is to quit cold turkey and note all the times you go to pick up your phone. You’ll be stunned by the realization that it has become an extension of your arm, and how uncomfortable you feel without it. Then lean into the silence and stillness and let your soul exhale that deep sigh it’s been holding in all this time you’ve been disconnected from it by using social media.

Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification

Hosted by Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association

Tara Waskewitch (Participant of Fitness Certification)

Tara is a member of Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) and a proud mom of a busy 8 year-old boy, Tabian. She works full-time as a youth prevention worker, volunteers in OL, and loves to attend her son and nieces sports events. 

This past Wednesday, April 11th Dr. Wicklum and I had a phone conference with Kathy Fowler, a lead academic on the creation and implementation of the Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification, a pilot program by Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association.

On their website, it states “the program was designed by an experienced team of educators and fitness professionals to empower Indigenous people to deliver safe, high-quality fitness programs in their communities that are culturally relevant and incorporate traditional learning methods. This pilot program is made possible through a funding agreement with the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. The program supports the 89th Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ensuring that barriers to participation in physical activity and fitness are reduced, and fitness programs are inclusive of Indigenous Peoples.”

I will be attending the last class on Sunday, May 13th in Saskatoon to discuss the Women Warriors program and how we can collaborate with the 18 participants – 11 female and 7 male – to implement a Women Warriors in their community. I am also excited to announce that a participant from the Oct/Nov 2017 Women Warriors, Tara Wasketwitch was chosen to partake in this training.

Please review the poster below if you would like more information on the training. The funding for this pilot certification has ended, but please feel free to contact me if you have suggestions on where to obtain more funding. I will keep everyone posted on this certification and our possible collaboration in the newsletters.

Introducing the Calgary Facilitator of Women Warriors, Loretta Tuttauk.
I am a Mètis woman that currently resides in Calgary. I have two wonderful boys and I have been involved in the Native community and working at several community organizations over the past 12 years. I enjoy spending time with my family going hiking, camping, and exploring the outdoors. I am proud to be a part of a program that shows the strength that women have to offer when we come together and support one another. I am looking forward to this holistic program and supporting everyone on their journey to overall wellbeing.

The Importance of Sleep

The following is an excerpt from the Women Warriors manual, Class One.

Screen time before bed is negatively impacting our duration, and quality of sleep. The first Women Warriors class is dedicated to sleep hygiene, how to prepare our bodies for sleep, which include no screen time at least one hour before bed. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and young adults, 8-10 hours for teens, and 9-11 hours for school-aged children.

Sleep and Nutrition*
Studies have shown a lack of sleep causes:

  • Increased levels of a ‘hunger hormone’ called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • The consumption of approximately 300 calories a day more than when they are well-rested. Overall, most of the extra calories came from high-fat foods.
  • Eat more than what is needed to cover the energy cost of staying awake longer, especially at night, which can lead to significant weight gain.
  • Reduces fat cells’ ability to respond properly to the hormone called insulin, which is crucial for regulating energy storage and use.

Sleep Hygiene**
The following are ways you can help yourself sleep well:

  1. Avoid or limit caffeine and nicotine, especially in the hours before bedtime. Both can keep you awake.
  2. Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
  3. Don’t take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized, right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.
  4. Use the evening hours for settling down. Avoid watching TV and using the computer or phone if they keep you from getting to sleep.
  5. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Try using a sleep mask to help you sleep.
  6. Take a warm bath before bed.
  7. Make your own sleep routine. Try to have the same bedtime and wake-up time each day.
  8. Exercising at different times of day may affect how you sleep. Through trial and error, find the time for exercise that helps you sleep best.
  9. If you are overweight, set goals to manage your weight. Being overweight can be linked with sleep problems.
  10. Stress and worry can disturb sleep. Consider talking to a healthcare professional if these are affecting your sleep.

*(Sourced on January 2, 2016, from;
**(Sourced on January 2, 2016, from Alberta Health Services😉

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 ( 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 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 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

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
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.

  • 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:

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 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.