SAY Magazine, Education & Training, Indigenous Lifestyle

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Reconciliation Starts with a Conversation. Educator Mike Hager Revisits the TRC In A Candid Message to Non-Indigenous Educators


SAY MAGAZINE Volume 21, Issue 5 SAY Magazine is a bi-monthly publication that publishes six issues a year—one issue every eight weeks.

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Mailing Address: Kildonan Place, RPO Box 43084 Winnipeg, MB Canada R2C 5G7 E: Publishers: Dominick Blais and Kent Brown Editor-in-Chief: Danielle Vienneau Editorial Team: Sarah Ritchie Theresa Peters Art Director: Orli Gelfat - Orli G. Design Sales Team: Megan Henry Dominick Blais Website and Social Media Sphere Media Agency


Cover Story: Nunavut Wrestler Eekeeluak Avalak’s Dedication and Skill Is Opening Doors to Higher Education

Cover photograph by James Ruddy. Canada Games 2022


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Over 350 Indigenous Veterans’ Unmarked Graves Have Been Found in Canada. Find out what the Last Post Fund Is Doing to Ensure these Indigenous Veterans Are Commemorated

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SAY Magazine acknowledges that we publish in Treaty One Territory, at the crossroads of the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene Nations, and at the heart of the Métis Nation homeland. As a diverse team of both Indigenous and ally collaborators, we strive to embrace, embody and live the truth that we are all Treaty people. All our relations!

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Law Celebrates First 6 Windsor Indigenous Valedictorian

12 The Sporting Advantage Helen 16 Entrepreneurs Bobiwash and Kellie Wuttanee

Wah! Indigenous 18 Wayi Pedagogies Curiosity through 24 Fostering Learner Autonomy What’s Your Name: 26 Kinauvit? The Eskimo Disc System and a Daughter’s Search for Her Grandmother

27 MUSIC 32 Preparing a Moose Hide 34 Advertiser Index

The Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology (IPIA) Is Changing how Archaeology Is Viewed and Practiced





“Education is a universal human right, essential to bridging gaps in human well-being, equity and opportunity.”

his Education and Training issue is different than previous SAY Magazine Education and Career guides in that we decided to stick with what we are good at and let the voices of our Indigenous Peoples guide the direction of this issue with their stories. It is important to identify those post-secondary institutions that have not only committed to ongoing Indigenization and reconciliation efforts, but who are in fact demonstrating TRC compliance and taking reconciliaction, moving reconciliation forward. Reconciliation is a complex topic that involves all of us, Indigenous and nonIndigenous, and SAY Magazine will continue to share informative and positive stories that continue the conversation and demonstrate reconcili-action.

~ Gina Cosentino

When it comes to providing the details on specific post-secondary institutions that

are best serving Indigenous students in Canada with Indigenized curriculum and other critical offerings, we plan to partner with organizations, one in particular (to be announced soon), that specialize in this type of research in order to provide the most accurate information for students to make informed decisions about their educational journeys. Stay tuned! Thank you to all those who contributed their perspectives and stories to this publication, offering a balance of narratives related to education and training in a number of different ways. In this issue, I am particularly excited about the interview I had with a young man from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. A charismatic and composed athlete, I can tell from our conversation that he will become (and already is) a great role model for other youth. Make sure to check out his story starting on page 14. ~ Danielle Vienneau, Editor-in-Chief

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Sergeant Moogly Tetrault-Hamel carries the Canadian Armed Forces Eagle Staff at the Indigenous Sunrise Ceremony in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid in Dieppe, France, on August 18, 2017.

NOV 1-30

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JAN 23-25

Native American Heritage Month This month the culture, traditions, and languages of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities are honoured and celebrated. USA Indigenomics SHE The inaugural Indigenomics SHE conference is a space for the vision of Indigenous women’s participation in the Indigenous economy. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Workforce Forward Virtual conference focused on Indigenous inclusion training, employment strategies and best hiring practices for HR professionals and business owners.


First Nations Housing Professionals Association 1st annual national conference providing growth and learning to First Nations housing professionals. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada Cannexus23: National Career Development Conference The 17th annual Cannexus Conference by CERIC is a hybrid conference that will examine the impact of career development on education, the economy and social justice. The in-person portion to be held at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

FEB 14-16

SHARE Investor Summit 2023 Join investment decision-makers in exploring opportunities for coordinated and impactful investor action in the context of environmental, social and governance pathways.

National Indigenous Veterans Day We honour our Indigenous Veterans, an estimated 12,000+, who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces since the First World War.

MAR 3-5

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Indspire: National Gathering for Indigenous Education Educators and partners can share their voices and work together to improve the educational outcomes of K-12 Indigenous students at this hybrid event themed “The Path Forward: Taking Stock, Accountability and Next Steps.”

AISES in Canada National Gathering Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) Join industry leaders and innovators for three days of inspiration and learning, including breakout sessions on marketing, pricing strategies, pitching your story and more. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

SAY Magazine makes every effort to ensure our calendar of events is up to date; however, we encourage you to check event websites regularly for more information. OCTOBER 2022 l EDUCATION & TRAINING | 5


Windsor Law’s First Indigenous Valedictorian Sponsored by the University of Windsor

Windsor Law and the Shkawbewisag Student Law Society (SSLS) are proud and delighted to recognize David Pitawanakwat for his leadership and unwavering commitment to Indigenous law, and for being chosen as Windsor Law’s valedictorian by the graduating class of 2022.


hen capacity limits and public health measures were lifted last spring, this meant no more virtual convocations for university students across Canada. The 2022 convocation ceremony marked the first in-person University of Windsor celebration in over two years. Pitawanakwat was chosen as valedictorian for the Windsor Law graduation ceremony, making him the first Indigenous student to be given this honour. “In everything I do, I try to be a good role model for Indigenous youth and working-class people, because that’s the background I come from,” says Pitawanakwat. “Some of the major themes that coloured my time in law school included those related to collaboration, representation and determination. Nothing I ever did in law school was without a really great team of dedicated people by my side. Being chosen as the first Indigenous valedictorian of Windsor Law shows that there is space here for Indigenous people and teamwork to succeed. With a ‘can do’ attitude, we will move forward the issues that are most important to us.” A United States Marine Veteran, Pitawanakwat is an Anishinabek Ogitchidaa from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, currently living in Detroit, where he graduated from Wayne State University. In 2022, he completed a Dual Juris Doctor degree from both


the University of Windsor Faculty of Law and the Detroit Mercy School Congratulations to the first Indigenous valedictorian of Windsor of Law. In 2021Law Dual JD Program David Pitawanakwat (featured in the 2022 Pitawanakwat center behind dancers). also served as the club president of the SSLS—a student-run group at As a tribute for all of his achievements, Windsor Law whose purpose is to Pitawanakwat was gifted a blanket by raise awareness regarding Indigenous Windsor Law Elder in Residence Myrna cultures and issues facing Indigenous Kicknosway, and an Honour Song was communities. The name Shkawbewisag, sung for him by Brown Bear Singers of an Anishnaabemowin word meaning Aamjiwnaang First Nation. He was also “The Helpers”, was gifted to the students honoured by local dancers who danced by the Elder in Residence in 2017. him out of the room following his impactful address. A dedicated academic, student and mentor, Pitawanakwat is a wellCurrently, Pitawanakwat is working with respected and beloved community the university to advance collaborations member and veteran who regularly between the school, regional tribal participates in events and conferences governments and urban organizations. centering on Indigenous rights and Eventually, he would like to take a career veteran issues. turn toward advancing tribal governance through the court systems as well as “We have witnessed Pitawanakwat’s collaborating with the federal government innate skills and passion for public in future Tribal policy. speaking during his time with the SSLS, hosting and organizing various For more information, contact club and community events,” says Michelle L. Nahdee, coordinator of Co-President of Shkawbewisag Indigenous Legal Studies at Windsor Law Student Law Society Val Kuri. “His for the University of Windsor, at valedictorian address was nothing short of powerful—perfectly encapsulating the collective experience of graduating from a grueling professional program during a global pandemic.”



What Reconciliation Means to Me A letter to Non-Indigenous Educators


Guest article by Mike Hager

Mike Hager Mike Hager belongs to the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation. His alma mater is the University of Guelph where he earned his Honours BA in History with a double minor in Criminology and Sociology. During his studies, Hager was a coach and a student-athlete, competing on the football, rugby and wrestling teams. He received his Indigenous-focused BEd to teach in the primary/junior levels from Brock University. As an educator, he has taught in various locations across Canada and abroad: as a primary teacher in the Mohawk Immersion sector of Six Nations of the Grand River; teaching and playing rugby in Rotorua, New Zealand; and then in Northern Quebec teaching in the Cree village of Chisasibi along the shores of James Bay. Hager appreciated becoming a welcome member of the Cree community, where hunting, fishing and nine months of winter were big parts of his life living beside the James Bay and the big river. Hager now proudly works as Indspire’s community outreach coordinator from an office located in his childhood community of Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario.


s an Indigenous person, I don’t think I consider any aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) all that much or all that often. Especially for someone working where I do! How about you, your staff and your students? How much of your day, week, month, year and school curriculum deals with the TRC? As someone working in the education sector, you wouldn’t even need to include all of the Calls to Action, since there are only a few that deal specifically with education. How much time and energy—or lack thereof, for that matter—is required? I love a good chit-chat about things like this, and it might come in handy to speak with a First Nations person, so consider this an open invitation for a conversation.

What do I know about reconciliation?

I had that potentially awkward talk with a good friend of mine recently, who is also an educator, where we chatted about the Indigeneity of many things. (An added feature is how I enjoy making awkward situations more awkward just by being myself.) There were some interesting perspectives to explore. We wondered if reconciliation was still in the ether and if it would remain there since it often feels too abstract and so far removed from the everyday concerns of the regular person or your typical “good” teacher. We agreed that it’s quite different when you see the oppressed being victimized daily compared to when you only see them in movies and museums or in the occasional news piece. We also touched on the vocabulary used, such as victim, trauma and oppression. We noted how some of these terms, like humour and art, seem to be more subjective than ever before. All of this makes it hard, but not impossible, to empathize with the people who can basically seem alien to

you, even though First Nation, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) folks make up nearly 5 per cent of Canada’s population, according to the 2016 census. We wondered if the targets of genocide typically don’t get reconciliation, like the Nama, Herero and San peoples of Namibia, the Armenians in Turkey, and Jewish people worldwide. But I digress. I started contemplating how the TRC was completed in 2015, but we’re still coming to grips with the “truth” part of the commission, especially as more and more unmarked graves are discovered across Turtle Island. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and TwoSpirited movement has seemingly stalled. The Land Back movement near my home community, Six Nations of the Grand River, remains unresolved. Policing and “Just-Us” issues still occur regularly. The treaty and fishing rights of the Miꞌkmaq, or treaty and pipelines of the Wet’suwet’en, are still very much in the news. It really made me wonder how much energy or effort the average Indigenous or non-Indigenous teacher could put towards bringing the reconciliation aspect into the classroom, the school or even the staff room. How uncomfortable would they be even doing that, particularly if they’re non-Indigenous? In case you’ve been wondering, there are 94 Calls to Action. I had to look it up to make sure that there were in fact 94. That number bugs me too. Why couldn’t they get to 95 or even 100? I mean, they probably could have gone over 100 if we truly considered many of the struggles, right? Anyway, like most things, the TRC has a priority level in all of our limited capacities, as teachers try to meet the needs of students as well as the demands laid out by school boards and the school curriculum.


I personally don’t know how much space the TRC should take up in a day, month or person’s brain. If you ask someone who is super-woke, as well as Indigenous, the amount of effort and capacity that they have as they fight decolonization might mean that it should be happening every damn day! Should Indigenous folks just be happy with Orange Shirt Day and the wee bit of attention that such a day places on some of our histories? Sure, it’s an important part of our history, but it reminds us of the negative aspects. To come from a place of strength, maybe we deserve a month. Maybe we should have a parade and weeks-long celebration like the LGBTQ2s+ folks! Several NHL teams have gotten on board by paying homage to Indigenous culture with special jerseys and logos. In New Zealand, they have Waitangi Treaty Day in February, and have been singing the national anthem in Māori and English since the late ’90s. Hockey games have done our anthem in Cree too. I guess we are making some strides, aren’t we? During the chat with my friend, I asked him to tell me the first three things that came to mind when he thought about my home community. He mentioned smoke shacks, cheap gas and now pot shops. Very stereotypical, unfortunately, but not wrong. So, then we delved into why those three things came to mind instead of the Champion of Champions Pow Wow, or the number of great soapstone carvers, artists or musicians who are from

Six Nations of the Grand River. What about the great lacrosse players currently earning US scholarships and professional contracts across Turtle Island along with several junior and pro hockey players? One could argue that we don’t see those things out in front of us on a daily basis. But then the conversation shifted to how this would be discussed in his classroom. We wondered what types of things the students would say and why. Then we also considered the following: “Does this conversation count as reconciliation?” Now my friend and I have known each other for a long time; we played rugby together in New Zealand and in Ontario. More importantly, we trust each other for a variety of reasons. Just imagine if, as a non-Indigenous teacher, you were to have this conversation with an Indigenous consultant or somebody from a First Nations community near you whom you might not know as well as we know each other. Imagine if those stereotypical negative images were brought up. Or if such images actually did come to mind and then weren’t brought up for fear of reprisal. I would suggest that the conversation, as part of reconciliation, would start

from a place that was disingenuous and lacking integrity for fear of offending the Indigenous person with the stereotypes. This is a small example of why reconciliation is hard. Since my friend is self-aware, he knew that his first three images of my home community could and (should) be held as stereotypically negative, but because he knew and trusted me, he knew he was safe to be honest. But how does reconciliation happen if people are afraid to be honest with what they do and don’t know about First Nations communities, people, culture, history and the many injustices that happened in our history, which are still being felt today? We both knew that we had to explore why those were the first three images that were conjured when I asked him to consider my community. And if his students had similarly negative visions of First Nations communities based on limited to no real-life experiences in those communities, how could those be reconciled with reality? OCTOBER 2022 l EDUCATION & TRAINING | 9

RECONCILIATION There are valid reasons to be explored about how and why there is cheap gas, why there are so many smoke shacks, and why there are so many more pot shops per capita in First Nations communities than anywhere else. Also, why are those things negative? We rarely hear about too many 7-11 convenience stores or too many unhealthy fast-food places in nonIndigenous communities as a stereotype. Instead, one could suggest that those folks who run these places in First Nations communities are very entrepreneurial— that they are contributing to the economic positivity of their communities. Or perhaps they’re conscientious caregivers who want to work from home.

Start the conversation

I hope that, perhaps like myself, you’ve been wondering: how is the typicallygood, actively-engaged, socially-aware teacher supposed to promote the TRCs findings and do them real justice in the classroom? There are only so many hours in a school day. I would suggest that the majority of teachers want to do a good job; they want to do the right thing, presenting factual and current information to their students to make the world a better place. However, that simple thought experiment that my friend and I just went through was a 90-minute discussion. And it could have gone longer! We didn’t even check Google or Wikipedia, or any other far more rigorous and important sources. We were just trying to hash out the

possibilities of a deep and meaningful truth and reconciliation conversation that could and should be happening between an Indigenous person who might be a teacher and a non-Indigenous person who might also be a teacher. We eventually came to the conclusion that, as I mentioned earlier, everyone has limited capacities, limited time and very different competing issues that determine their priority levels throughout the day, year, month or subject unit. I think the biggest and most important thing to come out of the conversation was that we actually had the conversation. And we didn’t chat on National Indigenous Day (June 21), which coincides with the summer solstice. Nor did we have it anywhere near Orange Shirt Day in September; it was just a rainy cold day in March when we had some time to connect with each other in an interesting and meaningful way. We had piqued each other’s curiosity somehow. Isn’t that how teachers are meant to be so they can pass those attributes along to their students? To be curious, to be lifelong learners, to want to have a better understanding of the world that they and their students live and participate in—all in such a way that they can nurture what is hopefully a natural human condition: that of being genuinely curious, contemplative and perhaps concerned in an empathetic way about other people and the lives they live.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential school or by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


I’m hoping that what you’ve taken away from this brief article is that, in spite of your fears, lack of time or knowledge acquisition, you muster the courage to take a chance to contact a local native friendship centre, seek a way to find an Indigenous Elder or Knowledge Keeper who can visit your school regularly to tell a story and answer questions. On behalf of my brothers, sisters and cousins across Turtle Island, I’m inviting you to go to a pow wow in the summer where positive Indigenous sounds, smells and images will be ingrained in your consciousness. We want you there! I’m encouraging you to check out an Indigenous author, movie, TV show, music, play, artist or National Film Board of Canada creation. And if you have already, nia:wen, please keep sourcing those Indigenous ideas and content. It’s going to be a long walk in our moccasins and mukluks, but I’m really hoping you’re willing to take that walk with us sooner rather than later. We’re not asking you to do it all, or even all at once. We are asking that you continue to be curious and a lifelong learner—just like you’re encouraging your students to be.


Photo credit: Anil Mungal. Provided by Canada Games, Niagara 2022.


Get the Sporting Advantage


By Theresa Peters

rade point average matters (a lot) when considering one’s academic future, especially in selecting an area of study and post-secondary institution. But are there advantages to being a student-athlete when it comes to admissions? It is undeniable that being admitted into a more reputable school greatly increases your chances of getting a better career and higher future earnings, but the entrance bar is frighteningly high and many students have difficulty making the cut. According to admissions experts at BeMo, the top-ranked universities in Canada (2022) are the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Queens University, where acceptance rates hover around 43% and students need an average GPA (grade point average) of 3.7. There are, however, ways to join your


post-secondary graduating class of choice without near-perfect high school grades. High school students all over the country strive for the highest GPA scores to give themselves the best shot possible at getting into elite, competitive institutions. Unlike the United States, Canadian institutions do not use a special test for university entrance grades; we use GPA. There are four different ways to calculate your GPA, and each institution has its preferred method. Thankfully, most universities usually have GPA calculators on their websites, and UBC actually has an admission odds calculator! Despite the confusion, one thing is clear— students need nearly perfect high school grades to achieve entrance to the most sought-after courses of study. Still, test scores are not the single defining factor in entrance decisions.

What Schools Look For

When making admission decisions, universities prefer to assess each student as a whole person, considering both character and academic potential. UBC, for example, requires a personal profile with their applications to give a sense of one’s personality, what the individual has achieved and the obstacles they have overcome. UBC in particular has unique processes for Indigenous student admissions, providing a number of pathways to entry. However you hope to enter, having a personal profile with extracurricular activities to exemplify your personal abilities is a must.

What Extracurricular Activities Are Best? The best extracurriculars are ones that develop leadership skills, demonstrate hard work, provide an opportunity to

ADMISSIONS give back to the community, and show your ability to accept failure and strive for excellence. Although academic activities and humanitarian projects are listed as excellent sources of these traits, it is clear from the statistics that students in elite-level sports are valued in a unique way; this could be your ticket to school admission and sports scholarships.

minimum entrance average of 80%—that’s 10% lower! In most cases, student-athletes must maintain a 65% academic average to keep their scholarship. The added bonus here is that inter-university athletes can continue to pursue high-performance sport while earning a solid university education and getting financial assistance.

While athletic scholarships are more common in the United States, there are Canadian universities, especially ones with exceptional sport training facilities, that highly value athletic commitment and achievement, offering sports scholarships, grants and bursaries that offer a wealth of resources to promising student-athletes.

Universities are looking for a certain type of student who can excel, make the school proud and give back to the school’s morale. Highly competitive sports require a long-term commitment and dedication to work through pain, exhaustion and failure. Elite athletes often demonstrate the qualities that every learning institution wants its students to possess. Beyond sheer determination, elite athletes practice leadership skills and often give back to their communities through volunteering, coaching and refereeing. Sports are simply one of the best avenues for developing and demonstrating these skills and personal character traits.

Athletic scholarships are a growing and valued way to enter your school of choice with a less-than-ideal GPA. The average entrance GPA to university is 3.7, which is about 90-92%. Student-athletes receiving scholarships typically must have a

Photo credit: Peter Methner

Why Are Sports so Important?

Do not despair. Perhaps you will not achieve top high school grades, but if you are a competitive athlete considering your academic future, you can start to develop your own resume of achievements through dedication and perseverance. An educator by trade, Theresa Peters is a writer and editor with SAY Magazine and a language arts mentor with Discern to Learn.


Photos by James Ruddy & Anil Munal/Canada Games 2022.


Sport Opens the Door to Opportunity

Nunavut Athlete Makes History at Canada Games Photo by Katie Heykoop/Canada Games 2022.

By Danielle Vienneau

In August, 5,000 young athletes competed for a place on the podium in Canada’s largest multi-sport event of the year, the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games. Wrestler Eekeeluak Avalak made history when he became the first Inuk from Nunavut to win a gold medal at a Canada Games event, making him only the second athlete ever from Nunavut to medal at the Games.


whose heavenly birthday was just six days before the final day of competition. He also credits his success to everyone who has helped him along his journey, including the support of his home community of Cambridge Bay.

Overcome with emotion, Avalak dedicated his triumph to his late brother,

Prior to attending the Games, Avalak had been training in Edmonton with the University of Alberta (U of A) wrestling team. With the support of his coach, Chris Crooks, and the Edmonton team, Avalak is now able to envision a future he didn’t think possible. Sport has the power to transform lives, and according to Avalak wrestling has not only changed his life, it saved his life. Keep reading to find out more about Avalak’s journey and what

motions ran high as fans cheered on 18-year-old Avalak during his gold medal match in the 52 kilogram category. With each point scored, the cheers got louder, excitement filling the room and the chanting of “Let’s go Eekee, let’s go!” heard loud throughout the facility. “I knew I had a pretty big lead and I thought to myself, ‘As long as I can keep my composure then I know I can win’,” says Avalak. And that’s exactly what he did! A score of 10-0 against his competitor from Alberta secured the gold medal, and the rest is history!


Eekeeluak Avalak (right) with Coach Chris Crooks (left) he hopes to accomplish in the future, in sport, academics and life.


SAY: What do you love about wrestling? Avalak: I love the physical aspect of it, and how it really relates to life, whether it’s teamwork or going out on your own, working to achieve what you want to do. In practice, you have your teammates to help you improve and to encourage you to push through, but when it comes to competition time, it’s just me and my opponent. SAY: How has wrestling impacted your life? Avalak: A huge positive impact is that it didn’t just change my life but it saved me from going down a path that no one wants to go down. Growing up I was a delinquent child. I didn’t listen to my parents and I didn’t really care what anyone thought. I would do what I wanted and get in trouble a lot. I was hanging around the wrong crowd. Wrestling helped me redirect my path. I would have gone downhill instead of up, and I wanted to go uphill. Wrestling helped me set my mind straight. If I wanted to excel in life then I needed to make some changes and take a step back from situations that could get me in trouble. SAY: Congratulations on winning gold at the Canada Summer Games! I heard that everyone was in tears, you, your coach and the majority of the crowd watching. How did you feel in that moment? Avalak: It was a very heartfelt moment and a very emotional time for me. Before my semi-finals match that morning, I just had to step outside with my coach. I was just so overwhelmed; I just had to let some emotions out. During the match, I knew I was ahead and just had to keep

my composure. I mean, obviously the physical component is a lot, but you have to really learn to focus. Wrestling is just as mentally tough as it is physically. SAY: What does this win mean to you? Avalak: First of all, behind every successful person is a successful support system, whether it’s a community or someone who has your back. It’s the encouragement and little pep talks that make a big difference. Without the Edmonton wrestling team, the head coach there, my teammates, my community and especially my coach Chris—without them, none of this would have been possible. So my success is just as much theirs. The medal: the medal is just a bonus. The real victory is inspiring others. If a young kid like me, who was going down the wrong path, can change their life for the better, then so can anyone else. It’s never too late. Your past does not define who you are. SAY: Wrestling has really opened some doors for you. Talk about your plans to attend university. Avalak: I started training with the Edmonton Wrestling Club and the U of A team back in 2017. The wrestling club is one of the best in Canada. The people and atmosphere are great—they’re very supportive and have similar goals. They’re the kind of people who you want to surround yourself with, to do better. The U of A is such a good school, so that’s where I want to go and I would like to

take Native Studies to start. The school I am at now will help me get there. SAY: Who has been instrumental in your success? Avalak: My coach Chris and his wife Paula have been very instrumental in helping me. They took me under their wing and into their home for the last few years. They have been a huge part of my life, of my success in wrestling, with school and in helping me pursue my goals. They are like my other parents. SAY: What are some of your future goals? Avalak: With wrestling, I want to represent Canada at the Olympics and one day at the World Championships. I strongly believe that being in Edmonton at the U of A wrestling club is the place that’s going to help me get there. I also want to be a motivational speaker. When I am satisfied with what I have accomplished in wrestling and in school, I’m going to go back to my hometown and continue my coach’s legacy of helping others and become a wrestling coach in Nunavut.

Danielle Vienneau, Editor-in-Chief with SAY Magazine, believes in the power of sharing stories to inspire greatness in others. To submit your story, email Photo by James Ruddy/Canada Games 2022.

SAY: So you are now living and training in Edmonton full time. Tell us more about school and what your day-to-day looks like. Avalak: I am currently going to a high school that allows me to split my time between class and training. I train six days a week, and most days I am up really early in the morning, around 5:00 a.m, to train, either wrestling or weight training. I’ve only been there for one month and I really like it, but it’s quite the culture shock. The school’s population is nearly the population of my whole community (about 1,700). Coming from such a small community in Nunavut, sometimes I would be the only person in class. So going from one person in the class to 20 other students in class is a big adjustment.







Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies An Act for Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education


By Jo Chrona ranslated as ‘let’s go; it’s time!’, Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies is a judgment-free guide uniquely written for Canadians who may not have a background in anti-racism or reconciliation, but who are ready to take the first steps toward deeper understanding and practical application.

the work of reconciliation from ‘learning about’ to ‘learning from’ Indigenous Peoples.

How can Indigenous knowledge systems inform our teaching practices and enhance education? How do we create an education system that embodies an anti-racist approach and equity for all learners? Written for educators yet broadly applicable for anyone looking to implement reconciliation practices, Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies offers historical context, personal stories and reflection questions from both Indigenous and nonIndigenous perspectives. This excellent primer for anti-racism utilizes Indigenous education and learning principles to shift

About the Author

Grounded in the First Peoples Principles of Learning, this comprehensive guide builds on Chrona’s own experiences in British Columbia’s education system to explore how to shape anti-racist and equitable education systems for all. In Chrona’s own words, “You may feel that you are not equipped to engage in Indigenous education, reconciliation or anti-racism work. You may be anxious about perpetuating misconceptions or stereotypes, making mistakes or giving offense. In these chapters, I invite you to take a walk and have a conversation with a good mind and a good heart.” Following the most recent National Day for Truth and Reconciliation long weekend, many Canadians continue to reflect on the ways they can meaningfully undertake this work. So let’s go!

Jo Chrona is an educator, traveller, philosopher, spouse and Two-Spirited woman. She is of Ts’msyen (member of Kitsumkalum First Nation) and European heritage, and seeks to continually challenge herself. She is learning how to live fully in life, and forever struggling to live it on her own terms. As a creative, she paints for fun, bakes for others and writes to breathe.

Technology. She has been involved in curriculum development and resource writing, professional learning through inquiry networks and Indigenous education. She has helped transform British Columbia’s K–12 system in a variety of roles, including working with a First Nations-led education advocacy organization and as an advisor to the British Columbia Ministry of Education.

Chrona is passionate about creating systemic change to build a truly inclusive, strength-based education experience for all learners. With over 20 years’ experience teaching in both K–12 and post-secondary systems, Chrona also holds a Master’s Degree in Educational

Chrona continues to provide professional learning workshops on Indigenous education and anti-racism. She is currently located in the traditional territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən Peoples, in the area also now known as Victoria, British Columbia.



Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies: An Act for Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education Excerpt adapted with permission from Wayi Wah! Indigenous Pedagogies: An Act for Reconciliation and Anti-Racist Education by Jo Chrona. Copyright 2022, Portage & Main Press. Before I talk about the concept of Reconciliation, it is important to acknowledge that there are Indigenous Peoples in Canada who challenge the possibility that Reconciliation can occur. I understand that perspective. Perhaps the extent to which a person perceives Reconciliation as possible depends on how one defines the idea. One definition of Reconciliation is the re-establishment of a broken relationship. If we use this definition, I understand the perspective that Reconciliation cannot happen. After all, how can we reconcile something that was never whole to begin with? Perhaps, instead, we can look at Reconciliation as the work of every Canadian, individually and collectively, personally and professionally, to learn the truths of this country’s collective past, strive to understand how these truths affect our lives today, and make changes now to move forward. Integral to this process is responding to the priorities of, and working in partnership with, Indigenous leadership.

Reconciliation through Education

What does Reconciliation through education mean for various aspects of our society? For governments and organizations? For education systems?

For individual educators in various roles? For respecting Indigenous knowledge systems? Moving forward in Reconciliation obliges governments and organizations to act in accordance with constitutional principles that recognize the unique rights and relationships of Indigenous Peoples to our respective homelands, and to respect and protect these rights in education (and other sectors). Moving forward in Reconciliation requires Canadians to understand the rights of Indigenous Peoples to reassert, reclaim, and express their languages and cultures. This work asks us to challenge colonial policies and systemic racism that deny Indigenous decision-making power over land, resources and the development of Indigenous institutions, including education organizations. Reconciliation in education will be hindered if non-Indigenous people and organizations continue to think that they know better than Indigenous

leadership what is needed for Indigenous children and youth. Moving forward in Reconciliation asks us to be aware of and honour the right to self-determination of First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and the nature of “nationto-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change” (Government of Canada, 2018, p. 3). This means that education systems respond to the education priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis leadership at local,

“All educators and learners need the learning about, and from Indigenous Peoples and cultures that have been absent from our education systems until now.”


LITERATURE provincial and territorial levels, based on whose traditional territories the schools and districts are located. Moving forward in Reconciliation means examining how overt, systemic and epistemic racism play out in classrooms, schools and districts. It asks us to understand how we may be engaging in actions that marginalize and denigrate First Nations, Inuit and Métis learners, families and communities. When we place the blame for the disparity in education outcomes on learners, families or communities (instead of larger systemic racism issues) we are reinforcing colonial narratives that have portrayed Indigenous Peoples as in need of fixing. We can remind ourselves that it was Canada’s education systems that caused significant trauma to First Nations, Inuit and Métis learners, families and communities. Think about these words from the Hawthorn Report in 1967: It is difficult to imagine how an Indian child attending an ordinary public school could develop anything but a negative self-image. First, there is nothing from his culture represented in the school or valued by it. Second, the Indian child often gains the impression that nothing he or other Indians do is right when compared to what non-Indian children are doing. (p. 142) They have little reason to like or to be interested in the school in any way, in or out of the classroom. (p. 6) Some people want to believe that this is no longer the case, but unfortunately,

there are educators across the country who remain comfortable having little or no knowledge and understanding of First Nations, Inuit or Métis peoples, communities, cultures, and historical and contemporary contexts. Some continue to implement curricula using resources that reflect stereotypes or misinformation about First Nations, Inuit or Métis Peoples. Other educators still assume that First Nations, Inuit or Métis learners come to school with inherent deficits, instead of recognizing that they have innate gifts and abilities (as varied as any other group of humans) to be nurtured into growth. These attitudes, whether explicit or implicit, contribute to learning environments that reinforce schools as uncomfortable, or unsafe, places for First Nations, Inuit and Métis learners. Changes in education governance bodies (at the school district or provincial level) can make real systemic change that helps make Reconciliation in education a reality. We need more authentic Indigenous representation at all levels of governance. This means, for example, having dedicated seats for Indigenous representatives on school boards (filled by representatives from the Nations on whose land the school board operates, or at least approved by those Nations). We need to understand that Indigenous voices must have a meaningful place at the governance table so that we can move away from the current situation, where so many non-Indigenous people make decisions for Indigenous Peoples. And while this is especially important in school districts with high numbers of Indigenous

learners, I argue that it is also necessary in school districts with lower numbers of Indigenous learners. All educators and learners need the learning about, and from Indigenous Peoples and cultures that have been absent from our education systems until now. However, there is resistance to changes to structure and process that I think stems from fear of the unknown, or the misguided (and dangerous) idea that Indigenous voices are just not necessary. Yes, change is uncomfortable. People get used to certain structures and processes and try to avoid the discomfort of new protocols or conversations. But this is not an adequate excuse to keep the status quo when it does not work for groups of learners. In addition, no matter how wellintentioned and informed non-Indigenous peoples are, lack of authentic Indigenous voices in decision-making bodies perpetuates the colonial model of thinking that non-Indigenous peoples “know what is best” for Indigenous Peoples. Engaging in this work also asks us to think not only about the land we occupy, but also about the role of colonization in claiming that place and the implications for identity and belonging for each of us. It is a process—a journey that we are navigating—rather than a destination we will arrive at. There is not a single one-size-fits-all action people can take to engage in Reconciliation in education. Each person’s learning is individual and reflects what they already know and are doing; however, that learning is more impactful when it responds to Indigenous leadership and results in meaningful action.

This book is appropriate for all teachers and educators to help understand the biases, systemic racism, unintentional racist language and practices that all teachers are faced with. 20 | EDUCATION & TRAINING l OCTOBER 2022



Over 12,000 Indigenous Peoples have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Indigenous Veterans Initiative (IVI) by the Last Post Fund aims to provide grave markers for Veterans who are missing one. Lloyd Hamilton on April 19, 1953.

Credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia - The Memory Project.



Honouring Our Indigenous Veterans


Sponsored by the Last Post Fund

ndigenous participation in Canada’s military efforts over the years has been impressive—particularly considering the challenges many overcame to serve in uniform, whether it was learning a new language, adapting to cultural differences or undertaking the lengthy travel from remote communities just to enlist.

The Last Post Fund: In Service to Veterans Since 1909

Since its inception in 1909, the Last Post Fund’s (LPF) mission has been to ensure that no Veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial, as well as a military gravestone, due to insufficient funds at the time of death. In keeping with the spirit of the ongoing Reconciliation process, the LPF is eager to help commemorate and honour Indigenous Veterans through the IVI, launched in March 2019.

IVI Researcher Floyd Powder with Ranger Sergeant Larry Koe, researching Veterans’ unmarked graves at one of the cemeteries in Aklavik, NWT

The IVI offers two services: • Placement of a military marker for Veterans who have been buried for more than five years with no existing tombstone in place. • Inscription of the Indigenous Veteran’s traditional Indigenous name on existing grave markers previously placed by the Last Post Fund.

IVI: A Focus on Serving Indigenous Veterans

In the last three years, the initiative supported the inscription of traditional names in six Indigenous languages: Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Interior Salishan, Inuktitut and Saulteaux. Furthermore, 350+ Indigenous Veterans’ unmarked graves have been found, with 200+ receiving military grave markers to date. Additionally, in the hopes of offering families a culturally-relevant service, the IVI collaborated with Cree artist Jason Carter on the creation of seven symbols for headstone inscriptions, to be used in perpetuity. Carter based the designs on the Seven Sacred Teaching Symbols. These symbols are available for families to choose from for the grave markers. To

Grave marker for Veteran Hillard Worm from Kawacatoose First Nation, SK, provided by the LPF. Family chose the eagle symbol design by Jason Carter.

Grave marker for Veteran Bill Whitebear from White Bear First Nations, SK, provided by the LPF. Family provided his traditional Indigenous name.

date, the most popular symbols have been the eagle, wolf and feather. As the initiative continues, we sincerely hope that all Canadians will become more aware of the sacrifices Indigenous Veterans have made for Canada. All Canadians should be proud and aware of the strong military traditions of Indigenous Veterans. Lest We Forget.

Grave marker for Mohawk Veteran Solomon Maracle from Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, ON. He is buried in Back Bay Cemetery, Yellowknife, NWT.

Reach Out for More Information If you are interested in getting involved in searching for unmarked graves of Veterans in your community, or if you or a family member are a Veteran and would like more information, you are invited to contact the Last Post Fund by email at or by phone: 1-800-465-7113.



Learner Autonomy:

Fostering Curiosity In a Rapidly Evolving World


By Ben Carr

few years ago, the Federal Government laid out some important measures to help post-secondary students find greater success transitioning from their studies to the workforce. Budget 2019 emphasized work placement opportunities, giving students in fields outside of STEM—such as the arts, humanities and social sciences—a chance to access funding to support their growth and development. The Government will invest 631.2 million over five years, having started in 2019–20, to support up to 20,000 new work placements per year for post-secondary students across Canada, in all disciplines, by this year. Furthermore, an additional $150 million will be invested over four years to create partnerships with innovative businesses, adding a further 20,000 work-integrated learning opportunities per year. By 2023, this will total 40,000 work placements. Recently, the Manitoba Government launched a vision for education that will take a deep look into the operations of our education system with a look ahead to the future. The government is right to put focus on the transition from secondary, to post-secondary, and ultimately, the workforce. This all has the potential to be welcome news for students. Here in Winnipeg, the country’s only Met Schools are already providing many of the experiences that the federal government hopes to give post-secondary students through these programs. The announcement in Budget 2019, as well as the provincial government’s new policy approach, should serve as an opening for dialogue between the federal and provincial governments on how to


support student development beginning at the secondary level through to their entry into the workforce. Many of the benefits of these investments and frameworks were highlighted by Elliot Washor, co-founder of Big Picture Learning, recently while visiting Winnipeg from San Diego for the 10th anniversary of the Seven Oaks Met School. Washor touched on a variety of important points during his trip, but there were some key principles to which he frequently returns, believing them to be at the core of best practices in education. They include: fostering curiosity, allowing for choice and expanding upon our traditional measurements of success. The Big Picture Learning mantra is one student at a time. Tuesday and Thursday are reserved for internships at work placements in the community. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are spent in class, with a focus on project-based learning. Students get an education in an authentic way that is tailored to, and driven by, their needs and interests. Relationships, Relevance and Rigour serve as the foundational principles of this educational experience. As baby boomers retire and a new generation of learners gets set to tackle contemporary challenges, the time is right for a refocusing of the relationship between school and industry. At the Met, we don’t believe that high school is a finish line; we see it as a launching pad. One of the best things we can do to foster curiosity and skill development is to expose young people to what’s happening out in the “real world” earlier on in their journeys and to strive to create a meaningful experience that centres around their passions and interests.

In his widely revered book Experience and Education, John Dewey, the great educational philosopher, laid out the critically important role that experience must play in the healthy development of a young person. The experience continuum is the process by which we learn and grow from experience, and our future interactions with the world are shaped by those experiences that come before. A crucial part of development is being afforded the opportunity to explore and discover. Conditions that allow curiosity and choice to flourish must be present in our schools. To fully incorporate these approaches to education in our systems, we must emphasize resilience, problemsolving, entrepreneurship, collaboration, kindness, self-direction and community-


mindedness. These elements of the human experience are essential in helping young people navigate a rapidly evolving world. We must focus our attention on these qualities in fostering and assessing the growth and development of students. At the Met schools, students determine what they want to explore. As educators, it is our role to facilitate learning experiences, but we take our lead from the students themselves. The ability to have agency over one’s own experiences is necessary in the learning process. The greater flexibility one has to choose, the more meaningful the experience, and the deeper the experiences that follow. Healthy relationships with people who understand you are also a key component of the educational experience. In a longitudinal study spanning over 15 years, Washor and colleagues found that 58-62% of Met graduates around the world found a job in a field related to an internship experience. This tells us something important. Washor frequently says that “who knows that you know what you know” is one of the keys to future fulfillment and success. The federal government’s investments in post-secondary education help to underscore this point. It is important for schools such as Met to serve as an intermediary between the student, the community, the mentors

and the experience. The more our experiences in school can provide transformational and not merely transactional interactions, the stronger and healthier we are. In short, we need to be intentional about the environment within which our students are learning. We as educators must help facilitate experiences that allow risk-taking to occur, and foster environments that allow curiosity to blossom. Students need to feel comfortable with vulnerability. As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” The time is right for governments across the country, at all levels, to be talking about the most useful and effective ways to prepare students for a future that will change more rapidly than any point before in human history. At an education conference, we were asked to reflect on what outcomes we are seeking in our day-to-day interactions with young people. What do we hope they will feel when they leave a conversation with us? For me, the answer was that I hope they feel curious. I hope they feel the need to question. Ben Carr is a former high school administrator and current vice-president of Indigenous Strategy Group based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The time is right for governments across the country, at all levels, to be talking about the most useful and effective ways to prepare students for a future that will change more rapidly than at any point before in human history.




What’s Your Name: The Eskimo Disc System and a Daughter’s Search for Her Grandmother


By Norma Dunning

n 2001, Dr. Norma Dunning applied to the Nunavut Beneficiary program, requesting enrolment to legally solidify her existence as an Inuk woman. But in the process, she was faced with a question she could not answer, tied to a colonial institution retired decades ago: “What was your grandmother’s disc number?” From the ‘40s to late ‘70s, Canada instituted a numbered ID system within Inuit communities. The flimsy tag was to be worn at all times and replaced existing, culturally significant naming practices. Like many other colonial systems, it left confusion and disorder in its wake. In Kinauvit? Dunning examines the history of the then-called Eskimo Disc System imposed on Inuit communities, providing historical context and contemporary commentary in a comprehensive analysis that is the first of its kind on the subject. It is a riveting blended memoir that weaves Dunning’s search for her own ancestral roots into the stories of others who have navigated the complicated legacy of Canada’s colonial project in the North. In Kinauvit? Dunning pieces together this little-understood and short-lived piece of the rapid colonial expansion into the North—a system that no government has ever apologized or claimed responsibility for.

Photo credit: Emily Welz Studio

About the Author

Dr. Norma Dunning is an Inuk writer as well as a scholar, researcher, professor and grandmother. Her short story collection Tainna: The Unseen Ones won the 2021 Governor General’s Award for literature, and her previous short story collection Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, received the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for short stories and the Bronze Foreword INDIES Award for short stories. Kinauvit? captures the same depth of feeling as her previous works within a personal history that begins with an innocent childhood question: ‘Mom, what are we?’ Dunning currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta.



Blue Mountain Tribe Blue Mountain Tribe is literally and figuratively a family. They have played and grown together for over a decade. The band is an all-Indigenous blues/rock band founded by professional harmonica player ‘Rockin’ Robin Hairston and includes Hairston’s son Caleb Hairston on lead guitar, as well as Pat Mata on drums and Jeff “Cooper Hawk” Cooper on bass. Their award-winning debut album All Our Relations was released in 2014, and their long-anticipated second album Oh Great Warrior is ready to drop this fall. Their latest work is inspired by Chief Arvol Looking Horse—a well-respected Chief and the keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations of the Sioux. “He is the most respected Chief in the Country,” says Hairston. “He contacted me and asked if I could write a song about all the pain and suffering our country has gone through.” Hairston wrote the song “Pray for Our Planet” which became a huge success, playing on various

stations all over the world and subsequently winning awards at 10 film festivals. Their creative musicianship has also earned them two Native American Music Awards. Playing mostly original compositions, Blue Mountain Tribe’s music is influenced by real-life experiences and each of their diverse backgrounds with the Hairstons (Robin and Caleb) being Chiricahua Apache; Mata, Chumash; and Jeff “Cooper Hawk” Cooper, Cherokee. As public figures, they recognize they have a responsibility not only to share their gifts as entertainers but also to use their platform to raise awareness about many critically important topics and realworld issues.


Jeff “Cooper Hawk” Cooper also happens to be a college professor. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Riverside, and a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Missouri at Columbia. When he is not playing with the band, you’ll find him teaching as a professor of chemistry at Antelope Valley College.

Although some of the topics they touch on are quite serious, this blues band makes a great effort to create messages that are positive and solution-oriented, aiming to bring all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together to work towards peace for the greater good.



Aysanabee Toronto-based songwriter Aysanabee is eagerly anticipating the release of Watin, his debut album, this November. With the successful release of two songs over the summer, Aysanabee’s Watin is a clear articulation of his artistic vision. An album of renewal and rebuilding, listeners are invited into this captivating and intimate space about language, family and memory.

Album cover painted by Montina Hussey

A recent press release so eloquently painted the picture of Aysanabee’s highly-personal debut release and the inspiration behind it: “The album opens with one of nine Interludes, which place the voice of Aysanabee’s grandfather, album namesake Watin, in intimate conversation with the songs that surround the precious audio recordings. These Interludes ground and magnify the themes of the collection, where the small details that punctuate Watin’s childhood memories are the sparks that kindle each song’s blaze.”


Aysanabee is Oji-Cree, Sucker Clan of the Sandy Lake First Nation in Northern Ontario. His voice and overall sound are striking, mixing indie, soul and electronic soundscapes. In 2021, the success of Aysanabee’s self-produced, self-released single “Ocean Breath” solidified his place in the Canadian music scene, quickly finding him a home with the label Ishkōdé Records. He has performed on major stages across the country, opening for Half Moon Run and July Talk, and he recently launched and curated an emerging Indigenous artist series in Toronto. Known for pulse-quickening finger-picking, this is the rhythmic foundation of Aysanabee’s latest collection, particularly showcased on songs such as “Bringing the Fire” and standout “Ego Death.” His breakout song “Ocean Breath” can be heard on major streaming platforms and in the feature film Stellar by Anishinaabe director Darlene Naponse.


David Laronde Indigenous singer-songwriter David Laronde was born and raised TemeAugama Anishnabai (Deep Water People) in beautiful Northern Ontario. As a musician of contemporary folk, rock and blues music, the purpose of his music is to relay the comforting strengths found in ancestral philosophy. Wind, water, waves, birds and wildlife shape his song creations. The songs are influenced and forged by earthly and spiritual connections to his homeland. “We need to be aware of the positive energy that exists in the natural environment,” says Laronde. We all have the power to lift ourselves up and lighten the load we carry through life. Our ancestors have been doing this for thousands of years. “With my music, I’m sharing touchstones to a holistic existence and ancestral philosophy. Wind, water, waves, trees and wildlife all carry messages from a thousand years ago. With ears and eyes open, the wind through the pines and encounters with wildlife leave me wondering about the whisperings or messages being relayed to me.”

breeze or an unforgiving north wind. His music transitions from folk to rock to blues seamlessly. Laronde’s debut CD Right City Wrong Town was nominated for Best Blues Album by the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards in 2013. In 2015, re-rooting personal beliefs inspired his sophomore album Under the Raven’s Wing—a spiritual homecoming that was deeply personal and healing. And just last spring, Laronde received a nomination for Indigenous Songwriter of the Year by the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

freedom and sovereignty. It presents a new artistic sensibility that reaches out with the clear purpose of empowering us through connection to Earth and Spirit. A gifted, contemporary Indigenous songwriter and performer, Laronde is well-travelled across Canada from coast to coast to coast including the high arctic. With his guitar ever ready, he is always looking for inspiration for his next song.

With his new album I Know I Can Fly, Laronde demonstrates his vulnerability, compassion and courage. The ancestral forces around Laronde compelled him to respond to escalating numbers of teen suicides, relentless struggles of single mothers, and unjust overincarceration of Indigenous men and women. The album is about personal

For Laronde, music has healing and transcending power that can travel through time and then land in the present with a message. Connecting to ancestral places across time and space grounds Laronde’s music in both physical and spiritual realms. His storytelling is a fresh take on heartbreak, loneliness, love, hope and joy. It can conjure a cool summer

Nov 14 | Blue Mountain Tribe Nov 21 | Aysanabee Nov 28 | David Laronde Visit us at


Photos courtesy of John Ulan


Transforming the Past for the Future:

Reclaiming Indigenous Cultural Heritage Submitted by the University of Alberta

The Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology (IPIA) at the University of Alberta is working to transform how archaeology is viewed and practiced, by incorporating Indigenous knowledge into teaching and training.


he IPIA is an Indigenousled institute that supports Indigenous-engaged archaeological research and commits to changing cultural heritage policies in response to the needs of Indigenous communities in Western Canada. It is the first of its kind in Canada and the first institute focused on Indigenous archaeology in the world. What makes IPIA so unique is its heart-centered and Indigenous-focused approach to archaeology. With research by, with and for Indigenous communities, they are committed to using innovative methods to explore the past, uphold Indigenous heritage values and support restorative justice. Furthermore, the team at IPIA is prioritizing community-driven research to influence positive change in heritage policy, pedagogy and practice. How is the IPIA changing the practice of archaeology by integrating Indigenous ways of knowing? Traditionally, archaeological practice has been based on concepts of: extraction, the process of taking; colonialism, a way


for settlers to learn about and preserve what they thought to be a ‘disappearing’ people; empiricism, based on Western ways of knowing centering science, technology and empirical knowledge above other ways of knowing; and elitism, ignoring many historically excluded voices, not just Indigenous ones. The goal of the IPIA is restorative justice within archaeology, to rectify historical and ongoing wrongs, and to focus on using archaeological knowledge for justice and reclamation. IPIA aims to recenter the narrative of the past from the perspective of the people it is about, as they know it. Incorporating Indigenous Peoples’ ways of knowing and being into archaeological practice makes space for Indigenous Peoples to decide what happens with their own cultural heritage. “If Indigenous Peoples are never given the option to say ‘no’, it’s not really restorative justice,” says Kisha Supernant, Director of the IPIA. “It is imperative that we allow for an ethical space where Western and Indigenous ways of knowing are equal. A space where the plurality of

Kisha Supernant the human experience is understood and acknowledged so that we can undo the history of harm and extraction to reclaim our stories.” From a policy perspective, significant changes are needed to support restorative justice in heritage legislation. In Canada, cultural heritage law is currently regulated at the provincial level, and there are inconsistencies and major differences between heritage legislation in each province or territory. With Canada now endorsing UNDRIP, changes to existing policies or a new heritage law framework are necessary to allow Indigenous communities to have the authority to manage their own heritage and fully enact the UNDRIP articles pertaining to cultural heritage and data sovereignty. “In our practice at the IPIA, this occurs in how we approach our work with our own communities, such as the Métis Nation of Alberta,” says Supernant. “Traditional empirical methods seek to categorize things, to separate them— to preserve and curate knowledge according to a specific outline. Enacting

ARCHAEOLOGY Indigenous methodologies reframes our understanding of our research to focus on how things are interconnected, related, interwoven, embedded or lived.” Supernant stresses the need to be attentive to Indigenous context and histories when going to a site; for example, specific cultural protocols. IPIA scholars work closely with Elders and knowledge holders to determine appropriate ceremonies, and they consider how the community can be engaged throughout all stages of research, from conception to curation and care. “Artifacts are relations, not objects; they need to be connected to our communities in the present,” explains Supernant. “The Cree concept of Wahkotowin is relevant here. As Indigenous archaeologists, we respect our relations and acknowledge the gift that they are, and, in turn, have obligations towards those relations—to visit with them, to honor them, to keep them in ceremony.” Most museum practice is based on a Western understanding of preservation

and care of cultural heritage, and because of this our relations are often “institutionalized” in a museum, that is, kept separate from the integrated networks in which they belong. The idea of museums is not inherently a negative one, but there needs to be significant progress made in how museum practice understands and interacts with the cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples, and this change needs to be led by Indigenous Peoples. The IPIA is finding different ways to engage with Indigenous relations. One project is building a database based on a Métis understanding of cultural heritage, intended to be used by and for the Métis community to learn about their heritage and relations. What information is important for Métis people to know or learn about their own heritage and relations? It is most likely not empirical categories like ‘material type’, but rather, ‘What was it used for? Where was it found? What was it found with?’ There are also ways to share the stories of relations that are not museum-based and are led by Indigenous communities.

The IPIA is involved in several projects that are focused on preservation, including using various non-invasive methodologies at the Métis settlement of Chimney Coulee, near Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan. Critical work has also taken place with Papaschase Cree to find unmarked graves starting in 2019 on land that we now know as Edmonton. With their commitment to community-driven research, the knowledge and skill set of the team at IPIA are often called upon to address questions or concerns from communities that can be answered through archaeological techniques, including locating unmarked burials around residential schools—critical work that the IPIA will continue to do through non-invasive techniques and technologies for as long as necessary.

The article has been adapted from a presentation by Kisha Supernant, Director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, on Thursday, September 22, 2022.



“One of the actions we can take today in the Spirit of Reconciliation is to follow Indigenous activists and educators. For me, the instructors of these ancient arts (the stretching of hides, the scraping of the hide and the primary tasks) lent their voices to those of us in attendance. These stoic teachers, carefully plodding through their assigned tasks, were actively sharing their stories and, through them, were sharing what the path to reconciliation looks like. Bringing more diverse voices and engaging in Indigenous cultural activities is a great way to keep listening, keep learning, and unlearn the biases, myths and misconceptions of the past.” 32 | EDUCATION & TRAINING l OCTOBER 2022

Preparing a Moose Hide By Anne-Marie Beattie

Anne-Marie Beattie was granted permission to observe and partake in the preparation of a moose hide in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. This is her experience.


s I pulled open the tent flap, my senses were assaulted by the visceral scent of organ removal, woodsmoke and the sound of women working communally. What if I’m not welcomed? I am a settler. What if they see me as an outsider, an intruder? I was about to embark on a learning experience that I could have learned decades ago but didn’t—skinning and preparing a moose hide. I peered cautiously into the interior, presenting a friendly, if somewhat uncertain, face. To the right of the tent flap, Danya pointed at the hide she was scraping, and said, “Want to try?” Gratefully, I took the tool from her, gave her a big smile and sat down to scrape. She had made it look so easy. It wasn’t.

I wish my father could see me now. He knew how to do this. The moose hide camp set up in Somba K’e Park in Yellowknife featured the thirteen steps of hide preparation in a demonstration lasting the weekend and beyond. As I sat down, invited by Danya, I looked around the tent. Individual centres, each representing a stage of the preparations, were in progress. An Elder had a stove going in one corner where a pot simmered away, sustenance for the women. And they were all women. Chene (Sha-nay, mother of three) removed the membrane with a bone tool, practical but not sharp. Towards the back left of the tent, a skinner, using a sharper tool with a serrated blade, pulled in a downward motion. Chene

LAND-BASED EDUCATION finished her job, and the hide was turned over to the skinner. Under the guidance and goodwill of the women, I took a turn at the various stations, skinning, scraping and preparing the hide to go outside. For the most part, they were friendly and kind, if somewhat indulgent to this Maritimer. I wished I hadn’t worn my choice of a hoodie. One of the women said, “You from New York?” I cringed. Bad enough to be from the East. New York was unthinkable. Was there nothing else in my wardrobe besides this hideous pink hoodie emblazoned with three-inch letters screaming NEW YORK? Great. How to make friends and influence people. Like anyone would ever confuse me with a big city dweller. Rural New Brunswick was the impetus pushing me even to be here. A moose hanging in the shed meant winter meat for my family and me. We always had

deer or moose meat in various stages. A hanging carcass, a make-shift table for butchering the parts, nothing wasted, butcher paper wrapping table, all under stealth. Sometimes in the dead of night. Periodically it was illegal to the point of a jail term if the Mounties discovered and confiscated deer or moose meat. Contraband at its finest, my father hid the identity of what we were eating. In the winter of a ban on moose, my father lied to us and said we were eating deer. It was years before I ever learned the truth. My heritage stays with me so solidly that even today, when I hear of someone killing a moose or deer on the highway, my first thought is that of wistfully asking, “I suppose they can’t keep the meat?” Never mind that their SUV is destroyed. Outside, Mandee had stretched a moose hide between two park trees. She and the women stretched and dried the hide using cords inserted through holes, preparing for the following process.

My time in Yellowknife was short but immeasurable when considering the knowledge that was shared and memories evoked of my childhood winter meat. Anne-Marie Beattie was born and educated in New Brunswick. Beattie’s inspiration for her stories reflects a backwoods upbringing and a storyteller father. The humble beginnings of her childhood and the voice of the vernacular drive her stories. She has enjoyed publication in the Toronto Star, Maclean’s and in various New Brunswick publications, including the Telegraph-Journal, The Daily Gleaner and The Nashwaak Review.


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“Mino Pimatisiwin ‘Living a good life’ can mean different things to each individual. As Indigenous People, we understand each person has the right to direct their own life without interference. When we gather for healing ceremonies, we are told stories shared by Elders and Knowledge Keepers, which we call teachings. Yet it is understood that everyone will take a different personal meaning from each teaching and that we can only take that which we are ready for. Each time we hear a story, even if it is the same story, we may have a different understanding of the teaching than we did before.” ~ Knowledge Keeper North Star (Excerpt adapted with permission from Teacher, Take Care. Copyright 2022, Portage & Main Press)

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