This National Indigenous History Month, ONWA is highlighting Indigenous voices, to recognize the historical, social, and cultural contributions of Indigenous peoples.
This month is meant to foster dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. It is a time to reflect on the past, acknowledge the ongoing challenges, and work towards building stronger relationships based on respect and mutual understanding.
The Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group is a group of women that are family. Their lineage comes from their late grandmother Hashinokwe, Sarah Kejick (aka Stone). Hashinokwe’s mom carried a big drum, and her name was Kokoko o kwe. This means she carried & used a big drum over 175 years ago.
“Our late dad, Robert Keesick (manawaybenaise) of the Lynx clan, told us that because of our late great grandma we are able to use the big drum. Our lineage gives us permission.”
The Grassy Narrows Womens Drum Group used to go to pow wows and learned they would only go to places to be advocates for the people through the big drum. The drum carriers are Roberta Keesick & Rachel Kejick. The drum group has attended many gatherings and MMIWG gatherings and sun dances and ceremonies. Although they have had their share of extreme heartbreak and struggles with addictions, family breakdown, and other challenges, as a group of family members that sing with the drum, it has only enhanced their ability to be understanding advocates for their people.
Today, they travel with the drum in the hopes the young girls of the family that they mentor through song and ceremony will carry on the knowledge and songs shared to them from many different nations of women singers.
Dr. Maya Chacaby is Anishinaabe, Beaver Clan from Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay). Her birth family comes from Red Rock Indian Band (Deschamps/Blanchette/Desmoulin) and adoptive family (Chacaby) from Ombabika, Lake Nipigon (registered with Eabametoong). Maya has an extensive background as an educator, researcher, trainer, and advocate on several critical issues impacting Indigenous women and communities.
Maya’s work centres on promoting the Ojibwe language and culture and ending Indigenous human trafficking, homelessness, and violence against Indigenous women and girls. She continues to make an impact on improving the quality of life for future generations through sharing her teachings and worldviews. Among her many accomplishments, she designed and launched the Indigenous Social Wellness Model for addressing Human Trafficking in First Nations communities. Maya also designed a provincial Training on understanding Indigenous Human Trafficking for the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS), the Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office. She also developed a Train the Trainer program on Indigenous Human Trafficking and continues to work closely with communities on this issue.
Maya has trained over 10,000 participants from district school boards, health service providers, hospitals, law enforcement, legal clinics, Children’s Aid, municipal leadership, provincial ministries, and tribal councils on cultural competency and culture-based trauma informed practice. She currently runs an certificate program in Indigenous Trauma Informed Practices and Cultural Resurgence, open to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The Certificate is run through a partnership with Nokiiwin Tribal Council and Glendon (York University) Continuing Education. Over 500 people have graduated from he program in the last 2 years.
A popular professor in the Department of Sociology at York University, Glendon Campus, Maya’s approach to teaching incorporates Anishinaabe ways of being, knowing, and doing, as well as storytelling, to help ignite the magic of traditional languages among students. Maya runs a Dungeons and Dragons style table top adventure in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe Language) for her online classes, with quests character development and of course, boss battles!
Maya is currently Developing an Indigenous Metaverse called Biskaabiiyaang where community members can interact with language and cultural teachings in open world, real time adventure. She is currently working with Nokiiwin Tribal Council, UniVirtual, community Elders, and Indigenous youth to develop and co-create the Metaverse content. The Biskaabiiyaang site and free demo are here: https://www.biskaabiiyaang.com
Maya also developed an online interactive teaching on understanding Anishinaabe teachings about kindness which can be found here https://sweetgrassteachings.com
Maya has published extensively on several topics. Check out some of her publications!
Chacaby, M. (2023) Fallout 250 Anishinaabe Post-Apocalypse Survivance Handbook. University of Toronto Thesis, ProQuest.
Chacaby, M. (2022). Bone Court Trial Transcripts: Nanaboshoo and the Bullrushes: The Case of Being in the Reeds and the Theft of the Crime. Indigenous Law Journal, 18, 27.
Chacaby, M. (2018). “(The Missing Chapter) On Being Missing: From Indian Problem to Indian Problematic” in, Keetsahnak : Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters, eds Anderson Kim, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt.Alberta Canada: University of Alberta Press
Chacaby, M. (2015). Crippled Two-Tongue and the Myth of Benign Translatability. Tusaaji: A Translation Review, 4(1).
Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor, author, and social justice activist from Ugpi-ganjig (Eel River Bar First Nation) in New Brunswick. She has four university degrees, including a BA from St. Thomas in Native Studies; an LLB from the University of New Brunswick; and her Master and Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University, specializing in Indigenous law. She currently holds the position of full Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Toronto Metropolitan University.
A lawyer in good standing for 23 years, Pam has been researching, working, volunteering, and advocating for over 30 years on a wide range of issues including: Indigenous sovereignty, governance, and nationbuilding; treaty and land rights as well as Indigenous identity, Indian registration and membership/enrollment.
Pam’s research also focuses on societal and state-based racism, misogyny, and sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls by law enforcement (police, prison guards, military, etc). She has presented to Parliamentary and Senate committees, United Nations, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as well as Mass Casualty Commission.
Pam was one of the spokespeople, organizers, and public educators for the Idle No More movement and advocates alongside other social movements focusing on human rights and climate action, and is considered one of Canada’s Top 25 Influential Movers and Shakers by the Financial Post and the Top 5 Most Influential Lawyer in Human Rights by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.
Nahanni Fontaine is the NDP MLA for the St. Johns constituency in the Province of Manitoba.
First elected in 2016, and again in 2019, Nahanni serves as the NDP House Leader; Critic for Justice; and Spokesperson for Status of Women and Veterans Affairs.
Nahanni has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Winnipeg in Environmental Studies and International Development and a Masters of Arts (M.A.) degree in Native Studies, Women’s Studies and Critical Theory from the University of Manitoba.
Nahanni has dedicated the last twenty-five years to fighting for the rights of Indigenous women and girls, including the critical issue of including the issue of missing & murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirited (MMIWG2S).
Nahanni provides workshops, training and keynote addresses on the historical and contemporary context of Indigenous women and girls in Canada; alongside, the need for racial and gender representation within politics and Indigenous human rights and empowerment.
Nahanni has served as a representative of the Indigenous community municipally, provincially, nationally and internationally on a number of boards and committees, including the Winnipeg Police Advisory Board, Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Mother of Red Nations, RCMP Aboriginal Advisory Board and the United Nations Working Group on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to name but a few.
Nahanni is the recipient of several awards, scholarships and fellowships, including the 2021 Indspire Award for Public Service; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Doctoral Scholarship; the YMCA Women of Distinction Award; and the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case.
Before being elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, Nahanni served as the Special Advisor on Aboriginal Women’s Issues for the Aboriginal Issues Committee of Cabinet of Manitoba for six years and the Director of Justice for the Southern Chief’s Organization for ten years previously; alongside, a Sessional Instructor in the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba.
Nahanni is Status Ojibway from the Sagkeeng Anishinaabe First Nation in southern Manitoba. Nahanni is the proud mother to Jonah, Niinichaanis and her fur baby, Chilly Dog.
Tauni Sheldon is Inuk whose family comes from Inukjuak and Quaqtaq, both in Nunavik (northern Québec) and was adopted to a loving qallunaq or non-Inuit family in Ontario. Although she was apprehended at birth as a part of the Sixties Scoop, she has reconnected with her birth Mother, birth Father, and birth family while maintaining a loving relationship with her adoptive family. She has travelled to all parts of Nunavik, parts of Nunavut, and Nunatsiavut (Labrador) and continues to learn her Inuit culture.
Currently, Tauni lives with her husband, Ed and with their son, Aalpi in the rural area of Guelph. She works in the Kamatsiarniq Program at Tungasuvvingat Inuit in Inuit child welfare and has a background in federal corrections, as well as having been a pilot for Air Inuit. She and her son, Aalpi Kumarluk work with agencies and organizations in southwestern Ontario in teaching and sharing in Inuit culture.
Margaret is Ts’msyen, a descendent of Laxsgyiik (Eagle Clan) and a member of the Lax Kw’alaams Band of Gitga'at. She joined the non-profit housing sector more than 28 years ago and has been the CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) since 2017.
Margaret’s career has been built on her dedication to serving and supporting the Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia, and she currently serves on CHRA’s Indigenous Housing Advisory Caucus and CHRA’s Board of Directors as Vice President. Her devotion to Indigenous communities expands beyond the Provincial Housing Sector. As an impactful public speaker, she continues to advocate and protect the inherent human rights of Indigenous Peoples at conferences and engagements worldwide. Margaret actively represents the urban Indigenous voice at national and international levels by addressing and advancing housing rights for all Indigenous Peoples.
AHMA is the first housing authority in Canada and only second in the world. In 2019 Margaret led AHMA to partner with the government of British Columbia to create the historic Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund (IHF). This monumental initiative made BC the first province in Canada to offer provincial funding to all Indigenous Peoples on reserve and in Urban, Rural, and Northern regions.
Through my lived experience and research, I understand that archaeological stories that have dehumanized Indigenous people and erased their links to their homelands are a part of ongoing intergenerational trauma, and racism. In carrying out research, I have come to realize that the past weaves through the present along paths of healing only if we do the work to clear the way. Thus, I have spent twenty-two years researching ancestors’ stories held in the land (archaeological sites), global human evolution, and oral traditions, and re-writing the deep Indigenous history of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island as discussed in my 2021 book The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemsiphere.
Based on my research I argue that people have been present in the Western Hemisphere for over 100,000 years and possibly earlier. However, whether Indigenous people have been in the Western Hemsiphere for 100,000 years or over 200,000 years, the First People and their descendants are Indigenous to the continents of the Western Hemisphere and have been so for thousands of years. This land is where their cultures and lifeways were born; this is where they are from. Ancestral connections between ancient and contemporary Indigenous communities are empowering to Indigenous people. The existence of hundreds of ancestral sites in the Pleistocene (prior to 12,000 years ago) creates a dialogue from which Indigenous people can challenge erasures of histories. It foregrounds their Indigenous identities and their links to the land and empowers them in seeking justice.