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She Is Wise Conference 2024

Updated: Jan 29

ONWA's She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin: 5th Annual Conference is happening January 22-24, 2024 at the Sheraton Fallsview in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Stay tuned for up to the minute updates by exploring this blog or following ONWA on social media:




What is the She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin Conference?

Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin (she is wise in ways of life) captures the voices and perspectives of Indigenous women, that seek to change the narrative of violence, through collective cultural and gendered empowerment. It acknowledges the wisdom and intelligence of women, as well as the life-giving power she carries within her.

ONWA is committed to creating safe spaces for Indigenous women’s storytelling that are culturally grounded, gender-based, and trauma-informed. This training will build upon the work of Indigenous women; retelling a story that has largely gone untold and replenishing our bundles with wise practices that will support efforts to build Indigenous women’s leadership. In doing so, we envision empowered women, strong families, and safer communities. Learners can incorporate these wise practices into their work while continuing to support Indigenous women and their families.

2024 Theme

The theme for this year’s conference is honouring the roles Grandmothers, Mothers, Aunties, and Daughters play in preserving and protecting Mother Earth. She is us and we are her. When she is well, we are well. Women are the sacred carriers of water, without water life is not sustainable. The knowledge shared throughout the conference will enrich participant’s understanding of the vital historical roles Indigenous women have played and continue to play in sustaining life on Mother Earth. This year we acknowledge, honour, and celebrate Indigenous women as they take up their leadership roles protecting Mother Earth for generations to come. 



In the News

Cora McGuire-Cyrette: She Is Wise Conference | Superior Morning with Mary-Jean Cormier | Live Radio | CBC Listen

ONWA CEO Cora Mcguire-Cyrette discusses being a disruptor, making waves, and being leader. Click here to listen.

Aired: January 25, 2024


'Be disruptors' is the message at 5th annual She Is Wise Indigenous women's conference

Ontario Native Women's Association held the conference in Niagara Falls, Jan. 22 - 24 | Lisa-Marie Esquega | CBC News. Click here to read.

Released: January 26, 2024


Welcome & Pre-Registration: Sunday, January 21, 2024

Excited to welcome all participants to the empowering She is Wise Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario!  Let's celebrate the strength and wisdom of Indigenous women, fostering connections, and inspiring positive change.  

Together, we're shaping a brighter future!  #SheIsWise2024 #ONWA


A heartfelt chi miigwetch (big thank you) to Joe, Ariel, and Lance from the Six Nations Smoke Dancers for gracing ONWA with their incredible presence and leading us in traditional Haudenosaunee dances, including the powerful Social Women's Song.

It was an absolute honor to have them guide us through these meaningful movements during the early registration for the #sheiswise2024 Conference. Their talent, wisdom, and generosity filled the space, leaving a lasting impact on all of us.

We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to learn from such dedicated individuals who share not only their artistry but also the rich cultural heritage behind each dance.


Day 1: Monday, January 22, 2024 - Grandmothers

Whitefish Bay First Nation
Fort Erie Niagara Chapter of Native Women
Sioux Lookout First Nation Health Authority, Thunder Bay, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation


"She Is Wise is about affirming and acknowledging of greatness, and celebrating our greatness. You are magnificent." - Joan Riggs


Chief Sherri-Lyn Hill, Six Nations of the Grand River

“Your wisdom remains the cornerstone of building stronger and more resilient communities” -Chief Sherri-Lyn Hill, Six Nations of the Grand River


Chief Claire Sault, Mississauga's of the New Credit First Nation

“I was responsible for my healing path forwards. As I got older, I realized I had a fire in my soul. ... Wisdom, we already have it, it is already inside of us (called Elder, she told me). The true gifts are already inside us, and they are ...” - Chief Claire Sault, Mississauga's of the New Credit First Nation


Cora McGuire-Cyrette, CEO Ontario Native Women's Association, and Minister Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

If we are going to change the world, it we are going to make a difference. We need to begin with understanding. We need to recognize the culture, encourage them to grow. What does reconciliation mean to you? I answered with 1 word: empowerment." -Minister Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions


Alana Roberts, Youth Director, ONWA

The She Is Wise Conference is so important, it is integral to so many of our cultures and traditions. Our knowledge and solutions are needed now more than ever”. - Alana Roberts, Youth Director, ONWA


Cora McGuire Cyrette, CEO, ONWA

"Indigenous women lead differently. We lead from the heart. We lead from a community perspective, from the ground up. Being a leader is a difficult role, and an important one." - Cora McGuire Cyrette, CEO, ONWA


Left to right: Ma-nee Chacaby, Anishinaabe; Jan Longboat, Mohawk; Levinia Brown, Inuit; Pearl Gabona, Métis

"I think it is our responsibilities as Grandmothers is to instill a love of Mother Nature in our children and grandchildren." - Pearl Gabona, Métis

"To be a leader, you have to have followers. You have to role model what it means to lead, you have to be worth following. Otherwise, you are just out for an afternoon walk." - Jan Longboat, Mohawk



We are creating art pieces depicting our collective experiences of receiving knowledge from the grandmothers through life's journey during the Honoring and Celebrating our Knowledge Keeper Grandmothers activity at #sheiswise2024 conference.


“Keep doing the work, because that is the medicine. It is what helps us be well. [...] Traditionally, women had certain roles in the community. It was the responsibility of the mothers to look after the family. It was the old ladies, the grandmothers, to look over the health and wellbeing of the community as a whole." - Keynote Speaker Kim Anderson, Firebrand Grannies: Looking to our Past to Shape our Future, #sheiswise2024 Conference


Chi miigwetch (big thank you) to Bianca, Harmony Blackbird, Kendal White, and Becky Hill for sharing your meaningful stories during the Lifecycle Reflection activity at #sheiswise2024 Conference.


“One our greatest gift’s is to remember. To remember our stories. To have our memories, because we were meant to be in those places, to receive those teachings. […] We can not talk about one thing, because in our language we understand that everything is connected. […] We are all a part of this puzzle. We each have something that helps make this vision complete.” - Norma Jacobs, Water Teachings and Finding our Identity, #sheiswise2024 Conference


In 2021, ONWA undertook a small study to explore the experiences of Indigenous women entrepreneurs in Ontario. Read the Heart Work: Experiences of Indigenous Women Entrepreneurs (2021) report, available on:


“Representation matters more than I can even understand. […] You feel proud when you see your people succeeding. […] We don’t have to know everything. We can learn as we are building and growing. We can get there if we have the confidence to jump in and try.” - Keynote Speaker, Jenn Harper, Cheekbone Beauty, at the #sheiswise2024 Conference Indigenous Women’s Economic Development Forum


Chi miigwetch (big thank you) to Karen Bird, Michelle Derosier, & Samantha Loney for instilling wisdom during the Panel at the #sheiswise2024 Conference Indigenous Women’s Economic Development Forum

“There is a struggle in trying to balance the two worlds of capitalism and my Indigenous values and still grow a business. […] We can do both.” - Michelle Derosier

“Our ceremony is the only way our people are going to heal. When I speak to women about when they began their healing journey, it all starts with ceremony. Ceremony will be at the core.” - Karen Bird

“If you feel called to do something, do it. Follow your heart, trust in yourself, and just go do it. No one really know what they are doing, no one is ever fully prepared.” - Samantha Loney


She Is Wise Conference Day 1 key take aways from participants :

  • Connect to the land to continue our healing and truth.

  • Be a disrupter. Take up space. Make waves. Be leaders.

  • Creation is always speaking to us.

  • Language is culture, and culture is language.

  • Speak to your Elders. Elders carry important knowledge to share.

  • You are your own medicine.

  • Stay native.

  • Women are leaders.

  • Sharing your life experience – positive and negative and everything is between – is healing, and healing is medicine.

  • Keep the storytelling alive.

  • We are role models for the future generations.

  • True leaders are authentic and following their truth, it is what makes them worth following.


We were honoured to have artists Devon Kerslake and Liisa Sorsa of Think Link Graphics creating a mural at the #sheiswise2024 Conference.


Day 2: Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - Mothers & Aunties

Akwesasne Family Wellness Program, Ottawa Police
Oshki Thunder Bay, 7 GENS from Kenora, ON and Ne-Chee Friendship Centre
Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
Akwesasne Family Wellness Program, Ottawa Police


“I should have done nothing in my childhood, I realize now, but hang out with my grandmother. […] She really shaped my understanding of what it means to be an Ojibway person.” - Dr. Brenda Child, Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women in the Past and Future Keynote

“We should write the history of Indigenous people from the perspective of Indigenous people. […] I want to hear native people’s voices. How did they experience history?” - Dr. Brenda Child, Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women in the Past and Future Keynote


“We are all helpers here. We are all reaching for something. However your spirit emerges in your work, you are a helper. […] Don’t check yourself at the door when you are doing your work. Stand for who you are.” - Dr. Kathy Absolon, Reconnecting to land and life in how we come to know Keynote

“My mother taught us how to navigate. How to walk the land and remember the landmarks to find our ways home. […] Our ancestors left us many landmarks. We have to pay attention and work to figure them out, the land will lead the way.” - Dr. Kathy Absolon, Reconnecting to land and life in how we come to know Keynote

“Sit at your own fire. Sit with yourself. Walk through your fire. Learn what you are made of. Make mistakes; because as flawed as you are, Creator does not make mistakes.” - Dr. Kathy Absolon, Reconnecting to land and life in how we come to know Keynote



Heidi Metcalfe and Lynda Brown, Siqiniup Qiluata (Sunsdrum), Inuit Throat Singers at 5th Annual She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin Conference 2024.

As part of the event, Siqiniup Qiluata taught the audience how to do some basic Inuit Throat Singing. This video features a couple of the brave participants. (Watch in playlist above, or at: )


She Is Wise Conference Day 2 key take aways from participants :

  • We need to reclaim our connection to the land, Mother Earth is waiting for us. Even if we don’t know her, and are tentative to reach out, She knows us.

  • We are not from the earth, we are of the earth.

  • Watch and listen, know your landmarks.

  • You question keep you on the path to learning, they lead you on your journey to knowing yourself.

  • It is fun to learn new things. It is like school but way more interesting. (Youth, age 6)

  • To connect to yourself you need to connect to land to connect to spirit.

  • You have to get out of you comfort zone to make connections and make change happen.

  • Culture guides us to know where we belong and who we are.

  • Mental health is a big factor of what happens to ourselves and our people. Self-care is important. We have to hep ourselves, to best help others.

  • Women’s safety covers all stages to life.

  • It is very powerful thing when everyone feels safe enough to share.

  • We will survive because we have each other to help.


We were honoured to have artists Devon Kerslake and Liisa Sorsa of Think Link Graphics creating a mural at the #sheiswise2024 Conference.


Day 3: Wednesday, January, 2024 - Daughters

Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services Corporation
Beendigen Thunder Bay
Aboriginal Health Centre, Branford-Hamilton


We are getting warmed up for our youthful day as we begin Day 3: Daughters at #sheiswise2024 Conference.


“Youth voices have the most powerful and meaningful things to say. Being young in that space, you don’t know how many times I have heard: ‘she’s just a kid, why should I care what she has to say’.” - Autumn Peltier

“The most powerful messages that you are going to hear is going to come from the young people. Young people rarely will raise their voice at government platforms. When they do it is important to pay attention because it is a sign that something is wrong.” - Autumn Peltier

“Being connected to Mother Earth is one of the most important things we can be. As Indigenous people we have a role, responsibility, and connection to Mother Earth. […] Our roles are Indigenous people is to protect our Mother Earth and our land. We speak up for the things that can not speak up for themselves. As Indigenous people we are responsible to speak up for the water, and the fish, and the animals, and the land.” - Autumn Peltier

“Heal the healer, and a healer in every home. I bring that to you from my teachers.” - Makanalani Gomes

“When we are disconnected from Mother Earth, when she is sick, we can not connect with ourselves. […] What was lost was not just the land, it was the connect. […] The land is our chief, and we are its servants. In this life we are here to serve.” - Makanalani Gomes

“A conference like this, it something I who like to take back to Hawaii. […] We are an Indigenous family, no matter where we are in the world. Collaborating, best practices, sharing what is working and what isn’t, and working together [is what is needed].” - Makanalani Gomes

“Climate change makes it sound like a natural thing that happens. I use climate destruction, because it better reflects the human failing, and the failure of our responsibilities. That is the truth of what is happening. It implicates us in the harm. We are tied up in that destruction.” - Riley Yesno

“She is called Mother Earth, because of the implications of the relationships. It is not just a descriptor, it is a tie into how we are meant to treat each other.” - Riley Yesno

“It is an obligation to spend time dreaming of the better future. We spend so long caught up in the day to day, we need to take time to laugh and dream. It is important to be brave. Being brave is a call for all organizations.” - Riley Yesno


Highlights from sharing letters to honour and celebrate the youth of today:

  • You are loved. You are beautiful. You matter.

  • We support your future. We want to see you grow.

  • Always remember you have generational strengths embedded in you.

  • Seeing your strength and willpower encourages us to heal and restores our faith for the next 7 generations.

  • Not everything is black and white. There are beautiful colours. Bright overwhelming colours. Dull scary colours. I am trying my best to teach you how to embrace these colours. They will create beautiful pictures.

  • You don’t need permission to take up space or be yourself. Your safety is important and so is your truth.

  • The Kanienkeha word for family is Ahkwatsire. The root of that word is Ohienha or fire. We all have a family fire, but you also have a fire inside you. That fire is sacred and important. […] When your fire burns brights, your family fire grows bigger, making our nation fire bigger. Those fires form togetherness as one to keep our confederacy fire strong and bright.

  • Female empowerment is the heartbeat of progress.

  • Rejection is a fact of life. Don’t let it define you. When someone says you can’t use it as fuel to make sure you can.

  • I’m sorry you have to pick up the pieces of who we used to be as people. […] It is a great responsibility and seems like an impossible task. But we are not looking for perfect solutions, perfect answers, or a perfect you. Come as you are, and do what you can.

  • Speak up even if your voice shakes.

  • Be brave. Be passionate. Be loving. Be strong. Be LOUD. Be leaders. Be you.

Love the grandmothers, mothers, aunties, daughters and all the participants at the She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin: 5th Annual Conference


“It is important to lead the way. It is more important to open those doors for other to walk through.” - Keynote Speaker, Emma Morrison, Miss World Canada (2022)



Chi miigwetch to Sara Kae for sharing the gift of her beautiful, inspiring voice at the She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin: 5th Annual Conference.


Chi miigwetch to Alicia Kayley for sharing the gift of her powerful, heartfelt voice at the She Is Wise Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin: 5th Annual Conference



“Listening to the youth today, my hope has been restored. It is your voices and strength in this room that has created this safe space. It is you, because of your strength and the choices you make that She Is Wise is possible. [...] Elder Levinia Brown has summed up this entire event when she gifted us with the teaching of ‘I am going home healed’. Me too. Matna.” - Cora McGuire-Cyrette, CEO, ONWA


Safe travels and see you later.

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