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The Indigenous Education Council


Soaring with Knowledge Annual Conference


November 17-19, 2022


Keynote Speakers

Treaty - Sharon H. Venne

Sharon H. Venne (Notokwew Muskwa Manitokan) is a Cree woman BA (Hon), LLB and LLM..  The background research to the many clauses on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is included in her book: Our Elders Understand Our Rights: Evolving international law regarding Indigenous Peoples.  In addition, Sharon has written numerous articles and edited materials related to the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Treaty Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Her most recent published article is “Manufactured Consent – how state governments manufacture consent and use it against Indigenous Nations at the domestic and international level” in Indigenous Peoples as subjects of international law edited by Dr. Irene Watson.  Sharon is a Judge on the Intergenerational Climate Crimes Court. 

‘nohkom was a tiny Cree woman, spoke no English, never stepped into a classroom but when she spoke we all listened’: As a PHD student and host of #CreeSimonSays with over 25,000 members on Facebook I’m seeing her life’s legacy as a model for Indigenous Language Revitalization - Simon Bird

Presentation Synopsis
Presentation Title:
‘nohkom was a tiny Cree woman, spoke no English, never stepped into a classroom but when she spoke we all listened’: As a PHD student and host of #CreeSimonSays with over 25,000 members on Facebook I’m seeing her life’s legacy as a model for Indigenous Language Revitalization.
Simon Bird, B.Ed., M.Ed., M.N.G.D., Ph.D. Student
Bachelor of Education, University of Saskatchewan
Master of Education Administration, University of Saskatchewan
Master of Northern Governance and Development, University of Saskatchewan
Indigenous Language Revitalization, Ph.D. student, University of Victoria
Simon Bird is a Rock Cree from the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, and was raised in the northern Saskatchewan community of Southend, Reindeer Lake. Simon is a fluent Cree speaker in the “th”, “y” and “n” dialects. He the father of two children and has been married to Naomi Bird from the Thunderchild Cree Nation. Simon has worked within both the First Nations governance and First Nations education. He is currently working on the candidacy portion of the Indigenous Language Revitalization Ph.D. program at the University of Victoria. Simon is a long-time educator and has worked within the school system in nearly every capacity. He has worked as an Education Assistant, Teacher, Principal, Director and Superintendent and a life long learner of Indigenous Languages. Simon has always acknowledged his late grandmother as being his first language teacher that provided him with a deep interest and love for the Cree language. 
In addition to his formal education, Simon is proud of the fact that he was raised with traditional values and with Cree as his first language. Simon was raised in the northern traditional pursuits of fishing, hunting, trapping, running sled dogs, and more. It is his firm belief that these skills have trained him to have a strong work ethic and confidence in his identity as an Indigenous person. He was able to connect the formal education he received from his time in university and relate it to his formal education on the land. The connection that Simon has with the language and his traditional pursuits have allowed for him to establish relationships with elders and knowledge keepers from various communities.
His love of his language and culture has extended to his language initiative #CreeSimonSays which currently has over 25,000 members from around the world. This initiative was developed to support those individuals who were displaced from their communities by means that were beyond their control. Some of the reasons for the disconnect were in part the 60’s scoop and Residential Schools. Simon has acknowledged that he is very fortunate and blessed to have had his grandmother and other family members always by his side, he also acknowledges others are not so fortunate. Cree Simon has taken it upon himself to share the basics of the Cree language via social media and ignite a spark of interest that will hopefully take others on a life-long journey of learning in the same way he has. Simon does not see his language journey as any different than his pursuit in a PHD in Indigenous Language Revitalization but rather an opportunity to explore and study ILR in a much deeper and meaningful way.  

Presentation Description:
nohkom and many other elders who lived on the land, lived by traditional values. They spoke the language daily and have left a legacy for the development and maintenance of Language Revitalization within homes, families, and other initiatives. Their inherent values instilled a legacy that is embedded within a foundation of Capacity, Consistency, Commitment, and Community. The attaining of these three foundational objectives requires that schools, programs, institutions and communities value the importance of building capacity, maintaining consistency, and developing a supportive community. Elders who have land knowledge understand the role of Capacity, Consistency, Commitment, and Community, but through its natural state. For the most part is not predetermined or constructed, but rather it is innate to the conversations and relationships built with elders. In order to construct these foundational objectives within a school, program, institution or community, requires the governing system to duplicate a traditional system on a large scale that have grown increasingly disconnected with local knowledge. We have looked for answers to too many community issues outside our communities when the answers are much closer. Language initiatives need to consider what the current system looks like, how it is supported and conduct an ongoing review on supporting its sustainability.
Presentation Design:
PowerPoint that discusses my Ph.D. work in the area of Capacity, Consistency, Commitment, and Community of Language Revitalization. This would include my work as developer of the #CreeSimonSays and as long time educator.

Embracing the Rhythms of the Earth: Using Land as a Foundation for Scholastic Achievement while Reinforcing First Nations Cultures, Languages, and Ways of Knowing - Dr. Herman Michell

Dr. Herman Michell has been in the field of Indigenous education for many years. He is an advocate for the Indigenization of schools and places of higher learning in the aftermath of residential schools. He has expertise in land-based education as well as bridging Western science and Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Dr. Michell conducts Indigenous-based professional development workshops. He is currently an external consultant for the Prince Albert Grand Council.

Dr. Michell is a university educator, published author, researcher, consultant, lecturer, and conference speaker. Dr. Michell shares the view that ‘Land-based Education is not a trend’. It is a life-giving force critical to the survival of the Cree peoples. Cree culture, worldview, language, ways of knowing, stories, ceremonies, values, beliefs, and practices are rooted in the land. The land is considered a teacher and healer. Community and administrative support are required to create a rich learning environment so that youth are exposed to cultural, historical, spiritual, and place-based stories while making links with Elders, traditional land users, knowledge keepers, and local historians.

Dr. Michell is a writer with numerous published books and articles. He grew up on Reindeer Lake, Treaty 10 territory.  He is a member of the Barren Lands First Nation. Dr. Michell studied in 4 Universities. In 2008, he completed a PhD in Education from University of Regina in Curriculum and Instruction - Cree culture and School Science. He has a Master Degree in Education from the University of British Columbia (1998). He also completed courses in Education Psychology and Special Education from UBC and the UofM. Dr. Michell initially obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from University of Winnipeg in 1990.

Indigenous Ways of Knowing - Wilfred Buck

WILFRED BUCK OPASKWAYAK CREE NATION (OCN) Wilfred has taught Math, Science, Indigenous Issues and Cultural Awareness to classes at the middle & high school levels as well as speaking at numerous universities. He has presented at the HAYDEN Planetarium in New York City, NY as well as at HARVARD University to name a few... Wilfred is a Husband, Father, Educator, Astronomer, Author, Artisan, Sun Dance Chief, Knowledge Keeper, as well as a host of other interests.

Breakout Sessions

Indigenous Curriculum Perspectives - Anita Lafferty

Anita Lafferty is a ts’élî- iskwew (Dene Cree) and a direct descendant of Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in Northwest Territories. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Secondary Education. Her doctoral research examines approaches of Indigenous curriculum perspectives that are grounded in Dene k’ęę (philosophy) on the Land. She was awarded the 2022 Margaret “Presh” Kates Aboriginal Doctoral Award in Education for her doctoral dissertation. Her research includes learning from/with the Land, experiences of Indigenous youth, identity, healing, and matriarchal wisdom. 

Combining Land Based and Indigenous Language Education - Kevin Lewis

This session will be about the benefits of having land based education and combining Indigenous Languages. The topic will cover locally developed curricula and also share Culturally Responsive Education. Dr. Lewis will share the stories of over 21 years of Kaniyasihk Culture Camps and also the needs that we need to get ready for based on the most recent Canadian statistics concerning our growing Indigenous speaking children.  

Dr. Kevin Lewis (wâsakâyâsiw) is from the Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and is one of the few language interpreters fluent in all three dialects of Cree.  He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum Studies at the University of Saskatchewan.  Kevin completed his iyiniw pitmâtisiwin kiskêyihtamowin Doctorate Program (ipkDoc) from the University of Nuhelot’ine Thaiyots’I nistamêyimâkanak Blue Quills in Alberta.  Kevin was instrumental in developing, and is the lead instructor, for the Indigenous Language Certificate program in the College of Education.  His research interests have been in Indigenous Knowledge systems, Second Language Acquisition Methodologies, Cree Roles in traditional parenting practices. He is also an active oskâpêwis whenever called upon. Dr. Kevin Lewis has worked with language teaching programs for the University of Alberta, the University College of the North, First Nations University of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan.  Kevin assists the government of Canada in an official capacity as Cree language interpreter and translator.

Wahkohtowin: Cree Natural Law​ - Phillip Campiou

Exploring the idea of Wahkohtowin. Wahkohtowin is a Cree word which denotes the interconnected nature of relationships, communities, and natural systems. Its literal meaning is "kinship", but it is often used to refer to Cree law, or Cree codes of conduct.  Participants will explore this idea of wahkohtowin in a sharing circle format and have the opportunity to discuss and ask questions. Learn how this Indigenous world view can be reflected in your classroom and supports your foundational knowledge.  

Phillip Campiou is a Traditional Woodland Cree who is originally from Driftpile Cree Nation, Alberta. He now resides in the Onoway area. As a young man, his father taught Phillip how to be self-sufficient and live off the land. Inherent in these teachings was an unwavering respect for Mother Earth and the spirituality held by all Her inhabitants. As an adult, Phillip has devoted his life to sharing his knowledge of traditional values and lifestyle. He is often contracted to do numerous presentations in Edmonton and surrounding areas. He is invited to help host many traditional and community events across Canada. Phillip is actively involved in teaching holistic approaches to health and healing.  

Elder Phillip works with many school divisions and organizations across the province to share his knowledge and to encourage healthy relationships with all people.  


Planetarium sessions showcasing Cree astronomy: identifying Ininiw constellations and cosmologies - Wilfred Buck

WILFRED BUCK is from the OPASKWAYAK CREE NATION (OCN) Wilfred has taught Math, Science, Indigenous Issues and Cultural Awareness to classes at the middle & high school levels as well as speaking at numerous universities. He has presented at the HAYDEN Planetarium in New York City, NY as well as at HARVARD University to name a few... Wilfred is a Husband, Father, Educator, Astronomer, Author, Artisan, Sun Dance Chief, Knowledge Keeper, as well as a host of other interests.

Blackfoot Ways of Knowing & Language in the Classroom 2-session series - Lenora Rabbit Carrier and Verna Weasel Child

More information to come

Tsuut’ina Ways of Knowing - Hal Eagletail

Hal Eagletail is a member of the Northern Dene TsuuT’ina Nation.
Located in the Treaty 7 area of southern Alberta.
Hal is a strong believer in sharing traditional cultural evolution with anyone who wants to learn. 
He is a residential school survivor of 5 years at Blue Quills, Alberta. He has a business development certificate from Mount Royal College.
Hal practices his traditional spiritual upbringing as a pipe carrier, sweat lodge Keeper and sacred Beaver bundle holder that was given to all Dene people 3500 years ago. 
He sits on Elder advisory committees for the Calgary Public, Catholic, UofC and MRU and he has helped design and develop both Indigenous curriculum for both Calgary Catholic and Public school boards, and the Center for Newcomers.
Other of Hal’s accolades includes 
Traditional Wellness Counsellor for AHS, providing traditional herbal medicine treatment and spiritual healing for patients of all nationalities.
Cultural Consultation business “Eaglestar Enterprises Ltd” since 1994 where I provide cultural sensitivity training to many industries and government agencies Including: AFN, Alberta government, Western Diversification, Federal Government, Calgary city police, Royal Alberta Museum, Fort Calgary, Fort Edmonton, oil and gas, Food security and climate change research.
 liaison for the TV and film industry for the last 29 years as a cultural specialist in Northern Plains history.
worked on productions with HBO, History channel, “North of 60”, “Tin Star” Netflix and Motion Pictures of “Passchendale” with Paul Gross, “Don’t call me Tonto” with David Hasslehoff and late Gordon Tootoosis, “Into the West” with Stephen Spielberg, and many others
Currently Hal’s involvement includes
- set up a bottle depot on Tsuutina Nation 
- President of Grow opt. A new Cannabis initiative that designed grow units that have expanded into the food security and climate change research market’s.
- working on a “Tribe to Tribe” tour of Nigeria, Africa to promote First Nations global economic reach.
- conducts a sweat lodge at Poundmakers Treatment Center.
- MC’ing powwow and round dances around North America since 1988.
- Finally I’ve set up (with the help of my oldest daughter) a charitable Healing Home. This is the first of its kind in Canada. A place we can continue to practice our spiritual and herbal ceremonies. With the hopes that every First Nation will have a healing home of their own.

Land Based Learning and Curriculum​ - Jason Bigcharles Sr.

Session will introduce different ways of infusing curriculum into Land Based Learning within the context of Cree Ways of Knowing and Being. The presenter will offer examples and ideas for developing a school-based Land Based Learning program and offer insight into the challenges and successes through years of experience. 

Jason Bigcharles is a father of 7 and grandfather of 12. He is Métis from the Métis settlement of East Prairie. He has lived on the East Prairie Métis Settlement his whole life. He has been a teacher for 20+ years, teaching students of all grades. Although he is Métis, his family is deeply rooted in Woodland Cree cultural practices and spiritualism. They continue to maintain a very high subsistence lifestyle, carrying on those traditions. Currently he works as a Land Based Learning and Curriculum Specialist for the KeeTasKeeNow Tribal Council Education Authority (KTCEA), going into schools and mentoring teachers and students in Woodland Cree traditions and practices. He plans and administers Land-Based-Learning Camps to students of all ages which focus on traditional Land-Based teachings of the Cree Peoples both traditional and contemporary. KTCEA currently offers 13 camps per-school year. Jason Bigcharles plans, administers and presents at these camps. He is a powwow dancer, storyteller, hunter, trapper and medicinal plant gatherer. The majority of his time away from work is spent on the land hunting, trapping, gathering medicinal plants, instructing his children and visiting elders. Along with being dedicated to his traditions and spiritualism, he is also dedicated to lifelong learning and the belief that learning never stops.

Stoney Nakoda apps - Cherith Mark

Cherith Mark currently resides in her home community of Mînî Thnî, Morley AB - Treaty 7 Territory. She is a language champion for her community and isoften called upon for assistance in coordinating with elders for translation with language projects. In addition to these, she also advocates for the use of the language in schools through her work with Stoney Education Authority, serving as lead coordinator for SEA in the Stoney Language Resource Development Project which includes Îethka language books, word collection activities, and assisting with curriculum implementation.

Stoney Education Authority’s goal is to develop a strong foundation of materials to support Stoney Nakoda language speakers in our schools,our communities and beyond. This session will discuss the process and the journey of the Stoney Nakoda language resources project which includes a beginner level textbook, translation of 3 story books, apps, an alphabet book, an online dictionary, student printed dictionary, a podcast series, and an intermediate level  textbook and app.  Consultation and collaboration with Stoney Nakoda elders and language speakers are instrumental in the knowledge gathering and development process of this multi-year language preservation and revitalization project. 

Traditional Medicine Teachings - George Desjarlais

George Desjarlais Frog Lake Cree Nation
George the youngest son of Albert and Alma Desjarlais has always seen natural plants used to treat and prevent illness from a young age.
From the age of 7, he began to learn to identify plants and hear stories associated with many different species of plants.
Participants will hear stories that coincide with maskiki (medicine)and how to pick, when to pick and care of various plant species.

Numbered Treaties:  Foundations of our Relationship - Dr. Diana Steinhauer

This presentation is predicated on the Nehiyaw/Cree Worldview, the spirit of making Treaty and the day after Treaty – the relationship as it unfolded – to arrive at an understanding of the truth of the foundations of our relationship. The oral context of Cree and Anishinabe legal orders and doctrines symbolized on the land, waters and sky are encapsulated in this 75-minute presentation to the IE Council members and guests. Prior to the presentation, members are invited to watch, Treaty Talk: Sharing the River of Life, available as a free 50 min. video resource at, www.treatytalk.com   

Dr. Diana Steinhauer, nehiyaw, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Treaty No. 6 Territory, is an educator with 30 years of experience in teaching, curriculum development, and administration in K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions. Most importantly, she is a mother and first teacher of her two children and grandchild. Diana completed her Doctorate in iyiniw pimātisiwin kiskeyitamowin (Indigenous Peoples Knowledge) at University n Blue Quills. She is particularly grateful to Elders and Knowledge Keepers who have guided and mentored her in Ancestral Knowledge and ways of being as a kise iskwew. Recognizing the value and work of iyiniw pimātisiwin, Diana’s work as a change agent in language, education, and governance is grounded upon her late father’s adage, pimātisîtotetân kimiyikowisiwininaw, ‘Let us live life the way our Creator intended us to live’. 

Cree Language - Debora Young

A Cree teacher's journey with teaching Cree Language to all age levels of students. Amidst the challenges of teaching Cree, one must always remember to use every opportunity of teaching Cree as one way to bring students back to their Cree identities and to build up their belief and understanding of their individual worth and competencies. Miywâsin, miywâsin.

Debora Young is from the Ermineskin Cree Nation in Treaty 6. A fluent Cree speaker who had the good fortune of listening to many Cree stories, amongst relatives, community members and elders; Debora brings this knowledge of traditional Cree teachings forward to her students. Using both traditional and all forms of teaching, it is all about building up student confidence!

Bringing Indigenous pedagogy together in the classroom from a multi sensory perspectiveKaren Pheasant-Neganigwane

Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (Anishinaabe/Three Fires Confederacy) is honored as a Nokomis of eight grandchildren, from her three children. She dedicates her life’s work, of Mino bimaadiziwin, in keeping with the 8th Fire prophecy, as a 7th Fire prophecy community member. Karen’s path to social action and scholarly work started as a youth during the height of the civil rights era of the seventies (Toronto). Her activism, she attributes to both her parents – both survived the Indian Residential School experience. Her early social justice engagement established in idealism, artistic spirit, and free speech, provided a crucial beginning for her inquisitive spirit. Karen left Toronto, and lived a life as a dancer, artist, and educator. She spent the past forty years mentored by iconic Indigenous scholars from the Great Lakes of her people to Treaty Three, Treaty Six and currently in Treaty Seven. Her Euro-Western education includes a B.A. in Political Science and English Literature. Her graduate studies are in Educational Policy Studies (M. Ed). Karen is currently a PhD candidate on the topic of Anishinaabe/Indigenous pedagogy at the University of Alberta. She currently is an Assistant Professor at Mount Royal University, cross-appointment with Humanities and Liberal Arts/Education, Calgary, Alberta. https://laurentian.ca/alumni/newsletter/karen-pheasant-neganigwane

Experiences with the 60's Scoop and the Education System - Geri Wu and Karen West

This session will support foundational knowledge for educators and provide opportunities to learn about the impacts of Canada's legacy of the 60s scoop. We will identify how these impacts of the 60s scoop remain present in our classrooms. We will offer educators context, tools, and resources by sharing our personal stories.   

Geri Wu & Karen West are Spirit sisters. In ceremonies, we were both given the name mahihkan iskwew. Geri from Saddle Lake and Karen's family from Sucker Creek share similarities. We are passionate Indigenous educators. We are coming to know how history and education have shaped our stories. Geri has experience working alongside the community through many projects. Karen is continuing to work on her Ph.D. Seeking ways we can help foster awareness of Indigenous ways of knowing. Together we have over 20 years of classroom experience within grades K-12. As lifelong learners, we continue growing our knowledge every day. We are both learning nêhiyawêwin, the language of our ancestors and unlearning histories. 

Teaching from a Sacred Balance - Dorothy Thunder and Susan Sinclair

Dorothy Thunder is a Plains Cree (nêhiyawiskwêw) from Little Pine First Nation, Saskatchewan and full-time Cree instructor in Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. She is a Language Keeper, educator, and an Aboriginal woman who practices the traditional way of life. Her passion for the Cree language began at the U of A, where she completed her BA in Native Studies in June 2002 and MSc in Linguistics in December 2015. She co-authored the book, Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country, which won the Scholarly and Academic Book of the Year in June 2011. In March 2011, she received the Graduate Studies Teaching Award in recognition of excellence in the performance of teaching duties in the Faculty of Native Studies. Being a fluent nêhiyawêwin speaker and instructor has inspired her to continue in developing resource materials and promoting nêhiyawêwin language programs. Her purpose is to assist in strengthening confidence and competence in Cree language skills by supporting educators and nehiyawewin language learners. As an advocator of nehiyawewin, she shares various methodologies to strengthen existing or new Indigenous programs. Her main focus is integrating nehiyaw language and literacy strategies from cultural perspectives of First Nations teachings and the inclusion of Aboriginal stories and teachings. 
Susan Sinclair (piyisiw iskwew) is the owner of SSinclair Consulting located in Edmonton, Alberta. 
Susan retired from teaching and counseling after 34 years. She has been facilitating workshops, developing programs, policy writing and proposal writing and is presently developing a Land-Based Holistic Framework Model for a First Nations Band in Alberta which will be completed on August 31, 2022.She just retired from the Alberta Teacher’s Association as an Indigenous Education Professional Development Facilitator after 6 years. 
Susan is fluent in the Cree and Michif languages. She can read, write, speak and teach all aspects of both languages including syllabics. She is enjoying her journey as a knowledge keeper and learning every day.
She is a band member of Canoe Lake Cree First Nation in Northern Saskatchewan but grew up in Green Lake, Saskatchewan.
She attributes her successes in life to her Great Grandmother, her parents and mentors. As she says “I grew up in the best of both worlds – First Nations and Metis” 

Métis Perspective Education - Billie-Jo Grant

Billie-Jo Grant is a proud citizen of the Métis Nation of Alberta with over 20 years of classroom experience teaching K-9 students in both the public and Catholic school divisions. She was the recipient of a 2017 Indspire National Award in the role model category for Indigenous education and also received a 2018 International Women's Award for her work in her local community and Indigenous education.  In 2018,  Billie-Jo completed her Masters degree and stepped out of the classroom into leadership to develop authentic, meaningful, and creative Métis resources with Rupertsland Institute - Metis Centre of Excellence.  She inspires others to be curious, have tough conversations, and learn more, to do better for ALL students.  Billie-Jo’s goal is to ensure that strong Métis education is commonplace in our education system and guarantee that Métis are no longer the “forgotten people”.

Traditional Games - Preston Huppie

Preston Huppie BEd, MEd: He is an energetic, self-directed Metis/Cree educator who is sincere and understands the needs of all students. His passions are to have Indigenous education rights and responsibilities that directly drives the need to true Indigenous curriculum content. Driven from a balanced perspective with land-based practice, ceremony, protocol, elders, and knowledge keepers as a way of knowing, being and doing. He is with CBE as an Indigenous Education Strategist in Calgary, Alberta and has been in Education for 16 yrs with a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Indigenous Peoples Education.


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