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Please take some time to get aquainted with our Elders

Wild Flowers

Allan Pard

Alan Pard

Allan Pard, Piikani, Blackfoot Nation

"I have made a commitment to life long learning and the sharing of our unique cultural ways."

Born and raised on the Piikani Reserve, Alan spent most of his life living there. Traditionally, he was first inducted as a member of the Little Black Horse Society, and is a former member of the Brave Dog Society and the Horn Society. Alan is also a former keeper of the Rider's Thunder Medicine Pipe Bundle, The Eagle Speaker Beaver Medicine Pipe Bundle, the Home Gun Beaver Medicine Pipe Bundle, and the White Calf Beaver Medicine Pipe Bundle. He is a humble, strong man who continues to fulfill his committment to Blackfoot ceremonies in many ways. He kept active in College Basketball and also played on the Senior Men's Basketball team for over 20 years.

Alan has worked for 10 years in various capacities for the Piikani First Nation, and worked with the Government of Alberta for the past 24 years as a Probation Officer, a Director and now as a Senior Advisor, to Alberta Aboriginal Relations. Alan operates a cattle and horse ranch on the Piikani Reserve and he continues to train and race Quarter Horses.

Chief Adam Dick

Chief Adam Dick

Chief Adam Dick - Kwaaksistala, Kwaxkwaka'wakw (Kingcome Inlet)

"I use the language called the potlatch language"

Chief Adam Dick, who is known as Kwaxsistalla, was born in 1929, at the height of the government's horrendous and lawful measures to assimilate Aboriginal people into a way of life completely foreign to their own. 

Chief Adam Dick did not have a normal upbringing and was heavily protected as a young person. He was not allowed to have immunizations and was hidden from the police who came to take his peers to residential school. 

His training to be a Clan Chief started with an initiation into the Psa'sa, which lead him to hold several potlatch seats and knowledge of a complete seasonal round of food gathering practices of his people. The Psa'sa was an investment system for the Kwaxkwaka'wakw person that is now known as the Potlatch system.

When the anti-potlatch laws came into effect in the late 1800's, this all coincided with the institution of residential schools. Laws were instituted and carried out against the Kwaxkwaka'wakw people for practicing their own cultural laws and dances. The people resisted the only way they knew how and that was through the precise training that Kwaxsistalla was given from birth. Today, there are only a handful of people with the knowledge of cultural laws, protocols and history.

His life is committed to the cultural work of his people. He has organized and spoken at potlatches for most of the chiefs of his Nation. Some of the projects he has worked on include: the filming the traditional story of the Clam Gardens, travelling for the museum abroad to identify artifacts; principal source for the Kwakwala language program for School District 72; overseeing the writing and construction of props and the choreography of the Legend of Kawaillika for the opening ceremonies of the XV Commonwealth Games in 1994. He was the Principal Cultural Advisor for the Native Participation Committee at the Commonwealth Games.

Chief Adam Dick life's embodies the true nature of our ancestors. His dedication, hard work living in the natural world is a gift for First Nation's people today to honor.

 

Daisy Sewid-Smith

 

Daisy Sewid-Smith - Kwaxkwaka'walaDaisy bio

"You must really try and learn your own history"

Daisy Sewid-Smith is the descendant of Nahxnaxwolla, third son of Caqqamey, of the Qwiqwasutinutw, of Gilford Island, British Columbia. Daisy is from the Wi'umasgpm, or Mnmawigan Clan of the House of Sewide. She is the third daughter of the late Chief James Sewide, of the Wigumasgam Clan of the Qwiqwasutinukc, who have resided in Mimkwomlis, Village Island, British Columbia, since the massacre in their homeland by the Bella Coolas in the mid-1800s. Daisy's great-grandfather, Clan Chief Sewide, and his sister Waiot, were two of the few remaining survivors of that massacre at Gilford Island. At the death her great-grandfather, his son, James Sewide was the successor of the Clan Chieftainship of the Wigumasgim. Clan Chief James Sewide died in the arms of her maternal great-grandfather, Clan Chief Jim Bell, six months before his son was born and shortly after his own father death.

Born in 1938 in Alert Bay, Daisy is one of nine children of the late Chief James Sewid; she is a member of the Mamaliliqala tribe of Village Island.

As a First Nations educator and historian, she received her education in the culture and history of her people from her father and her two grandmothers. Formerly, she was the Department Head of First Nations Education by School District 72 (Campbell River).

Daisy has made outstanding contributions in faithfully translating and interpreting her special knowledge of the Kwak'wala language, culture and history to others. She developed a grammar book, which for the first time, records her previously oral language into a form which can be spoken, read and written for use in schools. At the University of Victoria, she was a member of the Advisory Council for the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society.

Today, she is a sought after and internationally recognized teacher at schools, college and universities.

Jerry Potts

Jerry Potts

Jerry Potts, Piikani, Blackfoot Nation

"Bringing back the ways of our people is a big part of my life's journey."

Jerry is a member of the Piikani First Nation east of the Rocky Mountains in Southern Alberta. He has spent his whole life in Piikani, with a considerable part of it working toward keeping the Blackfoot traditions alive. Jerry is a Pipe Maker for the Horn Society, Medicine Pipe Holders, Buffalo Women's Society, All Brave Dogs and other Ceremonialists within Indian Country. He has been inducted into the All Brave Dogs as the Leader that brought back the First Sundance to the Piikani in 45 years in 1977. Since then, he had many transfers like the Horn Society, Beaver Bundle, Thunder Lodge, Big Smoke Ceremony, Weather Dancer. Jerry and his wife are currently keepers of the Long Time Pipe on the Northern Piikani Reservation. Jerry's enduring dedication to the ways of his people attest to his hard working manner and persistence.

He worked tirelessly with the Alberta Government to Repatriate Ceremonial Bundles to the Blackfoot Confederacy, and currently works with the Federal Government as the Communication Manager for Statistics Canada. This has allowed him to work with First Nations and Aboriginal groups from Manitoba, British Columbia, Yukon, NWT, Inuvialuit, & Nunavut. He can Shoot 3 bottles thrown in the air.

 

Joe P. Cardinal

Joe P. Cardinal

Elder Joe P. Cardinal - Cree, Saddle Lake Cree Nation

"He walked his talk. He touched a lot of people"

His life lived as a family man, chief, veteran, advocate, educator, visionary and leader of his community. Elder Joe P. Cardinal represented the spirit of our culture. A valued member of the Saddle Lake Cree First Nation, Joe P exemplifies the persona of true leadership. A father of eight children it was only natural Joe also cared passionately about their community.

At age 19, Joe joined an armored division of the Canadian Army in World War II. In the 50's & 60's he served two terms as Chief of the Saddle Lake First Nation. It was in the 60's when Joe was with the Alberta Community Development building Aboriginal capacity his helping nature catapulted him into a continued life devoted to community service.

His active roles as a Board Member in the Alberta community were with NCSA (27yrs), AMMSA (15yrs) and the Grant MacEwan College Dreamcatcher Conference. Joe was instrumental as an Elder Advisor in the cultural development of the Nechi Institute, Capital Health Region of Edmonton, Aboriginal Wellness Program for the K Division of the RCMP, CSC and the formation of the Amiskwaciy Academy High School in Edmonton, Alberta.

In the areas of corrections, media, health, education and youth, a big part of Joe's life was focused on integrating our culture into and becoming a part of the contemporary times of today. He was aware of the large urban Indian population that may never get the opportunity learn in a traditional setting.

Humility was a key part of his living. The Elders who helped shape his life molded a man who lived with no racism. He related to you by who you were, rather than where you came from or what your race was. His teaching of love, camaraderie, commitment, involvement and the vision of helping the young people are left with us.

Joe P. Cardinal passed away December 12, 2004 and is missed by family, friends and all those whose lives he influences still.

 

Kim Recalma-Clutesi

Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Ogwiloqwa

Kwaxkwaka 'wakwKim Recalma-Clutesi


"In true service, humility is the greatest aspect of ourselves we possess to live in accordance with our laws and with our own people."

Kim is the daughter of late Clan Chief Ewanuxdzi of Qualicum B.C. Through him she received extensive political background during the formative years for Southern Vancouver Island Tribal Federation, the communications network, the R.A.V.E.N. Society, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Native Brotherhood of B.C. Chief Ewanuxdzi was a central figure for all of these organizations. She has served over the past 3 decades on dozens of local, provincial and national Aboriginal NGOs, advisory committees and societies, offering a unique cultural, academic and political perspective and bridging to each organization she has been invited to join.

Kim received extensive training from Ninogad (cultural specialists, Clan Chief Adam Dick/Kwaxsistala, Dr. Daisy Sewid- Smith/Mayanilth) of her Nation who carry inherited ancestral teachings associated with being in balance with both the natural and supernatural worlds. Kim graduated from the University of Victoria in the Administration of Aboriginal Governance/History and studied Broadcast Communications at B.C.I.T.

Kim also has a growing list of production credits including: Associate Producer, Researcher and cultural content supervisor of National Geographic Channel's production, Ancient Sea Gardens: Mystery of the Pacific Northwest; Spirit of Renewal ‘93 & '94 (Coast Salish, Kwagiulth, Nuu-chah-nulth Participants) at the University of Victoria; and Associate Producer for the Opening Ceremonies XV Commonwealth Games: Legend of Kawadillikala in Victoria in 1994. More Recently Kim has produced, directed and written Remnants of the Past, an educational production for BC's Ministry of Transportation to assist with identifying and protecting archaeology sites; She has recently completed an award winning APTN/Knowledge Network documentary, Smoke From His Fire, which she co-produced, directed, wrote and narrated. This documentary explores the century of legislative oppression against Aboriginal people in Canada and is focused primarily on her own Nation's response to that time.

Kim has been recording and publishing academically Clan Chief Adam Dick's cultural and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) for two decades. She is presently collaborating with Dr. Nancy Turner and Dr. Doug Deur on a new publication of this body of work.

Currently, Kim advises the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Child and Family Development, the Commanding Officer of "E' Division of the RCMP and Dr. Philip Cook of the International Institute for Child Rights and Development regarding traditional mechanisms and ceremonies, which strengthen and protect children, families and communities.

 

Mary Thomas

Mary Thomas

Mary Thomas, Neskonlith Band, Sushwap

"But there came a time when our whole life system changed..."

Mary Thomas, was an Elder who has used her skills and experience to help anyone to wanted her knowledge in health. She believed that by first maintaining our own internal balance and well being, would our natural world be in balance. She has also been called a builder who understands the crucial importance of strong foundations.

Early in life she harnessed her knowledge of medicines and healing and worked hard to make a difference. While her life was not without pain, struggle and self-destruction, she felt it only helped her grow as human being. As she began to really see the environmental changes the earth is now facing, Mary helped found the Salmon River Watershed restoration project and worked to create the Ecocultural Centre at Salmon Arm, B.C.

Over a lifetime, Mary has educated young and old about the need for conservation, preservation and environmental awareness and the relevance of the traditional ways in preserving the health of the land and its peoples. In the 1970s, she founded the Central Okanagan Interior Friendship Centre so Aboriginal harvesters could access support. She also oversaw the coordination and building of a "kekuli," or traditional winter house for a local museum.

A decade later, the Smithsonian Institution asked her to repeat this feat for one of their collections. With the help of her sons, she did just that. She has used her traditional knowledge to document traditional Secwepemc plant knowledge. In 2000, she received an honourary doctorate from the University of Victoria and in 1997, she became the first Aboriginal person in North America to receive the Indigenous Conservationist of the Year award from the Seacology Foundation. In 2001, she was a National Aboriginal Achievement Award recipient in the category of Environment.

Sadly, Mary Thomas passed away in 2007 before we could conduct any more interviews with her, she is missed by her family, friends and many, many others whose lives she still influences.

 

Ruth Brass

Ruth BrassRuth Brass - Blackfoot Nation

"These are the things that I want the younger people to know that you have to take pride in who you are and never mind what anybody says, because it doesn't matter. Only you can do it."

Raised by her grandmother, Ruth feels lucky to have grown up in the Blackfoot Culture. She is a soft spirited woman with a kind demeanor. Her cultural path has led her to teach family members the ways of her grandparents and parents. Ruth has been to Europe four times and traveled extensively through the United States to add to her knowledge and experience in life.

Ruth believes strongly in knowing our language and honoring our culture. She follows the rules of her society and her life is dedicated to sharing her teachings with children and youth. The understanding of her culture leads her to giving love to all those who come into her life. It is her strong belief in the knowledge that we all come from the same source and that we are no different from one another that she continues to give unconditionally.

Her passion for helping young people is rooted in her belief that we must never give up on our future, our young people and often tells people to sit and talk with them, share the stories we tell and keep talking to the younger generation. Don't give up. Keep talking to them. You'll be surprised, they're more intelligent than you think they are.