by Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Registration is open for this year’s virtual First Nations Educators’ Conference, which is scheduled for Feb. 2 and 3, and is a joint production from Bigstone Education Authority and the Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre. Deadline for registration has been extended to January 31.
The conference convenes educators from Treaties 6, 7 and 8 to discuss the positive impact of education for Indigenous peoples.
A very impressive list of keynote speakers will be participating in the conference including: Wilton Littlechild, Pam Palmater, Robb Nash, Ethan Bear, Sharon Venne, Howie Miller and 2 Crees in a Pod, as well as a panel of Treaty 6, 7 and 8 Elders. A variety of engaging breakout sessions will also be held over the two day conference.
The event’s theme this year is reconciliation and treaty, and it is being emceed by Stanley Isadore.
To register visit https://forms.gle/3uM3aZbne54RLRRt9.
Dr. Wilton Littlechild: Former Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Dr. Wilton Littlechild, IPC, QC is the former Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. He’s a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation which is located on Treaty 6 territory in Alberta, Canada. He is a residential school survivor and lawyer who has worked to advance Indigenous rights and Treaties in Canada and abroad. He was a member of the 1977 Indigenous delegation to the United Nations (UN) and contributed to the UN and OAS Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Former roles include Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and member of Parliament.
Dr. Pam Palmater: Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor, author, and social justice activist from Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She currently holds the position of full Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. A practicing lawyer for 22 years, Pam has been volunteering and working in First Nation issues for over 30 years on a wide range of issues like socio-economic conditions, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and legislation impacting First Nations. Her books, Warrior Life: Indigenous Resistance and Resurgence, Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizens and Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity, together with her other publications focus on Indigenous law, politics, and governance and the importance of native sovereignty and nation-building.
Robb Nash: For the past decade, Robb Nash has been telling his motivational back-on-track story to thousands of people across Canada, changing lives with his message of hope and purpose. A one-time athlete, Robb experienced a traumatic head-on collision with a semi-truck when he was 17 years old. Part of his skull was crushed, and he was found with no pulse by the first responder. They were able to resusitate him, rebuilding his skull with titanium, but he barely survived the ordeal. As he began the difficult journey of rehabilitation, Robb spiralled into sever depression. He frankly did not want to be alive. By telling his own story, Robb is erasing the stigma around mental illness and is making it okay to be vulnerable and ask for help.
Ethan Bear: Ethan Bear is an Indigenous Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman currently playing for the Carolina Hurricanes in the National Hockey League (NHL). Bear was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in the Ochapowace Nation near Whitewood, Saskatchewan. He is of Cree descent. While growing up he faced racism from hockey fans relying on stereotypes for being a “lazy” player, which motivated him to work harder. He was drafted in the fifth round in the 2015 Draft by the Edmonton Oilers from the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. He was signed to a three-year, entry-level contract with the Oilers on July 2, 2016. Bear made his NHL debut on March 1, 2018, in a game against the Nashville Predators. On December 28, 2020, Bear signed a two-year, $4 million contract extension with the Oilers. After his fourth year within the Oilers organization, Bear was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on July 28, 2021.
Sharon Venne: Sharon H. Venne (Notokwew Muskwa Manitokan) is a Cree woman. She has worked at the United Nations prior to the establishment of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in 1982. 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. She has lectured on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Hawaii, United States and Canada. Sharon worked to secure a UN Study on Treaties from the first introduction of the resolution in 1983 until the report was finalized in 1999, and she worked to ensure that the report reflected Indigenous laws and norms. Sharon has written numerous articles on the Treaty Rights of Indigenous Peoples. All her work internationally and domestically relates to the promotion of the rights of Indigenous Peoples especially rights related to lands, resources and treaties.
2 Crees in a Pod: Amber Dion and Terri Suntjens are nehiyaw iskwew (Cree women) who are trained Social Workers and have years of experience working within First Nation communities in various capacities. Both Amber and Terri now work at MacEwan University with post-secondary learners who are navigating their way through western academia. They hope to inspire others to enhance their knowledge regarding wisakacihowin and Indigenous trauma informed practices. Amber and Terri are also the creators of 2 Crees in a Pod, a Podcast that amplifies Indigenous voices to honor Indigenous helping practices.
Howie Miller: Howie Miller is one of the funniest corporate and club comedians in North America. His quick wit, “clean” humor and ability to read the crowd make him the perfect choice for any corporate function, fundraiser or comedy club. Howie has performed at all the major comedy festivals across Canada including the Just for Laughs Festival. Howie’s numerous comedy specials can be seen on APTN, The Comedy Network and Showtime. Howie is also a talented writer, actor and producer and has been nominated for a Gemini Award, Canadian Comedy Awards and Canadian Screen Awards for his sketch comedy show “Caution: May Contain Nuts.”
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi: Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is a Canadian politician serving as the 36th and current mayor of Edmonton since October 26, 2021. Sohi previously sat as a member of Parliament (MP) and served in the federal Cabinet from 2015 to 2018 as the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and from 2018 to 2019 as the Minister of Natural Resources. Sohi was born in India and is the first visible minority to serve as mayor of Edmonton and is one of Canada’s first mayors of Punjabi descent.
Elders Panel includes Elders Patricia Littlechild, Jerry Potts and Fred Campion.
Breakout Sessions over the two days will be led by Cory Arcand, Diana Steinhauer, Jerry Potts, Lewis Cardinal, Mark Ehnes, Mylan Tootoosis, Phillip Campiou, Tanya Tourangeau, Alexander School Team and the IKWC Research Team.