Meet The Elders

Elders are Indigenous knowledge keepers who have been educated in the ways of their people, who live the traditional life and are recognized as spiritual leaders and role models in their community. We do not produce anything without consulting elders to ensure the authenticity of the information and artwork.

John Sinclair

John Sinclair’s roots go back to Good Fish Lake First Nations and Ermineskin First Nations. Given the laws of the time, his grandparents both lost their status due to marrying non-Indigenous persons. His grandfather received scrip and was declared as Métis of the Wolf Lake Métis Settlement. John identifies as a non-status Cree person. He is a second generation survivor of residential school.

During his early years, he grew up in the bush and loved the lifestyle. At age 10, his grandparents who raised him moved to Edmonton. He was introduced to discrimination from other school kids and soon learned that violence kept him safe. Violence and substance abuse became a way of life as he grew older. Soon he was in conflict with the law and was incarcerated.

It was while he was incarcerated that John was introduced to his culture. For over 30 years, he has been learning about the ceremonial way of life. He has earned the rights to carry a pipe and conduct various ceremonies in the community and in a correctional environment. John has worked for Correctional Services Canada since 2000, beginning in programs, and for over 19 years as an Elder.

John is a grandfather, father, and husband. He has been married for 23 years to his wife Suzanne. They have a son, Jesse, who was the first college graduate on his father’s side of the family. Their older children live on their own raising his grandchildren. John lives quietly, spending time his family but is always willing to help when asked. He teaches grades four and five about Indigenous culture each year. John also works with older students at the Olds High School and Olds College, bringing his teachings to them.

Us san gah gee/Always Singing Woman/Joyce Healy

Joyce Healy is a member of the Kainai First Nation, which is part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. She teaches Blackfoot language and introduction to native studies at Lethbridge College. Sparked by a deep passion to keep the stories of the Blackfoot peoples alive and relevant, Us san gah gee/Joyce Marie Healy is driven to continue teaching Blackfoot culture and language as a post-secondary instructor and Indigenous relations consultant. Embracing her role as an emerging elder, she continues to learn from her elders to ensure the rich history, culture and language are maintained.

Camille Pablo Russell

Camille Pablo Russell was born on the Blood Reserve in Southern Alberta. His Indian name is Shooting in the Air, and he goes by the name Pablo.
He grew up being very close to his grandparents. It was through them he learned a lot about his roots and traditions.

Following his own vision quests, Russell spent 18 years in Europe before he came back home to help his people in a variety of roles including support worker for the Indian Residential School, an IRS Elder, and an IRS support worker with Treaty 7 Management Corporation.

“All healing, all thanks goes to the Creator. He doctors,” says Pablo.

Over the past 20 years, he has lectured in Europe on Mental Health, Coaching, Traditional Herbs and Leadership Management. His workshops are based on the principle of “Follow the Buffalo”. The buffalo represents to native people the qualities of perseverance, facing the storms of life and walking into them.

Pablo has written The Path of the Buffalo Medicine Wheel, a transcription of the contents of his lectures and workshops. He works days as a spiritual counsellor at the Elbow River Healing Lodge, a unique health care facility dedicated to Aboriginal people, which focusses on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual approach to health care. He also works in the evenings as a Native coordinator at the Calgary Remand Centre.

George Blondin

The late George Blondin was a Dene Elder born in 1923 in the Northwest Territories. A prolific writer, he was also a wilderness guide, a miner, a trapper, Vice President of the Dene Nation, and in 1989 was elected Chairman of the Denendah Elder’s Council. He was also the author of When the World was New and Yamoria, the Lawmaker.

For his storytelling efforts, Mr. Blondin received the Ross Charles award in 1990 for Native journalism and in 2003, was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada. He was very active in the community and attended political meetings dealing with issues from land protection to employment in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Blondin is best known for collecting and sharing the stories of his people so that future generations of Dene would not forget their stories. He believed deeply in spiritual matters and published three books conveying stories with spiritual themes. The latest, Trail of the Spirit; Mysteries of Dene Medicine Power Revealed, was published in the fall of 2006, and sits on publisher NeWest Press’s bestseller list.

Pauline Gordon

Pauline was born in the Northwest Territories in an outpost camp called Stanton which no longer exists. Her parents were Kisaun, an Inupiak from Alaska, and Gus Tardiff, a Métis from Northern Alberta. They were subsistence harvesters and lived off the land.

Pauline watched her mother make all of their outdoor clothing. She was always interested in learning to do the intricate beading and embroidery work that was prevalent on clothing in her home community of Aklavik.

She worked for the Government of Northwest Territories as an educator and later as an administrator. In the summer of 2008, Pauline took early retirement and now makes her home in Fort Smith. She is very active in organizing Cultural Orientations for educators and students. Pauline now also has the time to make jewellery from the antlers and horns of bison, sheep, caribou and moose as well as making fish scale art.

Dominique (T8aminik) Rankin

Grandfather T8aminik (the Algonquin spelling of Dominique) was born in James Bay Territory (northwest of Quebec), to a family that had succeeded in preserving their ancestors nomadic way of life. At the age of seven, T8aminik was designated to take over from his father as hereditary chief. Traditionally, the role of a leader must necessarily be accompanied by that of a medicine man. Because of this, since childhood, he followed a long path of teachings and initiations from elders from his own community, and from various guides recognized throughout Canada, including William Commanda, to whom he was his right hand man for years.

In 2006, Grandfather T8aminik became a fully recognized elder by his peers. His true birth name is Kapiteotak (translation — “Whose crying is heard from afar”), and he now dedicates himself to the role for which he has been chosen: teacher and spiritual leader.

Knight of the ”Ordre National du Québec” (the highest distinction bestowed by the Premier of Quebec), recipient of the Quebec National Assembly and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medals, T8aminik is recognized for his commitment to raise awareness of native culture and philosophy, both in Canada and around the world.

After being grand chief of the Algonquin Nation, he co-founded the Kina8at organization with Marie-Josée Tardif. He is also currently the Honorary President of Religions for Peace and of the Circle of Peace of Montreal, two organizations linked to the United Nations.

Marie-Josée Tardif

For the first 15 years of her professional life, Marie-Josée was known as a journalist and news anchor in major TV and radio channels in Quebec (Radio-Canada, RDI, LCN, Radio Rock Détente), and also in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Great Britain. Since 2005, she has focused her entire work on issues related to self-awareness and interpersonal communication. Her teachings are strongly marked with tools of mindfulness that she has acquired during her long and rigorous training with David Ciussi, mindfulness specialist in France. In 2007, and again in 2015, she was given a Peace Pipe, which is a great sign of respect and recognition from the Algonquin elders. They suggested to her that she should embark on the long path of learning the language, philosophy and traditional medicine of the Algonquin Nation. Marie-Josée, is now called Kokom (Grandmother), and as such she teaches and travels regularly with Grandfather T8aminik. Marie-Josée is the author of On nous appelait les Sauvages and La Leçon de Sitar ou l’Art de vibrer de toutes ses cordes. In 2013, together with T8aminik, she co-founded the Kina8at organization. She is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Kina8at and also Honorary President of Montreal’s Circle of Peace since 2006.