Elder John Crier named 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Elder Crier’s land-based teachings and leadership have affected the Augustana community and far beyond.

Jordan Whitehouse - 23 October 2023

Elder John Crier
Photo by John Ulan.

Ask Elder John Crier, ’99 BA, what he remembers from his time as a student at Augustana, and he’ll likely begin with the tight-knit, friendly atmosphere and the down-to-earth instructors. But what also sticks with him are all the memories of hiking, canoeing and exploring he did during his degree, which concentrated on Indigenous studies.

“It was a recreation-based program, and so we were out on the land, looking at the features, the topography,” he says. “I really enjoyed that and I went on to use a lot of that in the land-based teachings I led.”

Although the member of the Samson Cree Nation has retired from his day job — he spent 12 years with Correctional Service Canada as an elder at the Pê Sâkâstêw Centre and 11 years on the faculty of Maskwacis Cultural College — he says that he still uses his Augustana education in many of the land-based cultural programs he leads today.

Most of those programs have been based in or around the community of Maskwacîs, Alta., where Elder Crier has lived for most of his life. They have involved everything from coaching people in shadow work — a personal growth process aimed at revealing hidden powers — to developing a healing retreat centre to guiding new warrior training workshops.  

Through it all, Elder Crier has been a mentor to youth and adults alike, often using long-established Indigenous teachings and traditions to help heal trauma and empower people. His leadership has been felt far and wide within the Cree community, at Augustana, and beyond, and it’s why he is this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. 

“I really enjoy teaching and value education,” he says. “I value the perspectives of people who are open-minded, especially curious students.” 

Elder Crier has also been working with Indigenous Peoples Education — a specialized area of study in the Faculty of Education — for several years.

The land and traditional teachings have also been key to his ongoing work at Augustana, where he has supported Indigenous programming, provided guidance for round dances and led ceremony for over a decade, including at both the grand opening for the wahkohtowin Lodge and its seventh anniversary event. 

Traditional Indigenous philosophy is needed now more than ever, he says. “The way the world is going, we’re creating a toxic environment, and we need to change that. We need to reconsider how we create the relationship with the land.”