About Us

Standing true to our beliefs as First Peoples and guided by our cultural teachings, the First Peoples' House provides an environment of empowerment for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit learners to achieve personal and academic growth.

Our vision is to demonstrate our commitment to the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit student community on campus and provide services that reflect this responsibility. We will continue to honour the Indigenous worldview of education as a continuous ceremony of learning by respecting and supporting the voices and spirit of our student community at the University of Alberta.


A Welcoming Community

A point where two roads meet - nakiskâtomeskanawa - ᓇᑭᐢᑳᑐᒣᐢᑲᓇᐊᐧ

The University of Alberta is home to a diverse and welcoming community of over 1,000 Aboriginal students from across the country, while the city of Edmonton is home to the second-largest Aboriginal population of any city in Canada. We celebrate our Aboriginal heritage, including the ancestral lands on which our university is located today, and we are proud to be the only university in Canada with a Faculty of Native Studies.

The First Peoples' House helps the U of A provide an environment that encourages full access, participation, and success for Aboriginal students.

Traditional Territory Acknowledgment

On May 1, 2012 the Council on Aboriginal Initiatives endorsed a statement that acknowledges traditional territory that the University of Alberta resides and reads as such:

"Welcome to the University of Alberta. I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Territory on which we are gathered today, a welcoming place for peoples from around the world. I would like to acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous peoples whose footsteps have marked this territory for centuries such as: Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux."



Our Team

Shana Dion

Assistant Dean, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Students

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Territory on which we are gathered, a welcoming place for peoples from around the world. I would like to acknowledge the First Peoples whose footsteps have marked this territory for centuries the: Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux. In the spirit of my ancestors, "kinanâskomitin" (thank you - I am grateful to you) I believe in the recognition of the First Peoples and the gathering of all peoples, is how we can truly uplift the whole people.

Atamiskâtowin (Greetings)

Shana Dion is nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from Kehewin Cree Nation. It is important that she introduces herself in Cree because it grounds her in who she is, where she comes from and who she is accountable to. It is also vitally important that she thanks her ancestors, kinanâskomitin (thank you) for keeping this land for centuries which is now where the University of Alberta/City of Edmonton resides; a place where we can learn, laugh, play and grow together in harmony. Shana is an Alumni from the University of Alberta, graduating with a Bachelor of Native Studies degree and completed the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in 2019. Her career has always been centred in a place of service in particular on mental health and wellness in First Nations communities. Shana feels it is important to be an advocate and role model for Nehiyaw Iskwewak youth. It is essential for her to send the message to Nehiyaw youth that they can be anyone they want to be. She holds the motto that anything is possible and nothing just happens. What she knows for certain is that  our Nehiyaw ancestors dreamed a dream bigger than we ever had for ourselves. She now holds a dream for the next seven generations that is bigger than they ever could imagine for themselves.

Her responsibilities as the Assistant Dean, First Nation, Metis and Inuit students are deeply-rooted in a holistic way of being balanced in all things. Balance in all aspects of life is essential to our well-being so her message is for you to GET ACTIVE in every aspect of being a student. We are still here for you, just in a different way.  

Tricia Beaudry

Director, First Peoples' House

My name is Tricia Beaudry, and I am currently the Director of the First Peoples' House. I have been with the FPH for six years in my previous role as the Aboriginal Student Advisor. Being an Aboriginal Student Advisor has helped me see the needs of First Nations, Metis and Inuit students firsthand, and fueled my passion for helping our students succeed.

My educational background is in Native Studies - I chose Native Studies because I was interested in knowing the history of the first peoples, and I wanted to help serve and inspire my people any way I could.

I never knew declaring status on an application was important until I started working at FPH. I strongly suggest Aboriginal students declare their First Nation, Métis or Inuit status on the UAlberta application because they will get useful information from our office which will help them succeed - from orientation invites, to emails about the career luncheons, to the free monthly Stew and Bannocks, to funding workshops - everything!

The greatest tool or resource Aboriginal students should know about on campus is the First Peoples' House. FPH is here with the goal of helping all Aboriginal students succeed. 

Suzanne Butler

Associate Director, TYP

My name is Suzanne Butler and I am the Transition Year Program Associate Director at First Peoples' House. I am from just west of Edmonton and grew up very close to the Enoch Cree Nation. I attended school on reserve for a significant portion of my education, and really wanted to be able to do more to bridge both western and Indigenous learning because I felt that the current education system was not inclusive enough of First Nations, Métis and Inuit history and culture. I decided to pursue a teaching degree, and completed my BEd (Secondary) and later my MEd at the University of Alberta.

 I really believe that students will be more successful in post-secondary if they are open to engaging with the campus community and willing to explore the support and services available to them. I am proud of the work we do at FPH and encourage all First Nations, Métis and Inuit students to proudly self-declare their status when they apply.

 I think that the Decima Robinson Support Centre for Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and the Resource Librarians have a huge impact on reducing frustration and confusion when it comes to problem solving and research….they are really under-utilised supports that can have a really positive impact on academic success.

 My favourite thing about living in Edmonton is you really get to experience all 4 seasons each year, and the campus has a mood that reflects each season. My favourite is spring because students know they will be done studying soon, and the river valley magically turns green in the course of only a few days…it's truly beautiful to witness!

Lisa Ladouceur

Transition Year Program Administrator

Hi, My name is Lisa Ladouceur, I'm a Métis woman whose family ties are deeply rooted in the Lac La Biche area of Alberta. I have two amazing sons, who are First Nations from Mistawasis. We are a proud First Nation/Métis family.
As the Transition Year Program Administrator, at First Peoples' House, I love advising prospective First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students and seeing them light up when they realize that they can come to the UofA and obtain their dreams is the best part of my job.

Come on by First Peoples' House and say hi. You are always welcome at our table.

Let's all live the good life. Miyo-pimâtisiwin!

Jessie Letendre

Acting Director

My name is Jessie Letendre and I am the Engagement Coordinator at First Peoples’ House. I am originally from Beaverlodge, Alberta but Edmonton has been my home for a number of years. My father is Métis and my mother is Dutch. I vividly remember eating dried moose meat on the trapline with one set of grandparents and olie bolen (a delicious Dutch pastry) with my other grandparents. I moved to Edmonton with my son, Anders, who was 9 months old at the time, to attend the university and complete my Bachelor of Education Degree. Going to school while being a mom was challenging but I managed my way through it with the support of my family and friends. A few years after graduating, I returned to the university to work as a Student Advisor in the Faculty of Education. I worked there for about 10 years before joining First Peoples' House in August, 2018. 
I love working at the university and being in a role that allows me to support students on their academic journey as I strongly believe that education can open the door to countless opportunities.  If you are a First Nations, Métis or Inuit student at the university (or if you are thinking about coming to the university), I would encourage you to connect with us at First Peoples' House -- we are here to support you! If you have any questions related to housing, finances, tutoring, academics, volunteer opportunities, please contact me.
Kayla Dion

Executive Assistant

Hi, my name is Kayla Dion. I am proudly from Kehewin Cree Nation. I grew up in Laurel, Maryland USA for most of my life. I have one beautiful daughter, her name is Luna Skye!

I am currently the Executive Assistant at the First Peoples' House. I will be able to help you with any scanning, faxing and printing needs or if you just want to stop in and chat! Anything you need just come in to see me and I will guide you to the person you need to see! You will always be treated like family here in First Peoples' House so don't be shy!

I love getting to meet new people. Helping others is my passion and I can't wait to help you all succeed in any way I can!

Your Wellness Matters

Wellness is an ongoing process and involves recognizing your own abilities, the capacity to enjoy life, and the ability to cope with life's stresses while reaching your goals. You can achieve wellness holistically by making choices that benefit your mental, physical, social, and academic status.

Neglecting your wellness can have a negative impact on your health and well-being. Our Student Wellness Worker can assist you when you are struggling to manage your student demands or your life's stresses, and share in your joy about what is going well in your life. The FPH Student Wellness Worker can also offer one-on-one emotional support, mental health education, self-care practice suggestions, relationship guidance, off-campus housing resources, and crisis support.

To speak with our Student Wellness Worker, book an appointment via email, or stop by 2-400 SUB.

Tracy Suter

My name is Tracy Suter and I am the Student Wellness Worker at First Peoples’ House – this is a free, confidential wellness support service for FNMI students at the University.

 I was born and raised in Alberta and have also spent many years on the west coast for part of my education and career. I returned to Alberta in 2019 after working on Vancouver Island as an intake counsellor and as part of the Child & Youth Indigenous Mental Health team for the BC government. I have a Master’s degree in counselling and several years’ experience working with youth, including; working in a residential group home, at an at-risk youth walk-in centre, as a school counsellor (public school and post-secondary), and within family counselling agencies. I also have an undergraduate degree in Fine Art and additional training in Art Therapy – if you are interested in finding out more about this, please let me know (no artistic talent required)!

 Your first visit offers you the opportunity to discuss reasons for seeking assistance, your history, and any immediate concerns, or just to say ‘hello.’ We will discuss your privacy, discuss strategies and recommendations for feeling better, and provide support – this may also include referrals to other on or off campus resources. We will work together to explore what’s happening in your life and help you identify positive coping strategies to ensure a successful school year.

 As a wellness worker, I am interested in the holistic integration of emotions, thoughts and behaviours and I take a collaborative, strengths-based approach to healing. I have a passion for working with students as this particular transition can be an exciting, yet challenging time – the beginning of a journey that can impact the rest of your life. I am also a lifelong learner with many years’ experience in academia and navigating life as a new, as well as a mature student – I look forward to supporting you on your path.

Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers

The First Peoples' House would like to acknowledge our beautiful Elders and incredible traditional knowledge keepers that we are so honoured to have in our circle that support not only the staff but more importantly to our students.

Elder Elsey sits with a warm smile.
Francis Whiskeyjack
A member of Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Elder Francis Whiskeyjack has dedicated his life to serving others and has committed himself to the principle of lifelong learning. He is passionate about sharing traditional knowledge and teachings, providing council and mentorship, and promoting awareness and understanding if Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.

As a traditional person, Elder Whiskeyjack strives to walk a balanced, holistic path and live by the teachings handed down to him from his Elders, namely the late Joe P.Cardinal. He is fluent in the Nehiyawewin (Plains Cree) language, and he promotes learning and retaining the Nehiyawewin language. He is a Residential School Survivor, an accomplished artist, a musician and a cultural teacher.

Elder Whiskeyjack's background is a journey that includes personal healing, cultural studies, health care provision and advocacy work for Indigenous peoples. He has worked for 15 years as an Elder, mentor and advocate for students and colleagues but is also involved in serving the broader Edmonton community. He regularly holds pipe ceremonies for people in the community. He leads and participates in numerous committees and is constantly invited to speak at and open community events. This includes being a member of First Peoples' House, MacEwan University, NAIT and Concordia. In the past he was a participant in the development of Edmonton's Urban Aboriginal Accord, and a board member for the Native Friendship Centre. He also served served as a drug and alcohol counsellor in previous employment.

His extensive knowledge about the Medicine Wheel, Indigenous culture and history, and traditional holistic healing techniques have cast him as a reputable, trusted Elder by many education and health institutions including University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Public School Board, MacEwan University, NAIT and Concordia. In 2010 he was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta.
Elsey Gauthier
Elsey is a proud native woman from Alberta. She is fluent in Cree and English. Her scope of practice combines traditional and contemporary modalities. Currently Elsey is a member in good standing with the Alberta College of Social Workers (RSW) and the Canadian Association of Professional Certification (CAC II). She is a consultant and specializes in one-to-one or group work on the topics of family violence, grief, loss, and trauma. She also has knowledge of and practices the native culture. This includes teaching on Aboriginal awareness to other native people and non-native people. Her past experience includes working with urban and rural Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in addictions and mental health, housing and supporting homeless people, school student counsellor, hospital pastoral work, and presenting traditional Aboriginal parenting course.

More Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers:

  • Francis Whiskeyjack
  • Don Langford
  • Myrtle Calahasin
  • Lyle Tootoosis
  • Rocky Morin
  • Betty Letendre