Indigenous Initiatives

Elders and Adjuncts

From left to right: Be'sha Blondin, John B. Zoe, Kimberly Fairman, Sharon Firth, Susan Chatwood, Rassi Nashalik, Kue Young

We are pleased to have recently appointed five northern Indigenous adjunct professors (non-faculty instructors) from Yellowknife Northwest Territories and three elders to its newly-established Elders-in-Residence program.

Appointees will participate in orientation sessions for the School, provide advice on incorporating traditional knowledge into School planning and research, contribute to the supervision of graduate students and lecture on a variety of topics to students, faculty and staff.

Elders in Residence

Be’sha Blondin is a Sahtu Dene elder who has devoted her life to improving the health and wellness of Indigenous people. She has worked with communities in the North and across Canada for more than 35 years, delivering land-based healing programs, developing wellness plans, and teaching ceremonies, healing practices, cultural competency and traditional knowledge approaches to wellness.

In 2010, Blondin founded Northern Integrated Culture with the Environment (Northern ICE) to implement her vision. In 2017, she and her team were awarded the Arctic Inspiration Prize for their project targeting Indigenous men and women on the streets at risk of suicide and/or incarceration, providing traditional therapeutic interventions in a wilderness setting.

Rassi Nashalik is an Inuit elder committed to the promotion and preservation of Inuit Qaujimajatuqanfit (traditional knowledge). She was a highly respected media personality who had a long association with CBC North, travelling extensively across the North, speaking with northern peoples and understanding their concerns. She has produced award-winning programs celebrating northern achievements, as well as highlighting problems such as youth suicide.

Early in her career, she served on the frontline of health care as a community health representative in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. More recently she is co-founder of the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, and was a member of the team that won the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2017.

Bert Auger is an Edmonton-based Cree elder, a member of the Whitefish Lake First Nation #459. Auger began learning from his elders (his grandfathers) as a young boy and continues to study and work under the guidance of elders today. He was a social worker, employed the Alberta government for 25 years.More than 20 of those years were in senior administration positions where he co-led the development of a ground-breaking Aboriginal employee recruitment and retention program.

Auger is committed to bringing an understanding of Indigenous peoples’ story to mainstream Canadians to improve their relationships. Currently, he does this work through his business, Auger Cree Consulting. In 1986, he received a diploma in social work from MacEwan University.


Adjunct Professors

Francois Paulette served as chief of Smith’s Landing First Nation in the 1970s and later as chief of Dene Nation. He was actively engaged in land claims negotiations and has travelled internationally to speak on Indigenous rights, spiritual healing, traditional knowledge and environmental protection.

Between 2012 and 2016, Paulette chaired the Elders Council of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority. He has participated in research workshops organized by the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and engaged in the supervision of graduate students. Paulette received a Certificate in First Nations Negotiations from the Banff School of Management and a Certificate in Negotiations from Harvard University.

Denise McDonald has served for many years in leadership roles in the education and health fields in the Northwest Territories, including as superintendent of education for the Beaufort Delta Education Council, director of research development for the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research, and regional wellness director for the Gwich’in Tribal Council.

She has mentored graduate students and taught methods in community-based research. McDonald received a bachelor of education degree from the University of Saskatchewan and master of education degree from the University of Alberta.

John B. Zoe is currently director of the Dedat’eetsaa Tłįchǫ Research and Training Institute and senior advisor to the Tłįchǫ government. Over the course of his career he has been involved in land claims and self-government negotiations. Dedicated to preserving, reviving and celebrating the culture and language of the Tłįchǫ people, Zoe helped revitalize traditional activities such as canoe-making with elders and youth of the region. He has conducted research into Tłįchǫ cosmology and history. Among the many awards he has received is an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Alberta and Order of the Northwest Territories.

Jim Martin has served the Tłįchǫ communities for more than 30 years as a teacher, principal, band manager, superintendent of education and CEO of the Tłįchǫ Community Services Agency (TCSA). TCSA is an innovative organization that integrates the delivery of health, education, child and family services to the four Tłįchǫ communities. It received the Award for Innovative Management from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada and the United Nations’ Public Service Award.

Martin is currently senior policy advisor to the Tłįchǫ government and played a major role in the creation of Tłįchǫ Research and Training Institute. There, he was co-investigator in several participatory action research projects on sexual health in partnership with University of Alberta researchers. He obtained a master of library and information science degree from the University of Western Ontario and a master of education degree from the University of Calgary.

Sharon Firth is an acomplished athlete, community leader and advocate for youth. A four-time Olympian in cross-country skiing, she has received many awards and distinctions, including the Order of Canada, induction in the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame, and an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Alberta. She has served as youth programs advisor with Sport, Recreation and Youth in the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and was instrumental in the creation of a youth secretariat in the Government of the Northwest Territories. She received the Indigenous Women in Leadership certificate from the Banff Centre.