Indigenous Initiatives

Elders, Knowledge Keepers 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 four elders and knowledge keepers to our  newly-established Elders and Knowledge Keepers 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 and Knowledge Keepers

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.


Norma Spicer has a passion for Métis history, culture and customs developed from hearing stories of her ancestors on her mother’s side. A descendent of Jean Baptiste Lagimodière and Marie Anne Gaboury (the first white woman to settle in Western Canada) through their daughter Josepthe, Spicer’s family history includes those who fought alongside Louis Riel during the Métis Resistance.

Formerly with the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) in a variety of positions, Spicer remains a member of its Cultural Team, and conduct prayers and blessings for MNA events and ceremonies. Recently, she prepared a research paper on the Métis History of Fort Edmonton and Surrounding Areas for the Fort Edmonton Management Company and sits as a member of its Indigenous Expansion Committee. 


Adjunct Professors