Karen Bernard reigns originally from Wekoqmaq First Nation but now resides in Eskasoni First Nation. She’s a very proud mi’kmaq woman and a descendant of the Indian residential school who is the daughter of the late mikmaw Oka warrior Lawrence (Lunch) Bernard and Shubenacadie residential school survivor Lena Bernard. Sister to 5 siblings Lloyd, Laura, Cyrus, Leonard and Linda. Mother to 2 beautiful daughters who she is proud of everyday.
Karen is a resolution health support worker in UNAMAKI employed by Eskasoni mental health and social work for more than 2 years. She’s worked on the front line within unamaki for various First Nation organizations for close to twenty years dealing with all social issues from poverty, family violence, suicide, missing and murdered women, justice, aboriginal victims, addictions, residential school, etc.. . . and is a true advocate in caring for her people. Very humble individual who often forgets how much she does for others or communities.
Karen also has been appointed as a council member to the Nova Scotia advisory council for the status of women in 2017.
Anita is from the Metepenagiag Mi’gmaq Nation in New Brunswick. She is a graduate from the University of New Brunswick where she earned a Master in Education degree along with a Bachelor of Arts and Education degree. She also holds a diploma in Human Resource Management. Anita’s has extensive experience and skills in Economic Development, Indigenous Education and Training, Women’s issues specifically violence, and Community Development. Anita facilitates training and workshops across a range of topics including Career counselling, Guiding Circles, and Community planning.
Marilyn Francis (Gagamit Muin)
Elder Marilyn Francis (Gagamit Muin) is from the Mi’kmaq First Nation, a keeper of the sweat ceremony and is a Mi’kmaq artist, activist and spiritual leader celebrated in regional, national and international circles. Elder Marilyn travels the Mi’kmaqi Territory throughout Atlantic Canada and Northeast United States visiting schools, communities and events teaching and sharing the importance of language, culture and tradition. Elder Marilyn participated in the ratification of the United Nations Charter of Indigenous Peoples (2004) at the UN People’s Rights Conference in Paris, France. Elder Marilyn is the elected Eastern Regional Elder of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), one of the five officially recognized National Aboriginal Organizations (NAO), whose purpose is to represent and speak, at the national level, on behalf of Aboriginal women in Canada. As the Eastern Regional Elder Marilyn represents NWAC’s intention to collectively recognize, respect, promote, defend and enhance Native ancestral laws, spiritual beliefs, language and traditions given by the Creator. Elder Marilyn is the recipient of the International Women’s Day Centenary Award (2011) for her ongoing positive contribution to the lives of women and is the founding Director of the Acadia First Nation Native Women’s Group (AFNNWG) where she continues to advocate for and bring attention to the issues of women in her community and of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. She has also established a community coalition to promote programs to appreciate and honour Mi’kmaq men and boys. The Honouring Men and Boys Traditional Gathering hosted work shops in which the presenters (elders, educators, and counsellors) spoke on personal life experience, family violence and how their culture and traditions help them make healthier choices for themselves and their families. Choosing to live without alcohol and drugs in their life was made by education, respect, kindness, compassion and not passing judgment.
Elder Marilyn prides herself on family, friends and work and has become a cultural bridge for the province of Nova Scotia and beyond. She is a member of the Acadia First Nation Reserve.
“Marilyn’s giftedness in presenting the richness of the wisdom tradition and culture of the Mi’kmaq truly promotes the engagement, wellness and success of both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners here at Nova Scotia Community College.”
Paula Pothier, NSCC Burridge Campus, Student Services & Indigenous Supports
Cathy Gerrior Grant
Cathy Gerrior Grant spent most of her life living in life in limbo. Living and working in the dominant society, kept her separated from her culture. She felt she belonged nowhere. At age 39 she experienced her first Ceremony and has never looked back. She is now a Ceremony Keeper in her own right and works towards creating right relationships between cultures. For over 12 years, Cathy has been a part of the Peace and Friendship project which organizes a yearly four day gathering that brings together First Nations and non-natives. She does workshops on First Nations culture in schools, churches and for social workers and non-profits. on First Nations culture in schools, churches and for social workers and non-profits. Cathy is the Director of New Leaf which is a men’s intervention program working on the issues of male violence against females. She also gathers traditional medicines, is an avid gardener and when she has time, does Native crafts.
Lottie first began working in the field of addictions in 1993, first as administrative assistant, then moved to work as a Social Work Aide position with ‘Journey of Healing’ a program for residential school survivors. She worked at NADACA in addictions for 22 years and retired on her 70th birthday last April. Lottie continues as Traditional Teacher with Mi’kmaw Lodge (3) three days a week helping clients. It is Lottie’s hope to help bring about healing through empowering others by her past experiences and teachings. Lottie has done workshops on Native Depression, Dreams, Dream Catcher workshops, Seven Sacred Teachings, Ceremony of Life, Talking Circles 101, (an introduction for those who do not know what to expect), and Medicine Wheel Teachings. She does Residential School presentations at various schools in the Cape Breton area. She has organized women’s wellness retreats. She also does cross cultural teachings with non-natives. These are just some of the workshops. She has worked closely with Lawrence Wells, Katy McEwan and Josie and Frank Augustine in Traditional Teachings and Ceremony with the youth at NADACA as well as all community members. Lottie continues to be a person of strong belief that all will be resolved in the future. Lottie, a survivor of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School was selected to sit as a member of the Indian Residential School Survivor Committee with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on July 15, 2009. She is also more than willing to sit and share with individuals who may want to just talk.
Rose Little was born on Spotted Island, Labrador. The community lived the traditional way, off the land and supporting each other. When Rose was four her father died during a hunting trip when a bad snow storm blew up. Life changed. Even though she was only four, Rose was joined her siblings at a residential school. Her mother applied to be a cook to be close to them, but was never allowed to speak with her children. Years later, Rose’s mother moved the family to Nova Scotia. To survive in a white community, the children learned to be invisible, to hide who they were. When Rose first went to Traditional First Nations Ceremonies, her heart was overflowing and she was filled with joy. Life made sense.
Rose is now a Pipe Carrier. Every chance she gets, she joins gatherings, circles and also shares what she has learned with others. Along with her daughter, Rose has introduced many people to First Nations culture and worldview. They have led workshops at schools, with court staff, at Universities and in Churches. She has also spoken about her experiences at Residential School but that comes at a cost. The memories flood in and it can take weeks to get back in balance. Rose’s greatest gift is her love of life, her enthusiasm and her gentle way of being.
Cathy Martin is an independent producer, and the first Mi’kmaq film maker from the Atlantic Region. She is a member of the Millbrook Mi’kmaq First Nation Community near Truro, Nova Scotia. She has a B.A. in Theater Arts from Dalhousie University, a Masters in Education/Media Literacy from Mt. St. Vincent University, and Certificate in Conflict, Negotiations and Mediation from Henson College. She has been making award-winning documentaries about her nation since 1989, producing several films with her independently owned company, Matues Productions, and also for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).
Cathy is the past Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and served on the board for the first five years. Currently she is the Nancy Chair of Women’s Studies at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax. Cathy has also been involved in the Maritime wide Peace and Friendship project which is a partnership of the Tatamagouche Centre, Mennonite Central Committee, United Church and First Nations. For the last 12 years the project has brought together First Nations and non-natives together to build relationships. Cathy is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Eastern Hub of Righting Relations. She is also a drummer, singer, speaker, and facilitator.
Maureen St. Clair
Maureen St. Clair is an artist, peace educator, activist and writer. She holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a focus on women’s self and community empowerment. Born and raised in Canada, with Grenadian citizenship, Maureen has lived in Grenada, West Indies for over 20 years with Grenadian partner and daughter, Theo and Maya. Maureen is known throughout the Caribbean and internationally for her vibrant, multi-racial, women-positive paintings inspired by her work with women and youth. While in Nova Scotia, Canada, Maureen is an Associate of Coady International Institute where she facilitates programs in community peacebuilding, global youth and community leadership. Maureen recently won the Beacon Award for Social Justice Literature with her novel, Judith and Sola which will be published with Roseway Publishing and released spring of 2018.
Annie Chau is a critical/anti-racist feminist, concerned about Indigenous sovereignty and migrant justice, and a daughter of Vietnamese refugees who immigrated to Canada in 1979, working on her own decolonization with seven years of professional experience in women’s rights, specifically sexual violence prevention and response.
Her skills include: using and creating communications and media; researching, reporting, and writing; engaging people and communities; developing programs and projects; and educating and advocating. She has created and facilitated workshops and trainings on various topics on gender, race, and violence; has presented in multiple formats – pecha kucha, Powerpoint, Prezi, webinars, panels, and speeches; and has spoken to multiple audiences – national, regional, local, youth, professional (AGMs), and the general public.