There are so many people who are working hard to bring the vision of the Final and Self-Government Agreements to life. We held a contest to recognise the hard work of these individuals.
Here are the stories of the people who were nominated as Agreements Trailblazers in 2018.
Tosh Southwick and the Yukon College First Nation Initiatives team
Reconciliation begins with truth and education. Together Today, for Our Children Tomorrow, is a truthful document that presents a vision for a brighter future. The team at First Nation Initiatives at the Yukon College puts education first and provides essential and easy to access programming to help Yukoners better understand our shared history. The instructors are incredible and take the learning opportunities well beyond the classroom setting. As Yukon grows, the work of First Nation Initiatives provides both a vision of our history, the people and events who brought us to today, and the new Indigenous Governance degree provides a vision of our future.
Tosh Southwick is the Executive Director of First Nations Initiatives and Community Engagement at Yukon College. She has played an instrumental role in the development of the Institute for Indigenous Self-Determination, the development of the Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Governance degree, which is being launched this September, and the development of the Yukon First Nation core competency for all students, staff and faculty at Yukon College. Through all of this work, Tosh is educating people about the history of Yukon First Nations and the importance of the land claim agreements, and advancing reconciliation through education. She leads the way with her compassion, spirit and mentorship -- acknowledging and embracing the spirit of openness, learning and fearless initiative that brought Together Today, for Our Children Tomorrow to the Yukon and to Canada.
Read our story on the First Nations Governance and Public Administration program to learn more about some of the work that Tosh and her team are doing.
Sharon Peter is a member of the First Nation of Nacho Nyäk Dun in Mayo. She has dedicated over 20 years of her life to working for the First Nation. She is a part of many boards and committees in the Yukon that deal with Yukon First Nation issues. As one of the “behind the scenes” people, she has worked within the implementation department for the majority of her career, as well as serving on Council for various terms throughout her time with the FNNND. She studies the Agreements thoroughly and understands the complexity of the Chapters. This skill has helped her play an integral, strong role within her First Nation for many years.
Lorraine Netro served as an MLA, a council member and the Deputy Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin Government. She is a strong voice not only for the people of Old Crow, but also the Gwich'in in Alaska and NWT. She is a warrior who is working toward protecting the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and in that, the rights of the Gwich'in across the Arctic.
Pauline Frost was a negotiator for Vuntut Gwich'in First Nation and has served on the Vuntut Limited Partnership, the Yukon Salmon-Sub Committee and Yukon First Nation Culture and Tourism Association. In her current position, she has been assigned three major portfolios: Minister of Health and Social Services, Minister of Environment, and Minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. Pauline has provided great leadership to citizens of Vuntut and Yukon as a whole. No matter where she goes, she tells people about the amazing land she is from and what it means grow up Old Crow. She is an amazing role model for young women.
Kim Smarch is the Director of Negotiations and Implementation for Teslin Tlingit Council. She works tirelessly to negotiate and implement programs and services across all departments. She has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to share ideas and solutions. Kim is a great source of corporate knowledge and as a citizen of TTC who works hard for her nation, she is an inspiration to her community.
Kwanlin Dün Waterfront Heritage Project (Rae Mombourquette and Diana Jimmy)
The Kwanlin Dün Waterfront Heritage Project is working on the implementation of Chapter 13, Schedule C of the KDFN Final Agreement. Two KDFN employees are working on this initiative: Rae Mombourquette and Diana Jimmy.
Rae Mombourquette is an Inland Tlingit member of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation; and is a grandchild of Northern Tutchone people, and a Great-Grandchild of the Tagish Kwan. Rae has been working with Indigenous heritage and oratory for the last 10 years. This included working on projects related to the start of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (Chapter 13; Special Provision 188.8.131.52); working with Government of Yukon – Tourism and Cultural branch and Archaeological Unit on Indigenous research and representation in archaeological sites– including Miles Canyon and Canyon City; and has participated in various Indigenous culture and heritage groups, committees and as a consultant. As member of KDFN, Rae is passionate about the history, heritage, cultures and Indigenous languages that represent her Nation; and lives by the teachings of her Elder mentors to work with the Final Agreement, Indigenizing the process so it’s “done right”.
Diana Jimmy is a member Liard First Nation and is of Kaska and Cree descent. Diana has made Whitehorse her home for the past 20 years. Since beginning work on the project last August, she has worked extensively with the KDFN heritage holdings, listening and reading the words of Elders and gaining a more intimate understanding of the people of Kwanlin. Cognizant of the stories and teachings she received during summers spent on the land with her mother and aunts, she is committed to helping tell an accurate history of the Indigenous peoples that have and continue to call this area home.
The Kwanlin Dün Waterfront Heritage Project is a multi-year, multi-phased project developed out of KDFN’s Heritage Chapter 13, Schedule C. Overseen by representatives from the Government of Canada, Government of Yukon, Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the City of Whitehorse, this project aims at promoting awareness, appreciation and understanding of Kwanlin Dün’s history and experiences on the waterfront. The project is currently in year four and has conducted three years of community-based research. The project is currently in the final processes of completing an illustrative manuscript for publication (ready for sales and distribution by 2020). The project will begin interpretation planning in close partnership with the City of Whitehorse and other waterfront interest groups for the future installation of permanent interpretive exhibits – both in the form of permeant signage and digital resources (launched by 2020).
Despite the current reality of no formalized Heritage Program or Department within KDFN, the Kwanlin Dün Waterfront Heritage Project is building the foundations for the future establishment of a program reflective of Kwanlin Dün cultural and heritage values by participating in, and contributing to the Implementation of Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Heritage Chapter 13.
David Silas is the First Nations Engagement Officer at Yukon College. David started out at Yukon College as a student and worked as a Research Assistant with a variety of research programs at the Yukon Research Centre. He is now based in First Nations Initiatives and he works as a liaison between Yukon First Nations and the Yukon Research Centre. Throughout his different roles he has always been an advocate for research that is led by First Nations, that brings opportunities and relevant knowledge to Yukon communities, that is conducted responsibly, and that can contribute to reconciliation. Even as a student David has been a teacher to his colleagues. People are inspired by his vision, motivation, and ability to lead.
They are all incredible inspirations to us as we continue to advance our rights and determine our path forward through community-led solutions.
From 1998 to 2010, Joe Linklater served as Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. He worked tirelessly to implement self-government for his people, and supported other Yukon First Nations in advancing education, self-government and self-determination. Linklater continued to dedicate himself to supporting his community and Indigenous peoples across the North. He provided leadership to a number of organizations and international bodies, including the Arctic Council. He is remembered for his unwavering advocacy and dedicated leadership on advancing our rights to self-determination.
Guna, Doris McLean served as Chief of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation from 1988 to 1992. She was a strong voice in advancing self-government, having been involved in the development of the Umbrella Final Agreement. McLean was fiercely committed to helping preserve the Tagish language, restoring her culture, and advancing Indigenous rights. She started the Skookum Jim/Keish Tlingit dance group in the 1970s and inspired many young people to be proud of who they are and where they come from. McLean later became the first Indigenous woman to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms in Canada. Her legacy lives on through her family and the many people she mentored and inspired.
Shakuni, Mike Smith, is a former Chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Chair of the Council of Yukon Indians (now the Council of Yukon First Nations), and AFN Yukon Regional Chief. He was instrumental to spearheading land claim agreements between Yukon First Nations and Canada. Throughout his career he was a strong advocate for First Nation self-governance, education and culture, and improving the well-being of his people, and First Nations across the Yukon. He is remembered as an incredible mentor, fierce proponent of self-determination, dear friend and family member, and devoted leader.
Viola Mullett began sitting at the negotiating table in the mid 80's. She gave her time and energy to ensure that the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation self-government agreement was the best it could be. After working in several capacities for the First Nation Viola began working as the implementation manager around 2000. She has spent time away from home and community ensuring that the Financial Transfer Agreement is being honored to its full potential. Viola takes the opportunity to explain her work to anyone that shows interest. She is passionate about what she does and feels a deep responsibility to her First Nation and all First Nations in regards to the self-government agreements.
Marilyn Yadułtin Jensen
Marilyn Yadułtin Jensen is a teacher, a listener, a leader and a dancer. She is not afraid of change and lifts tradition to the highest expression of her connection to the world around her.
Robin Bradasch started working in the lands claims department and became the chief negotiator for Kluane First Nation. A few years after ratification she moved on to a senior position with Indigenous Affairs Canada which is where she works today. Her role there creates awareness of our agreements across Canada. She has continued to have a key role in the implementation of our agreement - from years serving on the investment committee, constitution committee, citizenship committee, to always attending the General Assemblies, and being the voice of reason.
Teagyn Vallevand and Aurora Hardy
Teagyn Vallevand and Aurora Hardy are two incredible leaders from Kwanlin Dün First Nation who are committed to empowering youth in the community to be future leaders. People are blown away by how intelligent and inspiring they are, and how dedicated they are to honouring and learning from those around them.
Laura Hoversland is a senior analyst with Council of Yukon First Nations. She is a strong female leader who inspires with her dedication to supporting those around her and in her community. As a parent and being born and raised in Yukon, she is bringing values of self-determination into the future.
Kim-Mia Pronovost is self-described "self-government nerd." Kim-Mia is a strong advocate for the Agreements and their implementation. She is always teaching her federal colleagues across Canada about the Yukon land claims and self-government agreements. She works hard to do her part to implement the agreements.
Dana Tizya-Tramm recently spoke at the Aboriginal Law Conference in Whitehorse and he shared a lot of wisdom about implementation of the Agreements. He has an inspiring, optimistic and inclusive view of the future. He emphasized that the Agreements belong to everyone and talked about mutually empowering each other to implement the agreements and stand up for the land. He said that the land is the teacher and center of all Indigenous culture and the Agreements are an important tool to protect the land.
Blake Nelson Shaá'koon Lepine
Blake Nelson Shaá'koon Lepine dedication to art, language, and culture is inspiring, beautiful, and embodies the spirit of Chapter 13 of the Agreements. He shares and teaches freely and with great enthusiasm.
Mary Jane Jim
Mary Jane Jim is member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations., Mary Jane is of the 'Kajit' (Raven) clan, born into the matriarchal Southern Tutchone/Tlingit society in the Yukon. She is proud of her heritage and credits her large extended family for that knowledge and strength. One of her many passions have always been the preservation and promotion of Yukon First Nation’s culture and languages. She attended a residential school from the ages of 7 to 15, and completed her education in the Yukon and BC. Those years created a desire to learn about the effects of Residential schools and other traumatic events which affected her life along with many others. She was taught by many elders that the culture is the way and means of healing the people. Mary Jane Jim’s life career has been focused on the socio-economic, justice, health and wellbeing of First Nations people through politics, political advocacy, policy initiatives and community development.
In the mid-1990s Mary Jane was a leader in the development and implementation of YIWA’s Dene Netsedetan project; which brought cultural and contemporary workshops to the communities in an effort to create awareness and open doors to those seeking to create healthy and safe communities. Through this project Mary Jane received training in Community Development with the Nechi institute and since that time she has increased her knowledge, skills and attitude as a person who works to support change in Yukon.
Before he became chief, Peter Lucas spent many years big game guiding with Louis Brown and hunting with Jimmy Johnny in the late 1950s and '60s. It was during one of these hunting trips that Peter said to Jimmy, “You know this country, we need to start looking after it, especially the water. We have to do something.” Together, Peter and Jimmy selected some spots like Carpenter Lake, Margaret Lake and Mclusky Lake to recognize. Peter said “This is the kind of place we have to look after for our young people.” Peter became Chief of the Mayo Indian Band in the late 1960s and was a part of the Yukon Native Brotherhood that brought forward our concerns in Together Today for our Children Tomorrow in 1973.
Dorothy Wabisca was of Tlingit and Southern Tutchone descent and a member of the Killer Whale and Wolf Clans of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. Dorothy was a daughter of Sue Van Bibber and George Chambers, grand-daughter of Louise Dickson and great-grand-daughter of Àgé (sister to Kesh, Skookum Jim). She got involved with and worked for First Nations organizations, including Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, the Council for Yukon Indians, she was the Special Native Advisor for the Commissioner. She moved to Ottawa to be the Western Vice-President of the Native Council of Canada in Ottawa. In the late 1980s, she returned to the Yukon and was elected Vice-Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians.
From 1990 until her passing, Dorothy worked for her First Nation in self-government negotiations and Land Claims implementation. Dorothy also served on many boards and committees, including the Yukon Indian Arts and Crafts Co-op, the Council on Native Women and the Law, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and was chairperson of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Judy Gingell was born on her grandparents’ trapline at Moose Lake, south of Whitehorse, Yukon. For more than 40 years, Judy has promoted and advanced Aboriginal rights and governance in the Yukon. Judy was part of the 1973 delegation to Ottawa that initiated the Yukon land claims negotiation process. As Chair of the Council of Yukon First Nations (1989-1995), she was instrumental in self-governance and land claims negotiation with the Government of Canada. In 1995, Prime Minister Jean Chretien named her Commissioner for the Yukon Territory, the first native person appointed to the position. Judy is renowned for her ability to build bridges between peoples, notably by raising awareness of First Nations culture by creating the annual Commissioner’s Potlatch. As a leader and elder of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, she has ensured that First Nations communities are key players in the territorial economy.
Kluane Adamek is the Yukon Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. She’s talented, courageous; she has a voice and speaks for the people who can’t speak for themselves. She is strong and independent and she cares about people and how people feel. She puts caring for people and her community before anything else.