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Ask Me Anything Indigenous

Family and supporters of Thelma Favel, Tina Fontaine’s great-aunt and the woman who raised her, march Friday, February 23, 2018, in Winnipeg the day after the jury delivered a not-guilty verdict in the 2nd degree murder trial of Raymond Cormier. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Article from the Winnipeg Free Press

Instructors seek open, honest dialogue with students about complicated issues

‘Ask me anything Indigenous,’ teachers say


IN the wake of cross-Canada outcry over the verdicts in the Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier trials, a pair of Winnipeg teachers are trying to explain the news and debunk stereotypes in the classroom with “ask me anything Indigenous” projects.

Christine M’Lot teaches Grades 10 and 12 English at University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

“With all the things going on in the media right now, the Colten Boushie (case), the Tina Fontaine (case), I knew that the students would be hearing about those things in the news, and so I thought it was the perfect time to start an Indigenous graphic novel and continue to talk about these things,” said the instructor, who hails from Winnipeg and has family ties to Swan Lake First Nation.

This term, her Grade 10 students are reading Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire, while the Grade 12s are delving into The Life of Helen Betty Osborne: a Graphic Novel, by David Robertson and Madison Blackstone.

M’Lot also passes out slips of paper to her students at the start of class and tells them to write something down — whether it’s a question or not — for her to address later.

“I say, ‘Even if you’re not asking a question, you have to write something,’ just so students can’t figure out who wrote what,” M’Lot explained.

“I said, ‘Ask me anything Indigenous that you wouldn’t normally ask out loud — anything that you have in the back of your mind, even if you think it sounds racist or whatever. Just go ahead and ask, because this is a safe space and we’re going to discuss it.’” Some of the questions she’s fielded so far include: “Does racism against white people exist?” and “Why are so many people who kill Aboriginals let go?”

For queries that leave her stumped, she sometimes turns to her social networks for insight.

“I have a pretty strong network of brilliant Indigenous minds on my Facebook and Twitter, so there were a couple of questions where I wasn’t sure how to respond and so I got some feedback,” M’Lot said, citing the former question specifically.

Her Facebook friends weighed in, largely saying no, racism against white people does not exist due to current power and privilege structures in Canada. However, individual acts of discrimination can happen.

M’Lot borrowed the “ask me anything Indigenous” idea from her cousin and fellow instructor, Tara Williamson.

Williamson has taught at the postsecondary level for about seven years, working mostly in Ontario at Fleming College, Ryerson University/First Nations Technical Institute and Trent University.

Since September, she’s taught Indigenous studies at the University of Winnipeg, where a mandatory Indigenous course requirement took effect in September 2016. Students have to take three credit hours of Indigenous Studies to graduate.

“One of the goals of those classes is to debunk myths and stereotypes. So one of the easiest ways to do it is to address… questions coming from students, right? It’s not like I’m pulling them out of thin air,” said Williamson, who is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation and grew up in Swan Lake.

In her classroom, Williamson passes a large envelope around, soliciting anonymous questions about Indigenous topics. Many are curious about employment rates, substance use, treaty benefits and quality of life on reserves, she said.

The majority of her 250 or so students are non-Indigenous

and, for some, their instructor is the first Indigenous person they’ve met.

In the coming days, Williamson plans to dive into discussions on the justice system and how it disproportionately involves Indigenous people.

“I needed some time as a teacher and as an Indigenous person in the community… I needed some time and space to sort of wrap my head around how I was going to teach (about the Stanley trial), and so we’ll be broaching that subject this week,” she said.

Though she can’t quantifiably measure the impact of the Indigenous course requirement on U of W students yet, the instructor said she sees itmaking a positive difference.

“I don’t know if I want to call it a success yet, but I do think it’s having an impact. And we’re actually just… the university is in the process of figuring out how to evaluate exactly what that impact is,” Williamson said.

Both teachers acknowledged how recent stories, such as those about the Stanley and Cormier trials, can stir emotions for students and themselves.

In early February, a jury in Saskatchewan found Gerald Stanley — a white farmer — not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of 22-year-old Cree man Colten Boushie.

Later that month, a jury in Winnipeg found Raymond Cormier not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 death of 15-year-old First Nations girl Tina Fontaine.

“I know this stuff is very triggering, because I feel triggered even. I see myself as Tina Fontaine when I was 15 and 16. That could have really easily been me as well,” M’Lot said.

“So, I know that it’s especially triggering for the Indigenous students, and I wanted them to know I care about this. This is important to discuss this in school.”

Katherena Vermette brings Métis history to life in new graphic novel series

An image from Katherena Vermette's graphic novel, Pemmican Wars.

An image from Katherena Vermette’s graphic novel, Pemmican Wars. (Portage and Main Press)

Listen 8:42

She started out with poetry, wrote, The Break, a national bestselling book and is now delving into the world of graphic novels. But Katherena Vermette said she didn’t even know she wanted to write it.

“I was at Portage and Main, my publisher, and I was talking with the ladies there and talking about how cool comic books are and how it’s exceptionally cool when women write graphic novels because they are still an underserved audience in graphic novels,” Vermette explained.

“I was also telling them how they have to get on Métis history because there’s lots of Cree writers, there’s lots of Anishinaabe writers but there’s not a lot of Métis history. So I said, ‘You have to get on that, you have to write about Metis history.’ Which suddenly became me writing a graphic novel about Métis history,” she added.

Katherena Vermette

Author Katherena Vermette’s new book, Pemmican Wars, is the first in a series of four graphic novels. (

Then along came the character of Echo Desjardins. She’s a young Métis girl who transports back in time to important moments in Métis history. Vermette described her as a quiet teenager trying to find a sense of community and identity.

In the series titled, A Girl Called Echo, Vermette said the main character is a slipstreamer. She moves from present day to the past. In the first book, Pemmican Wars, she visits Saskatchewan in 1812 where she witnesses a bison hunt, visits a Métis camp and travels along fur trade routes. But Vermette said she didn’t want to explain the details of how Echo moves between worlds.

BOOK COVER: A Girl Called Echo

“It’s just magic. It just happens.”

She did say the visual representation of Echo and her worlds were created by a team. Scott B. Henderson was the graphic artist and Donovan Yaciuk was the colourist.

“I felt like that she kind of thrived in that collaborative space,” Vermette said. “It felt like collaborating with Scott and with Annalee, our editor, it really felt like that’s how she worked best.”

For Vermette, writing about Métis characters and history is and important part of her work.

“Especially when I research into this history, it’s not always told from a Métis perspective. And I think that is wrong and I think that is something many Métis historians are correcting now. And I think it’s exciting to tell these stories and reclaim these stories as our own. They belong to us.”

Retrieved from:

Indigenous author blown away by success of first novel

Tamara Pimentel
A Blackfoot/Dene author says his first novel has been more successful than he could have ever imagined.

The book, Secret of the Stars, made Amazon’s Top 10 best sellers in Native American literature.

APTN News caught up with Gitz Crazyboy at his first book signing in Calgary.

Retrieved from:

Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools


by Pamela Rose Toulouse

Grade: for all teachers

SKU: 978-1-55379-745-6Categories: 



  • Softcover

Product Description

In this book, author Pamela Toulouse provides current information, personal insights, authentic resources, interactive strategies and lesson plans that support Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners in the classroom. This book is for all teachers that are looking for ways to respectfully infuse residential school history, treaty education, Indigenous contributions, First Nation/Métis/Inuit perspectives and sacred circle teachings into their subjects and courses. The author presents a culturally relevant and holistic approach that facilitates relationship building and promotes ways to engage in reconciliation activities.

Retrieved from:

‘I have to do this’: ‘Bannock Lady’ marks 5 years serving meals to Winnipeg’s homeless

Click the image to see the full story from CBC Manitoba.

It’s been five years since Althea Guiboche started the work that would earn her the title of Winnipeg’s ‘Bannock Lady’.

What started off as just Guiboche handing out bannock to Winnipeg’s homeless in 2013 has grown to an effort that now sees her and volunteers not only giving out a warm meal to people in need, but also working to create a community — or a village — as Guiboche describes it.

The twice-a-month effort, known as Got Bannock?, marked its fifth anniversary this weekend.

Guiboche and supporters celebrated with a community dinner Sunday afternoon.

Got bannock 2

Volunteers served dinner at a celebration to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Got Bannock? Sunday Jan. 21, 2018. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“It’s been a challenge but it’s been so much fun at the same time,” said Guiboche said during the party held at the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre. “It’s about networking and bringing people in together, sharing, caring and celebrating the village — it’s amazing.”

Guiboche started Got Bannock? after she found herself homeless with her three small children in 2011.

Got Bannock? was officially registered as a charity in 2017 and since her own time living on the streets, Guiboche has become a well-known advocate for Winnipeg’s most vulnerable.

The work has earned Guiboche a number of awards.

“In response to my own homelessness this is what I’ve done,” she said Sunday.

Food and community

Among the volunteers who came out to help serve dinner at Sunday’s celebration was Winnipeg-born Olympian Clara Hughes.

It’s the first time the former cyclist and speed skater has worked with Got Bannock?, something Hughes says fits right in with her work to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Clara Hughes

Winnipeg Olympian Clara Hughes was among the volunteers who helped serve dinner at a celebration held to mark the fifth anniversary of Got Bannock Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (Travis Golby/CBC)

“It’s a fantastic program that is providing nourishment for this community,” Hughes said of Got Bannock?.

“Mental health issues manifest differently in every person but they affect more than one in five Canadians and when I look at what people need for wellness, food and nourishment is one thing and community is another thing…  that is what is provided here.

“It all goes hand-in-hand, it’s all connected, so for me it’s just everything comes full-circle, and it comes back to human beings being good to each other.”

Got Bannock? serves up fresh meals on the first and third Sunday of every month, and Guiboche says each day sees 300 people fed.

Amazingly all that work is still done without a permanent facility for storage.

Guiboche says finding a space for storage and possibly opening a drop-in centre are among her plans for the charity going forward.

“There’s so many opportunities that can happen,” she said. “I’m not going to stop — I have to do this.”

Two Plays About Residential School

Cover two plays

NEW RELEASE: Two Plays About Residential School (Indigenous Education Press)- honours the fearless voices of residential school survivor Larry Loyie (Cree, 1933-2016) and intergenerational survivor Vera Manuel (Secwepemc / Ktunaxa, 1949-2010).

In the early 1990s, two Indigenous authors wrote about their individual experiences of residential schools. Ora Pro Nobis, Pray for Us by Larry Loyie and The Strength of Indian Women by Vera Manuel were staged a decade before Canada apologised for the residential school system, and 15 years before Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Two Plays About Residential School is an updated version in honour of the 20th anniversary, from Indigenous Education Press (Brantford, Ontario).

“These plays shook audiences with the truth about residential schools,” recalls editor, and Larry Loyie’s longtime partner, Constance Brissenden. “Larry Loyie and Vera Manuel courageously tackled a hidden history. Most Canadians didn’t know about residential schools. Others questioned their negative effects.”

With honesty, and often humour, the authors reinforce the voices of survivors. “Two Plays About Residential School is essential reading along the path of truth and reconciliation,” says publisher Jeff Burnham, founder of Indigenous Education Press / in Brantford, Ontario.

Larry Loyie spent six years at St. Bernard Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta. His award-winning books include the national history Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors (Indigenous Education Press) and two children’s books on the subject, As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood) and its sequel Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Theytus).

In Ora Pro Nobis, Pray for Us, the lively friendship of a group of boys help them survive their residential school years. In Larry Loyie’s introduction to the play, he writes, “For Indigenous people, writing helps others understand who we are and what we went through. It’s a way to share our traditions and our healing journeys.” Larry Loyie spent more than two decades talking to students about residential school history, giving more than 1,600 presentations.

In Vera Manuel’s Strength of Indian Women, four elders prepare for a teenaged girl’s coming-of-age feast. As they work together, the women reveal the secrets of their residential school years. Both of Vera Manuel’s parents, political leader George Manuel and spiritual leader Marceline Manuel, attended residential schools. Vera Manuel, a poet, performer and healer, directly experienced the fallout. “I mourned that little girl who never had a childhood,” she writes in her introduction. “I mourn the mother missing from my childhood, and I gave thanks for the mother who became my loving teacher in adulthood.”

Compassion, humour, and hope mark Two Plays About Residential School and the works of Larry Loyie and Vera Manuel. The anthology is a must for all readers, for teachers, libraries, and collections.

Two Plays About Residential School is available from Indigenous Education Press /  To order, call, Indigenous book distributor, at 1 519 753 1185, Extension 1, or order online at The book is $19.95, 120 pages, includes two full-length plays, author notes, production notes, photo credits.