Meet the Survivors Circle
Residential school Survivors gave Indigenous and non-Indigenous people the opportunity to begin this journey: The gift of reconciliation. It was Survivors that demanded government and church entities to be held responsible and held accountable for their actions. They also called for the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Survivors continue to be the foundation of truth and reconciliation work in this country.
The Survivors Circle guides the National Centre guides the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). These members:
- Ensure that Survivors’ voices and perspectives remain central to NCTR programs and policies
- Provide guidance and advice to the NCTR, the Governing Circle, the University of Manitoba and partners on anything important to the broader Survivor community.
“I had great pleasure serving on the first Survivors Circle of the NCTR. It is important to have the Survivor voice in the development and decision making of the Centre. This will ensure inclusivity, balance and truth in the reflection of “our legacy” for future generations.” ~ Terri Brown, Survivor and the Chair of the NCTR founding Survivors Circle
A Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, Eugene Arcand spent nine years at the St. Michael Indian…
A Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, Eugene Arcand spent nine years at the St. Michael Indian Residential School in Duck Lake and two years at the St. Paul’s Lebret Students Residence, both in Saskatchewan. First Nation Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Mr. Arcand has dedicated much of his time to organizing regional and national events – First Nations sports events, cultural events, tourism events, and events geared to the advancement of First Nations youth.
Over the past few years, through the Indian Residential Schools Survivor Committee at the TRC and the NCTR Governing Circle, Eugene has worked to ensure that both the public and Survivor communities are kept informed of the developments and processes associated with the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. Eugene was successful because of the support and love of his family and wife Lorna Arcand, who he has been married to for 48 years.Together, they raised three children, seven grandchildren and three chapan.
Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer is one of the last generation of Elders born and raised out on the traditional lands of the…
Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer is one of the last generation of Elders born and raised out on the traditional lands of the Inuit. During her youth Maata survived in a natural environment with her family before they were relocated to Frobisher Bay, Nunavut by the Government of Canada. This resulted in a culture shock as many families were removed from their traditional lifestyles and placed into a settled Canadian styled community. As a child Maata attended the Apex Federal Day School from 1960 to 1967, then attended Churchill Vocational School from 1967 to 1968 and went on to Keewatin Community College for Office Management.
Maata has sat on many boards such as the YMCA, the Mid-Wifery Training Program, the Manitoba Inuit Association Band, Inuit Health Research Committee, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Survivors Circle. Maata is a grandmother and great-grandmother who enjoys being involved in community events and educational programming whenever she can.
Phyllis Webstad is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed…
Phyllis Webstad is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed Secwepemc and Irish/French heritage, was born in Dog Creek, and lives in Williams Lake, BC. Today, Phyllis is married, has one son, a step-son and five grandchildren. She is the Executive Director of the Orange Shirt Society, and tours the country telling her story and raising awareness about the impacts of the residential school system. She has now published two books, the “Orange Shirt Story” and “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt” for younger children.
She earned diplomas in Business Administration from the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology; and in Accounting from Thompson Rivers University. Phyllis received the 2017 TRU Distinguished Alumni Award for her unprecedented impact on local, provincial, national and international communities through the sharing of her orange shirt story.
Barb Cameron’s spirit names are “Neegaunibinessikwe” meaning “Female Leader of the Thunderbirds” and “Begonegeezhig” meaning “Hole in the Sky”. Barb…
Barb Cameron’s spirit names are “Neegaunibinessikwe” meaning “Female Leader of the Thunderbirds” and “Begonegeezhig” meaning “Hole in the Sky”. Barb belongs to the Wolf Clan and is Midewiwin Shkabehikwe to Minweyweywigaan Midewiwin Lodge in Roseau River, Manitoba. She is active in reconnecting, learning, assisting, and maintaining the Traditional Knowledges and the practices of Midewiwin ceremonial teachings at the Lodge.
Barb is a member of Long Plain First Nation, a well-respected Knowledge Keeper, and is a second-generation Indian residential school Survivor. She remains to be a fluent Anishinabemowin speaker despite the challenges faced during Barb’s attendance at the Brandon Indian Residential School.
Barb began work as a Court Interpreter in the Manitoba Provincial Court System under the tutelage of Angus Merrick. Later in her career, she played an essential role as an interpreter and statement gatherer on behalf of residential school Survivors during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national hearings. Aside from being a Survivors Circle member, Barb is a Crisis Counsellor and Mental Health Therapist for remote Indigenous Communities. She continues to work with Indigenous communities as a Knowledge Keeper by restoring connections with their Spirits and their way of life as given to us from the Creator.
“I recognize and take responsibility for my own unintentional modelling of my own trauma to my children, and grandchildren, who continue to be impacted today, and into the future. I hope in doing so, this will stop the destruction of our families. The first reconciliation needs to start with myself. I hope that this provides you with a glimpse of who my Spirit is. Miigwetch”
Edna Elias was called by her grandmother, “Haattuliarmiutaq”, meaning “a person from thin ice” because she was born on a…
Edna Elias was called by her grandmother, “Haattuliarmiutaq”, meaning “a person from thin ice” because she was born on a fishing lake in the fall. Thus the reason why she loves ice fishing in the fall and spring.
A teacher by profession, Edna is an Inuit language and cultural advocate. She has lived and breathed her culture in an urban setting; showcasing it where and when she can at Edmonton events. She shares her cultural knowledge through presentations at educational institutions and elementary schools in and around the city. Teaching Inuinnaqtun, the dialect of the Copper Inuit of western Kitikmeot in Nunavut is another passion to train adults, language teachers, staff of pre-school and daycare programs, educators and parents of small children.
After five years as Commissioner of Nunavut, Edna had returned to her home community of Qurluqtuq, Nunavut, the most westerly community in Nunavut. Since her return home, she was heavily involved in her community; initiated a not for profit greenhouse society, opened her home to women to learn traditional sewing and fur preparation and is one of the Ayauqtiit (Guidance) members whose sole purpose is to give advice to the two schools. Volunteering continued to be a pastime. Most recently she and two former educators had opened a business to promote the preservation and retention of Inuinnaqtun through language courses, provision of educational and cultural orientation and advice, program and event planning, production of Inuinnaqtun reading material and to support the language programming in the schools.
All of the above changed and stopped quickly for Edna when an illness affected her performance and forced her to relocate to Edmonton where she could access better medical care and services. “I am happy to say that I have learned to live within my new limits and do NOT let my illness control my life,” says Edna.
Currently residing in Edmonton, Edna has been actively involved in a number of Indigenous Advisory Circles as a voice for Inuit. As of late, she joined the Grant MacEwen University Indigenous Advisory Council, the Royal Alberta Museum Indigenous Advisory Council, the Edmonton International Elders & Knowledge Keepers Circle on the project, Indigenous Spaces, the Indigenous Advisory Council for the City of Edmonton and the Indigenous Advisory Council on the project, Towards Home (curbing homelessness).
Laurie McDonald, aka Marvin, aka Wabamum was raised by three powerful women; his grandmother Marie Mary Thomas (Hope), his birth…
Laurie McDonald, aka Marvin, aka Wabamum was raised by three powerful women; his grandmother Marie Mary Thomas (Hope), his birth mother Veronica Thomas, and my mother’s sister, and his adoptive mother Antonette McDonald.
Laurie entered, and survived Ermineskin Residential School in 1963. He then went on to graduate from university with a Bachelor of Education. Having specialized in children with developmental issues (special education) and teaching for 27 years in various schools across Canada.
Laurie switched in 2001 into the field of Child Welfare as an investigator and child protection social worker for the Ministry of Family and Child Services, later to become Vancouver Aboriginal Children and Families Services. He spent 10 years in service with this agency with all good intentions of retiring however, the Creator had other plans for me. Laurie was employed with Indigenous Perspective and the Ministry of Children and Families in Victoria, BC as an instructor for social workers in delegated agencies.
Laurie retired in March of 2019 and returned home. Although he was in the top of the field, Laurie felt it was time, and has no regrets. He am inspired by his people in Enoch and marvel at their resilience, and will continue to exercise and use his gifts wherever needed.
Navalik Tologanak is from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and is a proud Inuinnaq who celebrates her heritage and traditions. She is…
Navalik Tologanak is from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and is a proud Inuinnaq who celebrates her heritage and traditions. She is an experience journalist who began her career in 1995, writing for Nunavut News and continues to this day. She was a natural born storyteller and writer. She writes in Inuinnaqtut about community events, hunting caribou, fishing, how to make a pair of kamiks, parkas, mitts, life in Cambridge Bay, especially anything connected to culture. She was an Inuit/ Inuk board member for 13 years with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Navalik was a cultural advisor to legal firms to assist with residential schools’ compensation packages, programs, and funding. She is also a cultural interpreter for cruise ship companies where she tells stories about the Inuit and her homeland Nunavut. She is also a cultural advisor to the Arctic Research Foundation.
Brian Normand is a Metis/Michif descendant from the Red River Settlement and a product from the Residential School System. Married…
Brian Normand is a Metis/Michif descendant from the Red River Settlement and a product from the Residential School System. Married to a proud Metis Woman (Claudette) for 45 years, together they have 3 proud Metis daughters and one son who passed on to the spirit world. He also has 7 grandchildren who keep him very busy.
Altogether he has worked as a spiritual caregiver/elder for the past 20+ years in the justice system (Agassiz Youth Center, Marymound Treatment Center, Stony Mountain Correctional Facility, Metis Child and Family Services, Native Clans, and Native Women’s Transition Center) providing culturally relevant care and therapy to Metis, First Nations and Inuit children, youth, and families. He previously was a member of the board at Metis Child Family Services and Indian and Metis Friendship Center.
During his tenure with organizations he has participated, developed, implemented, and delivered mandatory Aboriginal Awareness Training in addition to building a comprehensive cultural program for individuals involved in the Manitoba Justice System and Child Welfare System. He represented our Metis people at the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.
He was also one of the 71 selected leaders of the world who went on a pilgrimage in Ange, France for collaborative leadership promoting Metis culture, heritage and spirituality.
As well under the mentorship of nationally recognized Grandmother and Elder Gladys Cook, He practiced in conducting the spectrum of Aboriginal ceremonies including Healing and Sharing circles and Longhouse ceremonies.
Throughout time he has built strong partnerships with non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal organizations for the betterment of our people. He was also nominated for the Manitoba Excellence Award in 2002.
Brian Normand has overcome many challenges in his lifetime, from being a residential school Survivor, to the recent loss of his wife, which has not dulled his spirit and zest for life. Brian continues to move forward, and models this for others.
Susan is a Cree/Anishinabe woman from the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is a 3rd generation survivor of Marieval…
Susan is a Cree/Anishinabe woman from the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is a 3rd generation survivor of Marieval and Lebret Indian Residential Schools. She has researched childhood trauma and how trauma experienced in residential schools has affected the lives of survivors, their children, grandchildren and First Nations’ communities. She has worked in education for over 35 years. She has a Bachelor of Education, Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration, and a Master of Education. Her experience includes primary teacher, superintendent, director, assistant professor, treaty education consultant, and curriculum writer.
Susan has worked with Saskatchewan Cree, Anishinabe, Dene, Nakota, Dakota, Lakota and Siksika First Nations’ Elders (Alberta) in developing teacher resources and curriculum. She was blessed to work with Elders and Knowledge Keepers for over 30 years. She worked for the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and developed the K – 6 and 7 – 12 treaty education learning resources and the renewed K – 9 treaty education resources. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education has mandated that teachers within the province to include these resources in their teaching.
Susan worked for Kairos Canada and Regina Roman Catholic Schools promoting truth and reconciliation through Blanket Exercises and sharing her residential school experiences. She is currently working with Cowessess First Nation to decolonize school policies to create safe and secure schooling for children on her nation. She also volunteers and is a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee at the Archdiocese of Regina. She is a mother of two, a grandmother of 5 and a great grandmother of 4. She feels that she has had many blessings in her life despite the many challenges she has faced in her personal life.
Richard ‘Ejinagosi’ Kistabish
Richard Kistabish is an Anicinabe (Algonquin) from the First Nation community of Abitibiwinni, Quebec, Canada. Richard was born Ejinagosi, a…
Richard Kistabish is an Anicinabe (Algonquin) from the First Nation community of Abitibiwinni, Quebec, Canada. Richard was born Ejinagosi, a name that predestined him to have an impact, since it means “the one who tells”. Therefore, he could not remain silent in the face of the cultural genocide of Canada’s First Peoples.
He fluently speaks French and English, as well as Anicinabemowin, his traditional language. He grew up in the boreal forest on the shores of the Harricana River, where he was raised in his language, learning to practice the culture of his ancestors, until the age of six. He was then sent to the Indian residential school in St-Marc-de-Figuery, near Amos, where he lived until the age of 16.
Having lived through ten difficult years at the St-Marc residential school, the education of Anicinabek children in their language, immersed in their culture and surrounded by their families, quickly became an important issue for Richard. While he was chief of the Abitibiwinnik, he was instrumental in bringing school to the community so that children would no longer have to leave their families to study in Amos.
For decades, Ejinagosi has lent his voice to a nation that is still known as the “invisible people”. His dedication has brought new visibility to the Anicinabe people through the implementation of innovative projects. To have an Anicinabe sitting on an international working group would be a source of pride for the entire nation and proof that the years of silence and invisibility are a thing of the past. Richard is an Anicinabe symbol of resilience, like many people in his nation, but he is also a strong political figure and a man of action.
Kesatum tan teli L’nuwey, Kiwnik Clan, Sipekne’katik, Mi’kmaki, is a traditional Mi’kmaq woman, of the Sipekne’katik Band, residing in Indian…
Kesatum tan teli L’nuwey, Kiwnik Clan, Sipekne’katik, Mi’kmaki, is a traditional Mi’kmaq woman, of the Sipekne’katik Band, residing in Indian Brook, N.S. She is the mother of 4 children and grandmother of 9 beautiful grandchildren. She is a Survivor of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, the 3rd generation to attend within her family. Dorene earned a BSW Degree at Dalhousie University in 1991, and her MSW in Aboriginal Field of Study at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in 2013. Recently, she coordinated the IRS Legacy Project at Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre, working with survivors and families in the Atlantic region to document the history of the IRS Legacy and survivors’ profiles for the archives, which she continues to do.
Abraham Bearskin, Miywaabinwaaskum “One who gives new life” was delivered in a traditional manner by four midwives (Grandmothers) in Mitchuap…
Abraham Bearskin, Miywaabinwaaskum “One who gives new life” was delivered in a traditional manner by four midwives (Grandmothers) in Mitchuap at Fort George. Abraham’s parents, Daniel and Mary Bearskin, raised him on the land, learning Cree teachings and the traditional way of life until the age of 8, at which time, he was taken away to residential school.
For nine years he attended three separate residential schools: St. Philip’s, Bishop Horden Hall, and La Tuque residential school. In these institutions, he survivors abuse which continued to affect him after into his adult life. At 17 years of age, he went back home to relearn the traditional way of life. Later he finished his high school and earned a bachelors degree at McGill University.
Abraham has served in various capacities within the Cree Board of Health, Social Services of James Bay, and Director of the Niishiyuu Department responsible for Cree traditional healing services and practices.
Currently Abraham is well into his healing journey and has spent decades reconnecting to the traditional way of life that he was raised with as a child, prior to residential school. He is passionate and dedicated in healing others work through their trauma. As a traditional healer, he helps by working with Eeyou (James Bay Cree) traditional ways oh healing including sweat lodges, fasting, and sun dancing. He conducts workshops, speaks at conferences, and is heavily involved in land-based healing, always putting his heart into his work.
Francis Dickie Yuzicapi
Francis comes from a culturally diverse heritage which represents the majority of the Plains cultures found in Saskatchewan to this…
Francis comes from a culturally diverse heritage which represents the majority of the Plains cultures found in Saskatchewan to this day: Ojibway, Cree, Metis, and Dakota. Dickie is unique in that he was raised by his great-grandparents who taught him traditional teachings before attending residential school. Dickie is a Survivor, and a multi-generational trauma Survivor. Dickie is currently the owner and chef of the Sioux Chef Catering Company and consults on all facets of indigenous culture. He is a master storyteller and experienced speaker who can provide his own ancestral context and historical connections in ways that bring the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations to practical reality. His workshops are led with great care to his family’s stories and to all participants’ level of Reconciliation. It is about creating understanding with care to lay the groundwork for what needs to be done to heal.
Previous Survivor Circle Members
Meet the 2017 – 2019 Survivors Circle
Meet the 2019 – 2021 Survivors Circle
NCTR’s spirit name – bezhig miigwan, meaning “one feather”.
Bezhig miigwan calls upon us to see each Survivor coming to the NCTR as a single eagle feather and to show those Survivors the same respect and attention an eagle feather deserves. It also teaches we are all in this together — we are all one, connected, and it is vital to work together to achieve reconciliation.