Karen Aird – Founder
Karen is a member of Saulteau First Nations in Treaty 8 Territory of B.C. and is currently the Heritage Manager for First Peoples Cultural Council (FPCC) in B.C. and a Founder/ the first President of the national Indigenous Heritage Circle (the Circle). Karen has worked as an archaeologist then in cultural heritage management for the past 25 years on many projects that convey a strong sense of place in Indigenous landscapes, encompassing the stories, legal traditions and the intangible and tangible elements into Indigenous heritage. Some of the projects that Karen has worked on include acting as an expert witness for Indigenous Nations during the Site C Dam environmental assessment; project coordinator for the Secwepemc cultural heritage study; project lead for the Tse’K’wa National historic site; co-author of the FPCC Policy Paper on Recognizing and Including Indigenous Cultural Heritage and a Living Heritage paper with UNESCO Canada and FPCC; assisting with the coordination of two national engagements on Indigenous heritage with Parks Canada; leading a project to decolonize heritage and implement UNDRIP in BC; developing and overseeing grant programs; and much more. Karen currently sits on the Royal BC Museum Board.
Cody Groat – President
Cody Groat is Kanyen’kehaka and a band member of Six of the Grand River in Ontario. He is a faculty member in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University and is currently working on a SSHRC-funded PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University on the commemoration of Indigenous cultural heritage by the federal government, focusing on the work of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. This research discusses the creation of national mythologies, the politics of public history, and the integration of Indigenous worldviews into the recognition and commemoration of sacred sites by the Government of Canada. Prior to his PhD, Cody earned an MA in World Heritage Studies from the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham (UK). He also sits on the Board of Trustees for Chiefswood National Historic Site in Oshweken, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Advisory Committee for the Memory of the World program, and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Working Group on Culture and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Jodie Ashini is a member of the Innu Nation, and was born and raised in the Innu homeland of Nitassinan, within the community of Sheshatshiu. Raised by an active leader and political figure, her life has always been intertwined with strong Innu beliefs and a knowledge of her culture. Staying in nutshimit (out on the land) every year from early April to the end of June she grew up knowing her ancestors; and by the age of 7 she knew she would pursue a career focused on the long-term history of the Innu. In pursuit of this passion she worked as an archaeological field technician in high school, studied archaeology at Memorial University, undertook community-based learning related to Innu history and culture, and worked in a variety of support roles for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation. With her knowledge of Innu history and culture she now works as the Cultural Guardian for the Innu Nation. In this position she has many responsibilities, including development of the framework to establish cultural centers in the communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish, consulting with researchers and organizations on Innu research policy and intellectual property rights, as well as lending a voice where needed to advocate for the importance of the culture and rights of Innu, and all Indigenous peoples.
Catherine Bell is a Professor of Law at the University of Alberta specialising in Indigenous legal issues, cultural heritage law and interdisciplinary collaborative legal research. She has been a visiting professor and scholar at various national and international universities and law programs including the Program of Legal Studies for Native People (University of Saskatchewan), the Akitsiraq Law School (with the University of Victoria), Nunavut Law Program (with the University of Saskatchewan), and Banff Center for Management Aboriginal Leadership and Self-Government Program. Professor Bell is published widely in the area of Indigenous rights and has worked in collaboration with Métis, First Nation, Inuit, federal, provincial and international government bodies and organizations. Her work in the area of Canadian heritage law, policy and reform draws on Indigenous and Canadian conceptualizations of property and legal institutions, as well as the legal and ethical dynamics at play. Her current research focuses on Métis constitutional rights, Indigenous research ethics and the intersection of property law, ethics and Indigenous law in museum settings. In 2012 she was honoured with the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Governor General’s Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to Aboriginal law and legal education in Canada.
Tim Bernard is well known beyond his own community of Millbrook as the Manager/Editor of the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Nations News and Eastern Woodland Print Communications. Employed by The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) as a Land Claims Researcher from 1988 to 1994, he gained extensive historical knowledge under the direction of Dr. Donald Julien. He now brings his management expertise to The CMM as the Director of History and Culture, and to the development of the Mi’kmawey Debert project. Tim is the Mi’kmaw co-chair of the Culture and History working committee of the Tripartite Forum as well as a member of the History Month and Treaty Day committees. Through these and other avenues, Tim’s direction affects communities across Nova Scotia. He has set forth and achieved realistic and meaningful outcomes through these avenues, advancing knowledge and appreciation for place names, language growth and retention, cultural resources for educators and the importance of the stories of Elders and others in the communities. He has served on the task force of the Nova Scotia Heritage Strategy and is regularly involved with overall heritage and tourism sector development. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre.
Joella Hogan is a Northern Tutchone and a member of the Crow Clan. She has a BSc in Environmental Planning and an MA in Rural and Community Planning. Joella led the Heritage Department for her First Nation for over ten years working to protect and promote Northern Tutchone culture, heritage and language. She is a small business owner and continues to work with communities on projects that build capacity and that connect people to land and culture.
Melody Lepine is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation and was raised in the beautiful community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. Her family and community traditional teachings in environmental stewardship at a young age motivated her to advance studies in environmental conservation sciences at the University of Alberta and enroll in the Masters of Science program at Royal Roads University. The balance of teachings in both traditional environmental knowledge and western science has become Melody’s key strength in her professional career. Melody has worked for her community and First Nation for the past fourteen years. As the Director of the Mikisew Cree First Nation Government and Industry Relations department, she is responsible for overseeing all government and industry consultation pertaining to resource development that impacts the Mikisew Cree.
Walking in “two worlds,” Art Napoleon is as comfortable on a big city stage or boardroom as he is skinning a moose in a hailstorm with a pocketknife. Tapping into rich and profound ancestral knowledge to create sustainable and ethical alternatives for the modern world are the foundations that guide him in his many projects. A former Chief of the Saulteau First Nations in northeastern BC, Art is a conservationist, naturalist, faith–‐keeper and educator who interprets life through the holistic lens of the Cree worldview. Art also has an MA degree from the University of Victoria in Indigenous Language Revitalization, where one of his goals is to help communities revitalize endangered languages and in the wisdom embedded in these ancient languages. Art is co-host of the hit TV show “Moosemeat and Marmalade”.
Sarah Pashagumskum is a member of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi. Prior to taking a leave to serve as the Chair of the Cree School Board, Sarah has been Executive Director of the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute in Oujé-Bougoumou, Quebec.
Dr. Kisha Supernant is Métis and an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. She is the Director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology and a leading expert on Indigenous archaeology, Indigenous cultural heritage, and geospatial analysis. An award-winning teacher, researcher, and writer, her research explores Indigenous histories, cultural identities, landscapes, remote sensing, spatial analysis, Métis archaeology, and heart-centered archaeological practice. Her research with Indigenous communities in western Canada explores how archaeologists and communities can build collaborative research relationships and work together to support Indigenous cultural heritage values. Recently, she has been engaged in using remote sensing technologies to locate and protect unmarked burials at the request of First Nations communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan. She has published in local and international journals on GIS in archaeology, collaborative archaeological practice, Métis archaeology, and indigenous archaeology in the post-TRC era.
Jessica Kotierk, Inuk, has been Manager/Curator of the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in Iqaluit, Canada since 2018. She is focused on the care of Inuit artifacts in museum collections. Jessica supports the promotion and preservation of Inuit art, and archives with past positions at the Canadian Conservation Institute, Avataq Cultural Institute, and Inuit Art Foundation before returning to Nunavut and working at the Nunavut Film Development Corporation.
Her education includes a Film Studies degree and a diploma in Collection Conservation and Management. Started out being interested in the heritage professions through programs with the Inuit Heritage Trust: Archaeological Field School in Naujaat, Nunavut Heritage Training Institutes, Nunavut Heritage Leadership Program and received the Alain Maktar Heritage Scholarship.
She is on the Board of the Archives Council of Nunavut and the Alianait Arts Festival and also participates in the Leadership Group of the Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq SSHRC Partnership Grant, which is working to foster more Inuit within the arts and culture roles. Recently joined the Canadian Museum Association Reconciliation Council.