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Featured Artists – Dene Nahjo Winter Market

Aurora Heat

As we grew up, my sisters, brothers and I dressed in fur from my father’s trapline – hats, mittens, mukluks, and parkas, all made by my mother.  They worked hard supplementing their incomes and improving our lifestyle by sewing and trapping. Like most Northerners, my family proudly wears fur and we want to encourage the widespread acceptance of fur for warmth. There is an authentic connection with the land that occurs when we look to nature to provide.


My lovely mother, Mrs. Jane Dragon, is a Chipewyan Dene woman, originally from northern Saskatchewan. At 77, she has lived in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, since she was 10 years old. She and my father, David, had celebrated 53 years of marriage when he passed in April, 2012. Together, our parents raised 6 children and now her family includes 13 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

​Setsuné (grandmother in Chipewyan) is a talented seamstress; sewing with furs and hides for most of her life. Her garments have been showcased in a special gallery in the Canadian Museum of History in our nation’s capital region.

​Her handiworks are enjoyed by people from around the world and Setsuné continues to sew her own unique creative pieces. She is the Cultural Adviser for Aurora Heat and her favorite greeting is Thá Huná ~ May you live a long time!

​Aurora Heat, Inc. is based in Fort Smith and employs Northerners in the production of our hand and foot warmers. One of the joys of being in my hometown is spending time with my mom. Our parents are our first teachers and their knowledge and love is boundless – these are precious days for me.  My son and niece are among the employees of Aurora Heat and I love making it “our” business.

While I count my blessings, there are couple of things I feel particularly proud of. Firstly, I am thrilled to be bringing back and sharing a traditional way of keeping warm. Since I started this company, Elders have shared their stories of the long ago practice of stuffing fur in mitts and mukluks. In the old days, it was rabbit fur which was easily accessible and “disposable”. Modern tanning and newer methods of processing beaver fur had us choose sheared beaver for its durability and incredible softness.

​Secondly,  in our workshop, at the end of the day, there is a no garbage in a bin. We use all parts of each and every hide and try to run a responsible and sustainable business. As a committed nature lover and environmentalist, I love creating and making available natural products, especially these ones that  replace disposables. The closer we are to nature for our basic needs, all the better for our planet.

While developing more products, I am looking forward to continuing with the minimalist approach to expansion – more products and all fur for warmth.  May the fur be with you!

Detł’ogh Nedhël (Chipewyan) – Fur Warmth – pronounced: A-rawh Nay-thawl​

Featured Artist – Dene Nahjo Winter Market 2017

Naturally Dene

Naturally Dene is 100% Dene owned and operated by Lila and Roy Erasmus Jr.  Lila offers Medicine Walks and  DIY creams and lotions workshops with the plants that grow naturally.  Lila enjoys creating her own teas creams, serums, scrubs and customized medicinal salves with all the different plants from Denendeh.

Featured Artist – Dene Nahjo Winter Market 2017

Raven Jewelry

Robyn McLeod is a Dehcho Dene from Deh Gah Gotie Kue (Fort Providence, Northwest Territories). Robyn is an experienced Traditional Games Facilitator through the NWT Aboriginal Sports Circle, and is currently employed with Dehcho First Nations in regional stewardship development. Robyn is an alumni with the Dechinta Bush University, which delivers accredited post-secondary programming in partnership with the University of Alberta. Robyn has extensive land-based experience; she is striving to learn and practice her Dene culture. She is currently working on a moosehide that she would like to be completed by Summer of 2018.

Featured Artist – Dene Nahjo Winter Market 2017

John Rombough

Chippewyan Dene artist John Rombough was born in the remote community of Sioux Lookout in Northern Ontario, Canada. At the age of three, John was adopted by Carol and Lyall Rombough, a Prince Edward Island couple. He attributes his early interest in drawing and painting to being raised in their giving and artistic environment.
John is a self-taught contemporary woodland painter. He uses strong supporting black lines and vibrant colours. His main mentors are artists such as Ojibwe Norval Morrisseau, the grandfather of contemporary woodland style, and those from the ‘Native Group of Seven’.
As a young adult, John began the search for his birth parents. He discovered his biological father, Alfred Catholique, living in the tiny community of Lutselk’e on the shores of Great Slave Lake in Canada’s pristine Northwest Territories.
Warmly welcomed by all the Catholique family, John decided to move to the community in order to rediscover his cultural identity. John Rombough’s painting style has since changed to reflect the harmony of the Dene people with the natural world. His distinctive modern aboriginal designs encompass his own personal visions and strong connection with nature. John’s paintings communicate to all nations through visual interpretation and brilliantly mixed colours. His art sends the message of compassion and respect.
As John works toward creating original pieces, Ceremonial Drum Songs flow through his thoughts, songs that represent Dene teachings and spiritual way of life. Sacred teachings past down from ancestors through his visions inspire John to live a healthy, creative lifestyle, honoring ancestral teachings of ‘respect for self, respect for people and respect for the land’.
John Rombough is recognized as a role model throughout Northwest Territories and takes his role very seriously. His paintings are instrumental in conveying a message to the youth, a message of encouragement, leadership, strength, will power, and determination. New cultural discoveries continue to provide him with an inexhaustible reservoir of ideas to put to canvas.

Dene Nahjo Winter Market

Dene Nahjo’s 2017 Winter Market

Where: Champagne Room (2nd Floor of the 50/50 Mini Mall), Yellowknife, NT

When: 12pm-5pm, Sunday December 17

Unique Indigenous Arts and Designs! In-House Gift-Wrapping! Live DJ!

Featured Artist – Dene Nahjo Winter Market 2017

Haylani Apparel

Charlene, owner of Haylani Apparel, is a proud Metis/Dene woman, and a mom of 3 who started her sewing business almost two years ago. Haylani Apparel is a baby/children’s clothing line that includes rompers, dresses, headbands, beanies, caribou hide headbands and bow ties. Her passion for sewing comes with great pride and inspiration from her late Grandma Lucy who was a well known beader and seamstress.

Processed with MOLDIV

Haylani Apparel will be available for purchase at Dene Nahjo’s Winter Market Sunday Dec. 15 from 12pm-5pm at the Champagne Room in Yellowknife.

Thursday Nights: Hide Camp Film Screenings

Join us for Indigenous film nights every Thursday evening as part of Dene Nahjo’s Urban Hide Tanning Camp. The films will be screened at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and films start at 7:30.

Thursday, September 7: Feature Doc Presentation

Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril) 
A young woman is on a journey to revive the ancient Inuit tradition of face tattooing. Inuit tattoos have been forbidden for a century, and almost forgotten. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril struggles to find out all she can before she is tattooed herself. She has met serious resistance from some of her fellow Inuit. However, a number of brave elders are willing to talk about the tattoos, and the massive and sudden cultural changes that caused their decline.

Thursday, September 14: Indigenous Shorts

Raven (Razelle Banally)
A woman contemplates suicide and decides that her life is worth living after all. After arriving on her motorcycle in the snowy woods, she finds a beautiful but lonely tree where she gets lost in the moment of a decision she has been struggling to keep and experiences an ethereal dream where she comes face to face with the little one that could
have been.
*Featuring a Q&A with the filmmaker*


Cree Code Talker (Alexandra Lazarowich)
During the Second World War, the Allied Forces utilized Indigenous language speakers to transmit coded messages that could not be broken. The contributions of Charles “Checker” Tomkins are revealed in this insightful look into how the Cree language was used as a vital secret weapon in combat.


How to Steal a Canoe (Amanda Strong)
With spoken lyrics by Nishnaabeg poet Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and original score by Cree cellist Cris Derksen, How to Steal a Canoe tells a story of stealing back the precious parts of our selves.


Scraper (Mandee McDonald, Amos Scott & Deneze Nakehk’o) 
A fun night of ‘bush hookups’ turns into a twisted experiment for two beautiful hide tanners.

Akóó (Amos Scott & Mandee McDonald) 
On a chilling winter night at a northern bush party, two young men plot to take advantage of two young women. Unbeknownst to them, something is watching them from the cold, dark, woods and their sinister plan is about to take an unexpected turn.

Tuesday Nights: Dene Nahjo’s Hide Camp Artist Market

The rich artistic and pragmatic uses of hide and fur will be showcased at Dene Nahjo’s artist market Tuesday, September 5 and September 12 from 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. at Somba K’e Park.

Held as part of Dene Nahjo’s second annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp, the market is intended to give Indigenous artists and designers a platform to exhibit and sell work that celebrates land and culture, and showcases the many uses of traditionally tanned moose and caribou hide.

“Smoked moosehide is worn with pride. We identify with it visually as Dene people, and remember that it is tanning that has helped our people survive in our extreme climate from the beginning of time. It has been our homes, our transportation, clothing, shoes, and in hard times, our food,” says Melaw Nakehk’o, moosehide tanning instructor and hide tanning project lead. “Today the practice of hide tanning connects us to our ancestors, our land, our Dene history. It connects us to each other as a community and into the continuum of our Dene story. It centres us to our traditional territory.”

Along with Dene Nahjo merch for sale, our featured artist vendors will include:

Inuk was born, raised and continues to live in the Northwest Territories (NT), Canada; she is of Eskimo (Inuvialuit) and European descent. Inuk’s art journey began in the spring of 1990, when she surprised herself and others as well with her ‘natural ability to caribou hair tuft’. Learning to tuft helped her find, develop and hone her own techniques and create her own unique style of caribou hair tufting. Since then, she has been reviving and successfully bringing tufting to new heights and into the fine art category, worldwide, using caribou hair. As you view her art, you see her love of it and it show’s in every piece, you can see the utmost care in quality and originality, which you will enjoy for years to come.


Charlene is a proud Metis/Dene woman, and a mom of 3 who started her sewing business almost two years ago. Haylani Apparel is a baby/children’s clothing line that includes rompers, dresses, headbands, beanies, caribou hide headbands and bow ties. Her passion for sewing comes with great pride and inspiration from her late Grandma Lucy who was a well known beader and seamstress.



Melaw Nakehk’o is a distinguished artist and community leader. Born in Canada’s North, raised in the community of Liidlii Kue, Melaw comes from a long line of tribal leaders of the Dehcho Dene & Denesuline people. Melaw attended the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where she earned a degree in 2 dimensional arts. Melaw is also recognized for her exemplary work in revitalizing traditional Indigenous artistic practices, with contemporary applications of ancient techniques. Her work in reviving and teaching moosehide tanning techniques has initiated a resurgence of the practice and shaped a broader community building movement within Canada. She is a Founding Member of Dene Nahjo, and is a regular instructor at the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a land-based university program. Melaw has three sons and lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.

Tania Larsson is of Gwich’in and Swedish descent and was born and raised in France. At the age of fifteen, she moved to Canada with her family with the goal of reconnecting to her culture and her land. She recently completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus in digital arts and jewelry at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Tania is a founding member of Dene Nahjo, a non-profit organization that focuses on cultural revitalization projects. She constantly seeks out opportunities to learn traditional practices such as tanning hides on the land, making tools and sewing. Combining her traditional skills and contemporary arts education, she strives to create pieces that are inspired by her culture and delivered using digital technologies.


Aurora Heat, Inc. is an 100% Indigenous owned and operated company starting its second winter season. Brenda Dragon, along with her mother, are based in Fort Smith, NT.  Mrs. Jane Dragon is a well-known traditional artist specializing in traditional clothing made of hides and fur for over 60 years.  They design, manufacture and distribute finished fur products made with sheared beaver.  Aurora Heat™ signature handmade products are hand and foot warmers sold both online and in retail stores.



Sharon Anne Firth of the Gwich’in First Nation grew up traditionally with her family – sewing, hunting, trapping and fishing in Aklavik in the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories. As a four-time Olympian, Sharon has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Japan. She continues to champion her causes: education, fitness, traditional and healthy lifestyles. Her activism has resulted in her membership into the prestigious Order of Canada, and she is also a very proud recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. As a result of these experiences, Sharon’s jewellery and fur products fuse her rich traditional upbringing with today’s complexity of fashion. Sharon strongly believes that every woman should feel beautiful, feminine and strong.

Gloria Enzoe Shearing is a member of the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation. She lives at home in Lutsel K’e with her 3 boys and husband. Her love for arts and crafts was learned over time from her mother and father, who both enjoyed their own crafting. Her mom beaded, worked on hides and was very active out on the land. Her dad was always drumming and singing. She recalls him making drums. He liked to laugh and role play animals. Gloria’s husband is very creative as well, and does all the cutting and polishing. The two work very well together and through their creations are able to make their pieces come to life. Growing up in the community really puts life into perspective in regards to going out on the land and being one with the land. Spirituality, culture, values and customs are very important to their lifestyle in Lutsel K’e, where it guides them individually and as a community to do good for their people and surroundings, their lands and waters and all the animals that live there.

Call for Artists: Urban Hide Tanning Camp Artist Market

Dene Nahjo is looking for Indigenous artists and designers to exhibit and sell their work at our second annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp in Somba K’e (Yellowknife) during the evenings of Tuesday, September 5 and September 12. The event will be part of the weekly Yellowknife Farmers’ Market at Somba K’e Civic Plaza.

Interested contemporary and traditional Indigenous artists are asked to submit photo examples of three pieces of quality work along with a short bio about themselves and their art. Artwork should celebrate Indigenous culture and the land, and ideally showcase the many uses of traditionally tanned moose and caribou hide.

Please contact:

Dene Nahjo invites public to second annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp

Dene Nahjo is excited to be hosting its second annual Urban Hide Tanning Camp, a two-week celebration of Dene art, culture, technology and history, in downtown Somba K’e (Yellowknife) from September 5 to 15.

The camp will be held near the Somba K’e Civic Plaza and include caribou and moose hide tanning demonstrations led by Elders and instructors from across Denendeh using regional techniques, along with guest speakers, film nights, traditional games demonstrations by the Aboriginal Sports Circle and guided tours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Tuesday nights will feature an Artists’ Market showcasing the many uses of traditionally tanned moose and caribou hides until 7:30 p.m. Opening ceremonies will take place September 5 at 12:00 p.m.

“Hide tanning is an integral part of our Dene way of life and a physical representation of our reciprocal relationship with the land,” says Dene Nahjo founding member and moosehide tanning instructor Melaw Nakehk’o. “The practice of hide tanning connects us to our ancestors, our land and our Dene history. As Dene people, we wear smoked moose and caribou hide with pride, knowing that the process of hide tanning allowed our people to survive since the beginning of time as our homes, transportation and clothing.”

Whereas colonization has damaged important links between Indigenous peoples and the land, hide tanning is a practice that helps to reforge intergenerational relationships and reconnect Dene people to their traditional territories and cultural identities.

“By hosting a hide camp in the heart of Somba K’e, we hope to inspire new tanners from our communities to connect and build healthy relationships, acquire cultural knowledge, deepen their connection to the land, and increase public awareness of this important aspect of Northern culture,” adds Dene Nahjo founding member and artist Tania Larsson.

To commemorate Yellowknife’s 50th anniversary, activities will be thematically organized around honouring and respecting our past, recognizing the successes of the present, and envisioning the possibilities of the future. In addition to the City of Yellowknife’s substantial in-kind contribution, the Heritage Committee will contribute $5,000 to support the Urban Hide Tanning Camp, making this one of Yellowknife’s official 50th anniversary signature events.

“Funding the Urban Hide Tanning Camp is in keeping with the Heritage Committee’s goal of sharing a more inclusive story of Yellowknife’s identity and heritage; and supporting a prosperous heritage tourism economy,” says Heritage Committee Chair and City Councillor Julian Morse. “The City of Yellowknife was pleased to partner with Dene Nahjo in 2016 and again in 2017 on the Urban Hide Tanning event.”

The Urban Hide Tanning Camp is generously supported by the City of Yellowknife, the GNWT departments of Industry, Tourism & Investment, Education, Culture & Employment, and Environment & Natural Resources, along with the Community Foundations of Canada, Canadian Heritage and Tides Canada.

Follow the events online on Facebook and the City of Yellowknife’s community events calendar.

Photo credit: Tania Larsson

Dene Nahjo Elder Advisor Paul Andrew awarded Order of the NWT

Dene Nahjo wishes to congratulate Elder Paul Andrew on the prestigious honour of being selected as recipient of the Order of the Northwest Territories.

As a network of emerging leaders, Dene Nahjo relies on the guidance of Elders to assist in our work of creating long-term, positive change in the North through the celebration of land, language, culture and Indigenous leadership. Paul has been an Elder Advisor with Dene Nahjo for a number of years, sharing important teachings with the group that ensure the solutions put forward today are rooted in the teachings of our ancestors.

Paul is passionate about Dene, and in particular Shuhtoatine or Mountain Dene, culture. His favourite sayings are “We come from great people” and “I was one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to witness the Dene at their best.” He believes the future of the Dene is in the past.

“Dene must once again be proud of who they are and where they come from,” he says. “The greatest strength of the Dene is faith in the Creator, Dene Spirituality and Dene Language.”

After many years in residential school, Paul is a student of Dene history, including but not limited to connection to the environment, Dene understandings of cosmology, pharmacology, ecology and Indigenous spirituality.

Paul was born along the Twitya River in the Mackenzie Mountains across from Tulita. He is happily retired in Yellowknife and sits on a number of boards and committees.

The Order of the Northwest Territories, established in 2013 by the Territorial Emblems and Honours Act, recognizes individuals who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of the NWT or elsewhere. It is the highest honour awarded to NWT residents. A member of the Order can wear the insignia of the Order as a decoration and use the initials “O.N.W.T.” after his or her name.

The 2017 recipients of the Order of the NWT include:

–          Mr. Paul Andrew of Yellowknife

–          Mr. Fred Carmichael of Inuvik

–          Mr. Russell King of Hay River

–          Ms. Lynda Koe of Yellowknife

–          Mr. Jeff Phillip of Yellowknife

–          Mr. Tom Zubko of Inuvik

The induction ceremony is being held on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 11:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Assembly. The Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Gerald W. Kisoun, will lead the ceremony in his role as Chancellor of the Order. The ceremony is open to the public.

Photo by Amos Scott

Woman’s Sacred Journey workshop to connect Northern women and girls with rites of passage traditions

Somba K’e, Denendeh, May 8, 2017 — This summer, Dene Nahjo is proud to be hosting a four-day workshop for women and girls aimed at restoring the intergenerational rites of passage traditions that were disrupted by residential school and colonization.

Guided by Elders Rebecca Martell of the Sîkîp Sâkahikan First Nation and Ethel Lamothe of the Łíídlįį Kų́ę́ First Nation, the Woman’s Sacred Journey workshop will offer a safe space to learn about and connect with Indigenous values and ceremony, and provide the tools for increased capacity in self-determination, wisdom and wellness within Northern communities and families.

“A rites of passage ceremony marks the transition from one phase of life to another,” says Rites of Passage project lead Melaw Nakehk’o. “There are many passages in life and Indigenous women have carried on those traditions in the North since time immemorial. This workshop will provide a sacred space to transmit those core values, responsibilities and traditional teachings so that they can be passed on to future generations.”

As an exercise in self-exploration focused on the teachings of the life cycle from childhood to adulthood and motherhood, the program will assist emerging women leaders to be more aware of their personal roles and strengths, and help to develop inter-generational relationships that bring the importance of women’s health and wellbeing to the forefront.

The workshop will take place August 28 to 31, 2017 in Somba K’e (Yellowknife) and has space for 30 participants from across the North. Applications for the Woman’s Sacred Journey rites of passage workshop are being accepted now until June 2, 2017. To apply, please visit:

Dene Nahjo’s mission is to advance social and environmental justice for Northern people while promoting Indigenous leadership and fostering emerging leaders. We strive to live, learn and celebrate our cultures, languages and Indigenous values on the land, guided by our Elders, and believe the solutions to the problems we see in our communities are rooted in the teachings of our ancestors. Dene Nahjo is a project of Tides Canada Initiatives.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Meagan Wohlberg

Communications Manager

Dene Nahjo


We Desire A Better Country: Kyla Kakfwi Scott’s Walrus Talk

The Walrus Talks Conversations about Canada: We Desire a Better Country stopped in Yellowknife on its national tour on March 6. Among the esteemed lineup of speakers, Dene Nahjo Founding Member Kyla Kakfwi Scott was asked to deliver her vision for how to make a better Canada. The following is the full text of her speech, as delivered.

I’m Kyla Kakfwi Scott and I’m here to talk about interpretation.

My great aunt Mary Wilson was an expert in her Dene language.  She worked for years as an interpreter.  As a little girl I spent a lot of time in meetings and assemblies around the North, listening to the important conversations of the day and hearing them simultaneously repeated in the Indigenous languages of our people. Making sense, making meaning… making a lot of noise, frankly, with all of those voices speaking at once so the whole room could emerge with shared understanding.

I once referred to my aunty as a translator, and my mom was quick to correct me. Translators take words or text from one language to another, interpreters explain the meaning of something. Effective interpretation is not only the explanation but also the way of explaining; it requires a commitment from the speaker and the audience to hear more than words, more than ideas; to question the assumptions that feed the place you are listening from and push yourself towards understanding the place from which they are spoken.

I don’t speak my Dene language, but I have still spent my life interpreting. It’s not just about language; the need to interpret expectation, or social norms, exists for anyone who finds themselves living in a new place, or surrounded by a culture that is not their own. It’s an experience shared by many people of mixed heritage; carrying two cultures within you means that the need to bridge between them is inescapable. That need for interpretation inevitably is carried by the minority.

In this era or capital ‘R’ reconciliation, Canada has expressed a desire for better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Relationships must be built on understanding, and the burden of interpretation required to achieve that cannot be carried by Indigenous people alone.

We desire a better country. It’s a bold statement; one full of possibility and begging for interpretation. The beauty of it is that it can mean something different to every one of us. The challenge is that if we can’t arrive at some shared understandings we’re not likely to achieve any of those visions.

As an adult, my practice as an interpreter has been something I’ve carried into my work. It’s a useful skill and it has served me well as a public servant to be able to work from multiple perspectives. My most challenging application though, and the source of some of the work I am most proud of, is through my involvement with Dene Nahjo – an Indigenous innovation collective based in the Northwest Territories.

Emerging from the Idle No More movement, Dene Nahjo began as a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists grappling with the challenge of “what next?”. We saw a need for change within our communities, which even here in the North had become far too divided, between indigenous groups, between the indigenous and non-indigenous population, and between urban and rural communities. We saw disconnect between generations, interruptions in cultural continuity, and a lack of innovation in popular discourse. Collectively, we agreed to tackle not just the question of what to do to address these challenges, but perhaps more importantly to make conscious and deliberate decisions about how we would do it.

Our vision is land, language, culture. Forever. On a daily basis we individually and collectively interpret and reinterpret what contemporary survival means for Indigenous people. What implications does it have for our cultures that we live in increasingly urban environments? Through our projects Dene Nahjo works to bring culture into unexpected places, create safe spaces for dialogue and innovation, build relationships, and challenge the status quo. Whether it’s tanning moose and caribou hides in downtown Yellowknife, making tools, or hosting circumpolar women’s gatherings, we’re defining for ourselves what it means to be Indigenous.

The reality is that we do not exist as depicted in museums, or books, or archeological sites, and that is fine. We continue to carry that history, that knowledge, that way of life, but our culture also lives where we do; sometimes in cities. Sometimes in rooms like these. My indigeneity, my culture, is defined and redefined by my daily practice and application in all things; in how I speak to you, in how I hear you, in how i work, and in how I learn. For Indigenous people the master class is always on the land, but the practical exam is wherever we’re standing.

Dene Nahjo has become for me what those assemblies of my childhood were; rooms full of people with a relatively common purpose, doing the hard work of figuring out how to get there and how to support each other on the journey. But these rooms don’t come with interpreters, and these conversations can easily go off track, or lose engagement, as meanings are misinterpreted, or the challenge of finding shared understanding becomes too great.

My aunty was a great interpreter, but also an Elder in the truest sense of the word with all of the wisdom that carries. My favourite story about her is the time that my dad, as a young leader, addressed a community meeting in our hometown of Fort Good Hope. He gave what I’m told was a great speech, in English, relying on the skills of my aunty to convey his meaning to the unilingual Dene in the room. She didn’t. She waited until he was done speaking and then told him to interpret for himself, to tell people in his own words and in his own language whatever it was that he thought they needed to hear. A challenge to his own responsibility for understanding the importance of interpretation, to his accountability to his community, to the importance of grounding himself in his own language and culture if he wanted to lead. He did the speech himself a second time, and she never interpreted for him again.

Here is what I understand that story to mean: the burden of transformational change cannot be shouldered by “leaders” alone. Nor should it be. Becoming our best selves depends on our personal integrity and commitment to improvement, but it also requires the support and insistence of our families and communities to carry us through the discomfort of growth, challenge, and the uncertainty of innovation.

Striving for a better country won’t be simple or easy. It will require a lot of interpretation to move beyond understanding what better means to you, or to me. Being better demands that we come to appreciate what better means to each other, and how and why those understandings are  meaningful. This is hard work and it’s okay for it to feel that way. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t be disheartened by the magnitude of the challenge. But know that gentleness is not the same as complacency, and complacency is not an option.

What I love about the idea of a better country is the liberation and challenge that comes with working towards something without an end point, something that infinitely calls for more. This work demands tolerance, patience, and deep personal commitment. It asks us to bring our best selves, to hold each other up, and to embrace the discomfort of real transformation. It is a recognition that a better country is what we collectively make it to be, and that our work as interpreters is to seek understanding, not as an accomplishment but as a practice and commitment and way of being through every step of that journey.

Mahsi cho

Listen to part of Kyla’s talk below:



Job Alert: Director, Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship

Director, Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship Program

About The Gordon Foundation

The Gordon Foundation is a philanthropic foundation based in Toronto, Canada. The Foundation undertakes research, leadership development and public dialogue so that public policies in Canada reflect a commitment to collaborative stewardship of our freshwater resources and to a people-driven, equitable and evolving North. Over the past quarter century, The Gordon Foundation has invested over $27 million in a wide variety of northern community projects and freshwater protection initiatives.

About the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship

The objective of the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship is to recognize emerging leaders interested in public policy from among a diverse range of talented, dedicated and motivated northern Canadians. The program aims to support northerners in the early stages of their career who want to build on their skills and leadership. The program enables participants to better articulate and share their research and ideas publicly, as well as create dialogue, to bring about a more healthy, self-reliant and sustainable North.

Throughout the 2-year program, participants meet four times (in each Territory, and Ottawa) for educational gatherings, to work on research independently and collectively, and learn from some of the most prominent voices of leadership, policy development, negotiations and traditional knowledge. Upon completion of the program, participants become a member of a growing Alumni network, which meets for continued networking and learning opportunities, and has access to a granting program that facilitates their continued policy research and education interests.

About the Role

This high profile position requires strong networking and relationship management skills; experience with public policy analysis and development; and good knowledge of leadership development needs in the North.

As the lead mentor to up to 15 Fellows, you will be able to support their policy research interests, facilitate group work, and provide guidance and advice. You are also a seasoned facilitator and are comfortable developing and implementing learning sessions in a variety of content-appropriate formats.

You are polished, professional, and confident and excel in a fast-paced and evolving environment. You will be equally comfortable and productive as a solo operator and team player.

This role reports to the President and CEO and is supported by the administrative team at the Foundation, including a logistics coordinator, and administrative and financial support people.

Key Areas of Responsibility

Program Design and Delivery

  • Implement program improvements based on an independent evaluation and your own vision
  • Lead the recruitment and selection of Fellows for upcoming cohort
  • Develop a two-year program, including four in-person gatherings (3 in northern communities, one in Ottawa)
  • Guide and support Fellows’ independent research and policy development projects
  • Design group projects and facilitate completion
  • Maintain a mentorship network and ensure Fellows are supported in their individual needs by appropriate mentors
  • Serve as senior mentor and primary point of contact for Fellows and Alumni
  • Refine and maintain evaluation of the Fellows and Alumni programs
  • Engage Alumni and implement programming to meet their ongoing needs
  • Report regularly to the Board of Directors
  • Collaborate with Foundation staff on inter-program opportunities

Outreach and Promotion

  • Act as key spokesperson to media and stakeholders
  • Work closely with Foundation staff to build a strong understanding of the purpose and impact of the Fellowship and Alumni network
  • Work with Foundation staff to maintain and acquire continued support for the program
  • Develop partnerships and collaboration opportunities to maximize reach and impact of the program
  • Seek opportunities and support Fellows and Alumni in continuing to raise their profile and promote their work


  • Be either a current or previous resident in the North (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, or Nunavik)
  • Have solid northern networks and/or a proven ability to build strong networks in northern and/or Indigenous communities
  • Experience and proven ability working in leadership development either with an early career or adult student population or in “youth engagement,” broadly defined
  • Experience working in a cross-cultural setting, and with culturally-based and/or land-based learning
  • Have strong familiarity with policy issues and the public policy framework/process, particularly with regard to one or more northern jurisdictions
  • Experience as a facilitator and strong speaking and presentation skills
  • Basic knowledge of human resources and project management, including some financial management and program evaluation
  • Post-secondary degree in a relevant field, with ability to work in an inter-disciplinary setting (or the equivalent experience)
  • Self-motivated and able to work largely independently
  • Experience working with selection processes and/or mentorship programs considered an asset
  • Ability to travel
  • Strong preference will be given to applicants identifying as Indigenous (Inuit, First Nations or Métis)

This is a full-time position, reporting to the Foundation’s Toronto office. The successful candidate may work from the Toronto office, or from a remote location, preferably in the North.

How to Apply

To apply, please include “Director, Fellowship Program; The Gordon Foundation” in the subject line and submit your resume to: HEATHER LAWSON, Vice President, CONROY | ROSS PARTNERS,

Deadline: Your resume and cover letter must be received by March 3, 2017.