Speakers

These amazing women will share their stories and Speak their Truths at the 2019 Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit.  Each individual will reveal how they’ve overcome many challenges and obstacles throughout their personal and professional journeys.

Please stay tuned for more speaker announcements!


“Once a woman knows she is sacred, she will know she has the right to be Silent No More.”

ANDREA MENARD
Métis Nation, MB and SK

Andrea Menard is a Creativity Fire-Starter and an Expert in Feminine Leadership. As an accomplished Métis singer, actress, and speaker, Andrea uses her gifts in creative and emotional expression to help individuals own their voice, express their creativity and enhance their own mental health. Andrea is a five-time Gemini-nominated actress, a 15-time music award winner, one of the stars of the Netflix series, Blackstone, and her TEDx Talk called Silent No More has reached over 125,000 views. As a professional speaker, she uses her life as a Métis celebrity, a music messenger, and an advocate for ending violence, to entertain and inspire audiences from all walks of life. Whether she is addressing a hall of businesswomen, a high security room full of NATO Generals, or a stadium of Indigenous youth, Andrea’s uplifting musical keynotes land exactly where they need to – in the heart.


“To be able to put Gitxsan people on the map and shed light on the reality, history, and resilience of Indigenous people in Canada is something I am very grateful for.”

ANGELA STERRITT
Gitxan, BC

Angela Sterritt is an award-winning journalist and writer from British Columbia. She has worked as a journalist for close to 20 years and has been with the CBC since 2003. Her reports have appeared in the Globe and Mail, The National, CBC’s The Current, and various other news programs. In 2017, with her team at CBC, she won the investigative award of the year from Journalists for Freedom of Expression. Angela currently works with CBC Vancouver as radio, online and television reporter and host. In the fall of 2017, she launched “Reconcile This,” a CBC column that explores the tensions between Indigenous people and institutions in British Columbia. In less than a year the column has won an international Gabriel award and RTDNA awards. Angela is Gitxsan with the Gitanmaax band in Northwest B.C.


“It is with our Matriarchal leadership in this generation, that will help bring us back to who we truly are as strong indigenous women. It our is time.”

CAROLYN ROBERTS
Squamish Nation, BC

Carolyn Roberts uses her voice to support Indigenous resurgence through education. She is a Coast Salish woman belonging to the Squamish Nation. Carolyn is an Indigenous academic who holds two degrees from UBC, a Masters in Aboriginal Education and Leadership and a Bachelor of Education. She also holds a Bachelor of Jazz Studies from Capilano University. She has been an educator for over 20 years and is currently the Principal of Xwemélch’stn Etsimxwawtxw school of the Squamish Nation, where they are working towards revitalizing language and culture by converting their elementary school into a Squamish language immersion school. She believes it is a critical time for Indigenous people to remember who they are and where they came from in order to know where they need to go, moving forward using traditional ways of knowing as a foundation. Carolyn is a leader for the resurgence of Indigenous people reclaiming their languages, history and cultures. Her work is about grounding the next generation of Indigenous children in their culture and ancestral ways to work towards a brighter future for all Indigenous people and the seven generations yet to come.


“Be truthful and respectful in our speech, which in itself is a miracle and a gift from the creator, that we might use it only to speak good of each other and pass on the good things in life.” – nehiyaw Proverb

CHAS DESJARLAIS
Cold Lake First Nation, AB

My name is Chas Desjarlais and I am a nêhiyaw/Metis educator and scholar working for the Vancouver School Board as the Indigenous Education District Vice Principal. I am a member of Cold Lake First Nations and a Treaty Six First Nation; and doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Studies pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to be living the ‘good life’ and take great care in ensuring that I share the ‘gifts’ I have received from the Creator with those I get to work with. Who I am and where I come from greatly influence my leadership and how I engage and interact with administrators, educators and students. Living and leading, walking the path of ‘miyo-pimatisiwin’ (living the good life) as a nehiyaw/Metis iskwew is my sole purpose is to pass those teachings onto my two daughters, Paige and Kaylyn.


“Little girls with big dreams grow up to become women with a strong vision.”

CRYSTAL MANYFINGERS
Kainai First Nation, AB

Crystal is an award winning educator who uses her creative talent to research and design Indigenous Ways of knowing and learning pedagogies. She is a Blackfoot (Kainaiki) woman from the Kainai (Blood) First Nation in southern Alberta. Crystal is mother to two wonderful children, daughter Tricia and son Alex.
As a little girl growing up on the Blood Reserve, surrounded by poverty and emotional hardship, Crystal witnessed firsthand the damaging inter-generational effects and impacts that the Indian Residential Schools had on her family and community. She shares these experiences with her students and other faculty to show them that with persistence and determination, we can carry on the legacy of our ancestors and live in a good way. Her personal Call to Action is to research, create and develop anti-racist pedagogies and build intercultural competencies for all learners. She now applies her own learned skills and competencies to indigenize and decolonize curriculum at Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alberta. Her first successful task was to initiate the TRC Call to Action #24 for all nursing students in their Practical Nursing Program. Crystal looks forward to being a speaker at this year’s Indigenous Women in Leadership Summit 2019.


“I will leave this world; better than when I entered into it.”

INUK
Inuvialuit, NT

Inuk was born and raised in the Northwest Territories (NT); she is of Inuvialuit (Eskimo) and European decent. When you meet her; it does not take long to notice her love and respect for her people, land and traditions of the Northwest Territories which is shared through her creations. Since she was a child, Inuk wanted to be a fashion designer. Her artistic journey began in 1990 when she discovered her ‘natural ability to caribou hair tuft’ which eventually led to her becoming a “Master Tufter”. Over the years, Inuk has taught thousands of people around the world, from all walks of life and ages. With each caribou hair tufting, lesson and demonstration she is literally preserving a piece of the Northwest Territories heritage, one tuft and stitch at a time. Inuk is also a strong advocate for the Arctic’s sustainably resourced furs and hides, which she turns in to wearable one of a kind creations. Inuk knows there are no limits creating art; you can see the utmost care, quality and originality in each of her creations.


“Your story is truth.”

JACE MEYER
Ottawa, ON

Jace Meyer is a Metis speaker, teacher, and artist working at Shopify in Ottawa, ON. Jace holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Victoria and has co-created science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum with 1.25 million youth from coast to coast to coast. Jace is Shopify’s Lead for Indigenous entrepreneurs and leads the Indigenous employee resource group, bringing together aspiring and current Indigenous entrepreneurs with Shopify employees. This is promoted to make improvements to commerce for Indigenous people. A recent milestone: In partnership with the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Jace helped 40 Indigenous women launch their online store and make their first sale in under 30 minutes on Shopify. Follow Jace on Twitter and Instagram: @jaceactually


“Mistakes are just opportunities to learn something new.”

JENNIFER HARPER
Ojibwe, Whitefish Bay, ON

Jenn Harper, founder of Cheekbone Beauty, was born in Thunder Bay, ON and relocated to the Niagara Region where she was raised and developed a passion for cosmetics. She believed here needed to be a Canadian brand, that was never tested on animals, free of all the junk, and that gave back to the First Nations community. This didn’t exist, so Jenn created it!

During the development of Cheekbone Beauty, Jenn researched both the industry and charities that help close the educational funding gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Jenn found the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society (FNCFCS) and Cheekbone Beauty continues to support the FNCFCS today. During Cheekbone’s infancy, Jenn suffered a heavy personal loss with the suicide of her brother B.J. This loss, though difficult, has remained a driving force behind Jenn’s desire to see her company succeed with its mission. Jenn speaks regularly to university, college and high school students about social entrepreneurship, empathy and the history of her family. In 2017 Jenn was awarded the “Social Enterprise Award” at the 17th Annual Women in Business Awards for her work on Cheekbone Beauty. In 2018 Jenn was invited to sit at the table with Prime Minster Trudeau and discuss the strategy for the Women Entrepreneurs Fund (WEF). Most recently Jenn faced the Dragons on CBC Dragons Den which will air this Fall. Cheekbone Beauty was awarded the “Social Enterprise of the Year” in Ontario by Start Up Canada this past June.


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JOCELYN FORMSMA
Moose Cree First Nation, ON

Jocelyn Formsma is a member of Moose Cree First Nation and resides in Ottawa, Ontario. She was born and raised in Mushkegowuk territory (James Bay) in the Eastern side of Treaty #9 in Northern Ontario. Jocelyn completed both her Honours Bachelors of Social Sciences and Juris Doctor (JD) at the University of Ottawa. She has over 18 years of experience working with First Nations and Aboriginal organizations in the areas of social development, Indigenous children’s rights, law, media, youth engagement, and international advocacy.

Called to the Bar of Ontario, she worked as an Associate Lawyer with Nahwegahbow Corbiere Genoodmagijig Barristers and Solicitors until 2018. Jocelyn also volunteers as a board member of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (based in Portland, OR), a Champion of the Feathers of Hope, founder of the Morningstar Fund and the Chairperson of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) Board of Directors. Ms. Formsma is currently the Executive Director of the National Association of Friendship Centres.


“Accepting the path that we are on, will make the journey forward brighter. Learning to embrace our every moment, the good, the bad and the ugly, will only make us stronger.”

JULIE GRENIER
Kuujjuaq, QC

Julie Grenier is from Kuujjuaq, a small community in Nunavik, Northern Québec. She currently resides in Notre-Dame-de-l’ile-Perrot, a small community west of Montreal, with her husband and three children. Having an Inuk mother and Francophone father, she was raised with both sets of values from those cultures. After studying sociology at the University of Ottawa, Julie completed her studies at the École Nationale de Police du Québec with a certificate in Indigenous Policing. Julie is currently working as the Director General for Taqramiut Nipimgat Incorporated, a regional radio and television production company that serves the Inuit of Nunavik Northern-Quebec. She is also CEO of her own Arbonne, social marketing business. She has served a two-year term as a Board of Director for daycare centres in Kuujjuaq and is currently the Taqramiut Nipingat Incorporated (TNI) representative for Esuma, a regional working group that focuses on school perseverance. She was appointed by the TNI Board of Directors to sit as their representative on APTN’s membership table and is currently serving a 3 year term as Board of Director for the north eastern quadrant. Beyond her contributions to Boards, she has been beading and sewing since the age of eight, and has taught art to community members. One of Julie’s collaborative work is on permanent display at the museum or Man in Paris and she has been recognized by the Nunavik Arts Secretariat for her work.


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KATHERINE FANCHER
Nome, AK

Katherine Rae Fancher was born in Nome, Alaska and graduated from Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska. She then attended 2 formative years at Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, Alaska. She was then admitted to the United States Naval Academy, where she became the first Alaska Native female to attend and graduate from the institution; in 2010, she commissioned as an Ensign into the United States Navy where she served on DDG109 USS JASON DUNHAM then at Beachmaster Unit 2 in Virginia. After an honourable discharge, she began working in the food manufacturing industry and then moved on to working as a Test Engineer for Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, VA building nuclear submarines.


“Create the world you want to live in.”

LEAH DORION
Cumberland House, SK

Leah Marie Dorion is an interdisciplinary Metis artist raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. A teacher, painter, filmmaker and published writer, Leah views her Metis heritage as providing her with a unique bridge for knowledge between all people. Leah holds a Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Arts, and Master of Arts degree. She has numerous creative projects to her credit, including academic papers for the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, books for children, gallery showings of her art works, and numerous video documentaries that showcase Metis culture and history. Leah’s paintings honour the spiritual strength of Aboriginal women and the sacred feminine. Leah believes that women play a key role in passing on vital knowledge for all of humanity which is deeply reflected in her artistic practice. She believes women are the first teachers to the next generation.


“I stand and raise my voice for those who find it hard to keep fighting, who feel beaten down or feel like their voices are not being heard.”

LINDA EPP
Sechelt Nation, BC

Linda Epp is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. Her ancestry stems from the Sechelt Nation on the Sunshine Coast of BC. She organizes the Whistler’s Sisters in Spirit Vigil on October 4th which honours the hundreds of missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited in Canada. Leading up to the vigil she installs “Red Dresses” in various locations which signifies an Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirited who has gone missing or has been murdered. Linda was nominated and a finalist for Whistler’s Citizen of the Year 2018, which was an acknowledgement of this work and other volunteer work she does in the community. In March 2018, Linda was invited to speak at Tedx Quest University to share her life experiences and the work she does for Indigenous causes.


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MELANIE MARK
Vancouver, BC

Melanie Mark’s story is one of firsts. She became B.C.’s first female First Nations MLA when she was elected to represent Vancouver-Mount Pleasant in 2016. In 2017, she became the province’s first female First Nations cabinet minister, appointed to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. As the first in her family to graduate high school and complete post-secondary education, Melanie knows the transformative power of education. She is committed to breaking down barriers to education at all access points.

Melanie is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree, Ojibway, French and Scottish. She has deep roots in northern B.C. and grew up in the projects of East Vancouver. Before entering politics, Melanie advocated for youth, the homeless, sexually exploited children and Indigenous peoples in the justice system. She co-founded the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre, led a national project with Save the Children Canada, and served as an advocate with British Columbia’s Office of the Representative for Children and Youth. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science with a minor in sociology from Simon Fraser University, a criminology diploma from Native Education College/Douglas College and an advanced executive certificate in general management from Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ont. Melanie believes, “It is our collective responsibility to disrupt the status quo and inspire this generation to be the innovators, change makers and leaders of tomorrow.” Her most important role is as a proud mother to Makayla and Maya with her husband, Cassidy.


“Adversity brought experience, experience brought wisdom, growth followed by choice, purpose and peace arrived thereafter.”

MELISSA BROWN
Winnipeg, MB

Born and raised by a single mother on welfare in Winnipeg’s inner-city, Melissa Brown lived a very underprivileged life with an immense amount of adverse experiences. From as far back as she can remember, life was never easy. For Melissa, pain and trauma was experienced at every stage of her life beginning at the age of 4. As a survivor of many things, from childhood molestation and teenage sexual assault, to severe domestic violence and addiction, Melissa naturally acquired an enormous amount of strength and wisdom and it was her resiliency that enabled her to thrive. After spending 7 consecutive years as a post-secondary student studying, psychology and sociology at the University of Winnipeg, and then, addictions and community support at CDI college, Melissa decided that she owed it to herself and her sons, to take a much-needed break. During the twelve months Melissa devoted to herself, her sons, and her freedom, Melissa embarked on a soul-searching journey and it was during that time, that Melissa tapped into her passion for cooking, had her vision, and discovered her purpose.


“Hands up to all the amazing Indigenous women leaders across our territories. Nahdusti, ts’iyanne (I honour you, everyone, in Dakelh)!”

MICHELLE CAMERON
Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation, BC

Michelle Cameron is a 2-spirit Dakelh woman, Frog Clan, from Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation in Northern BC. She has her BSW and MSW, with a focus on Indigenous issues. Michelle worked for 9 years in the RCMP as an intelligence analyst, investigated police misconduct for 2 years, and then joined the University of British Columbia as an Advisor/Investigator to investigate sexual misconduct on campus. She has traveled extensively across the province facilitating community consultations and outreach in her various provincial and federal government roles. She draws her teachings from her mother and uncle, who are hereditary Chiefs active in bah’lats (potlatch) in their territory.


“Follow your heart, before your mind changes it.”

RHONDA HEAD
Opaskwayak Cree Nation, MB

Rhonda has received 13 nominations in total and won six international music awards since she began her music career in 2010. Rhonda has had the opportunity to perform in some of the most amazing venues – Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Centre, the Viper Room, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 5 Lands Walk Festival in NSW, Australia, and numerous other venues. Rhonda also recently released an autobiography called Mezzo-Soprano – Memoirs of a Rez Girl. It wasn’t always an easy road for Rhonda, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was 22 years old. Rhonda took a year off to recuperate from the 11.5 hour surgery. When she thought her life was back on course, she received devastating news again when she was 30 years old, that the tumour grew back. Once again, she took time off and took care of her health. Despite the setbacks and challenges, Rhonda continued to follow her passion of music.


“Decolonizing design through an indigenous world view.”

SIERRA TASI BAKER
Squamish Nation, BC

Sierra Tasi Baker, MSc is an award-winning Squamish Nation, Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw, Tlingit & Haida designer, community consultant, entrepreneur, artist, storyteller and knowledge keeper. Her work focuses on furthering Indigenous design and research methodologies whilst focusing on daylighting hidden histories and reconciliatory narratives. Sierra’s company, Sky Spirit Consulting, leads community consultation and Indigenous cultural education initiatives locally and internationally.


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SOPHIE PIERRE
Ktuaxa Nation, BC

Sophie Pierre served her community of ‘Aqam (the St. Mary’s Indian Band) of the Ktunaxa Nation for 30 years, 26 as elected chief, and was the administrator of the Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Tribal Council for 25 years. Sophie was recognized with the Order of Canada in 2016; the Order of British Columbia in 2002 and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the business category in 2003. Since her retirement in 2015, Sophie has been appointed to various Foundations including the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation as a Mentor, to the BC Achievement Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation and most recently to the BC Parks Foundation. Sophie, a grandmother of four, also spends much of her time as an elder advisor to her community and to the Ktunaxa Nation.


“My story is not a sad story: it’s a real one. A story about a girl who fought through a storm she thought would never end.”

TANYA SNOWSHOE
Inuvik, NT

Tanya Snowshoe was born and raised in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. She is Dene (Gwich’in & North Slavey) and considers her knowledge of the history of her people important as it shapes who she is as a person today. Tanya is an Intergenerational youth who strives to make changes, especially around the impacts that Residential Schools have done to her communities and people. The many struggles she has overcome has made her into the strong Indigenous woman she is today.


“I believe we are all on a spiritual path of healing and of lifelong learning.”

TERRY LYNN LUGGI
Prince George, BC

My traditional name is Yabalee meaning before the dawn. My given name is Terry Lynn Luggi. I was born into the Lhts’ehyoo or frog clan and come from the dark house. I am Dakelh, or more commonly known as Carrier, and Wet’suwet’en. I am a member of the Stellat’en First Nation along the shores of Fraser Lake in the central interior of beautiful BC. I make my home in my grandmothers traditional territory of Lheidli T’enneh, or Prince George. I am a proud mother of an adult son.

As with all of my family and home community, I attended the nearby Lejac Residential School. I’ve been intentionally on my healing journey since the early 1990’s. My hearts desire is for healing and reconciliation for my people, whatever that may look like. I am a trainer for Returning to Spirit (RTS), a reconciliation program borne out of addressing the impacts stemming from residential school.


“When the going gets tough,
the tough put on lipstick!”

VICTORIA LABILLOIS
Mi’gmaq, Listuguj, QB

Victoria is CEO & Co-owner of Wejuseg Construction and owner of Wejipeg Excavation. She’s a partner in several joint ventures and volunteers countless hours, mentoring for the Coady International Institute’s Indigenous Women in Community Leadership and New Brunswick’s Joint Economic Development Initiative, an Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program. She is also a regular facilitator of Financial Fitness Workshops for Indigenous women. A Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, Quebec in Gaspésie, Victoria holds a BA and an MBA from the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton. She is a proud alumnus of the 2017 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.