Michele A Sam is Ktunaxa ʔaqⱡsmaknik—her father is British on his mother’s side and Mi̓kmaq and Acadian on his father’s side most notably located in relation to Woods Island and Corner Brook Newfoundland. Michele honours her fathers’ peoples by following her mothers’ lineage and holds no claim to Mi̓kmaq OR British identity. She self identifies as Ktunaxa, and Ktunaxa Peoples claim her.

Michele returned to Ktunaxa homelands as a 60s scoop survivor having been adopted by a Dutch Catholic immigrant family, raised as the youngest of 5 brothers and one sister in Southern Ontario. Michele has familial ties across all 6 current Ktunaxa/Ksanka communities and is an “official band member” of ʔaq̓am. She is the eldest daughter of 7 girls and a brother and is becoming an infant Ktunaxa language learner.

Michele focuses upon active Truth and Reconciliation including workshops, seminars and invited presentations and lectures guided by principles of: Nation Rebuilding, Good Governance, Restoration of Peoplehood, Cultural Continuity, (Re) Attachment to Lands and Waterscapes, Intellectual Sovereignty and Cognitive Justice for Indigenous Peoples ways of being, doing and knowing.

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Photo: Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith

Michele has invested over 25 years into active working relationships with Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and across disciplines including fields of Health, Governance, Education, Human Development and Social Work, and has a deep interest in research. She has institutional experience teaching First Nations Studies, Social Work and is currently teaching Indigenous Studies courses at the College of the Rockies, located within ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa, her homelands. Michele holds earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Through her undergraduate studies she regained an understanding of her and her ancestors lived experiences of genocide and of Ktunaxa cultural continuity. Her graduate degrees have focused upon appreciating the unique Ktunaxa knowledge and experience inherent to raising up of human beings from the early years onwards. More recently, she has gained an appreciation for both the theory of Intractable Conflict and its resolution as well as the role research has played within Indigenous Peoples’ self-development, in perpetuating conflict based narratives in a time of Truth and Reconciliation. She has also been exploring the lived experiences of her father’s family, specifically her Grandmothers̓ roots in Sheffield UK and military experience.

Michele is a sought after speaker, facilitator and advisor. She has been both invited and elected to seats on numerous Advisory Committees and Boards over the years including the Gendered Violence Advisory, the Native Court Workers and Counselling Association of BC, and the Columbia Basin Trust Social Advisory. Michele has supported Environmental Education networks, and co- hosted, supported and advised conferences to ensure Indigenous Peoples Place Based Knowledges and Voices are centred and heard appropriately acted upon.

Michele is a single sole-supporting and grateful parent of two amazing adults —one of whom has started her own life in Vancouver and the other finding his way through relationships with landscapes and waterways. She is the human being and doing, in both a dog and 2 cats lived experiences. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share her knowledge and insights with you.

The Logo: Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to workshop with the Manitoba First Nations Education Steering Committee. At the end of the condensed version, I noticed one of the participants crumpling up a piece of paper with a drawing on it, and asked her about it. She said, “oh I was doodling while you were talking, it helps me process”. I asked to look at it, and was truly inspired. She had captured the workshop content in the most beautiful of ways. I had never had anyone capture the workshop before. Mahikan Ikwe (Nadine) gifted the drawing to me, and I have used it ever since, having been given permission to do so. I have the original hanging on my wall in my office space. I share this story whenever I use the image for 2 reasons: one in hopes that she hears about it and second, because often we are creating beautiful works of art without anyone seeing us do so–I want to make visible again, our inherent gifts.

Chi Meegwetch Mahikan Ikwe

Photo Credits: I traded a grant writing opportunity for 2 pictures, in a mutually beneficial reciprocal business venture, in support of an up and coming photographer.  He was successful in attaining his grant! and the pictures I traded for, are fantastic!

Blaine Burgoyne
Indigenous View Photography