Indigenous Awareness Weeks 2021

A poster for Indigenous Awareness Week featuring an image of a bear on a blue background

Indigenous Awareness Weeks (IAWs) give the McGill community an opportunity to learn more about Indigenous cultures, histories, and societies. IAWs seeks to encourage a greater understanding of Indigenous peoples among students, staff, and faculty at McGill, as well as fostering a dialogue about First Nations, Métis and Inuit topics. The events create a space for diverse Indigenous voices and perspectives. Each year, invited guests include academics, community members, Elders, and students.

McGill will celebrate the 10th annual Indigenous Awareness Weeks from September 13th-24th. The theme of this year's IAWs is "Celebrating Indigenous Resilience and Excellence: Past, Present and Future". This year's topics include sustainability, UNDRIP, reconciliation, and health and wellbeing.

The graphic design for this year's Indigenous Awareness Weeks is by Anouk Cree from Cree Communications. The artwork is by Eruoma Awashish. For more information about IAWs, please reach out to indigenousinitiatives [at]

Download an IAWs Zoom background: Image icon iaws_2021_zoom_background.jpg

Read the news release here

Events and Programming

The events are free and will be held virtually. No registration is necessary. Links will be posted on the day of each event.

Opening Ceremony

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

Otsi'tsaken:ra (Charlie) Patton, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Elder from Kahnawa:ke. 

By Otsi'tsaken:ra (Charlie) Patton, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Elder from Kahnawa:ke. 

Read The Words Before All ElsePDF icon ohenton_karihwatehkwen.pdf


Welcome remarks by Christopher P. Manfredi, Provost & Vice-Principal (Academic)  

Artistic Performances by Beatrice Deer (Inuk/Mohawk)

Artistic Performance by Craig Commanda (Anishinaabe)

A fingerstyle acoustic composition, in dedication to the spirits of the children lost to residential schools. 

International Virtual Round Table on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. EST

Open the video in YouTube here

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007, by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).

Nine years have passed since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly. Since then, the four countries voting against have reversed their position and now support the Declaration. Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.

Read the UNDRIP: PDF icon undrip_e_web.pdf

Learn more about the UNDRIP: PDF icon 24-nov-2009_16-07-34_declaration_summary_links.pdfPDF icon nzhr_booklet_12_web.pdf

OPENING by Elder Geraldine Standup

CO-MODERATORS: Yann Allard-Tremblay, PhD. Assistant Professor, Political Science at McGill University. (Huron-Wendat) & Carole Brazeau (Anishinabe / Algonquin) Indigenous Initiatives, OPVPA

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Dicki Chhoyang, Interim Director, Indigenous Initiatives, OPVPA


Eddie Cubillo (Australia)

Mr. Eddie Cubillo is an Aboriginal man with strong family links in both the urban and rural areas throughout the Northern Territory. His is a descendant of the Larrakia, Wadjigan and Central Arrente peoples. Mr. Cubillo is Associate Dean (Indigenous Programs) University of Melbourne, Australia.

He obtained a Bachelor of Laws Degree and in was admitted to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. He is currently completing a PhD with the University of Technology of Sydney and is working part-time at the University of Melbourne’s Law School as a Senior Fellow.

In 2002 he was elected to the ATSIC Yilli Rreung Regional Council, and subsequently became the Chair. Mr. Cubillo has also been a former Chair of both the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.

In 2010 Mr. Cubillo was appointed the Anti - Discrimination Commissioner of the Northern Territory. Mr. Cubillo then took on the role of Executive Officer with National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS). As the Executive Officer he championed the rights of Indigenous Australians in a legal context. In 2015 he was named the National Indigenous Legal Professional of the year and in 2016 attended Geneva on a UN Indigenous fellowship. In 2017 he then took up an opportunity to work on the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory as the Director of Community Engagement.

In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family.

Sheryl Lightfoot (Canada)

Sheryl Lightfoot, PhD is Anishinaabe, a citizen of the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe. She is the North American Representative to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics and Associate Professor in Political Science, the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and Indigenous Studies. She is also Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs and is leading the implementation of the 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan across UBC.

As one of the world’s experts in global Indigenous politics, Sheryl’s research specializes in complex questions of Indigenous peoples’ rights and how those rights are being claimed and negotiated. Her work explores both practical and theoretical aspects of implementation of Indigenous rights globally as well as in domestic contexts. She is the author of Global Indigenous Politics: A Subtle Revolution as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters.

She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Minnesota as well as a master’s degree from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Prior to her academic career, she had fifteen years’ volunteer and contract experience with a number of American Indian tribes and community-based organizations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, including nine years as Chair of the Board of the American Indian Policy Center, a research and advocacy group.

As a member of the UN Expert Mechanism Sheryl provides the Human Rights Council with expertise and advice on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Mechanism also assists Member States in achieving the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She is the first Indigenous woman from Canada to be appointed to this prestigious position.

Dr. Claire Charters (New Zealand)

Claire is from Ngati Whakaue, Tuwharetoa, Nga Puhi and Tainui.

Claire’s primary area of research is in Indigenous peoples’ rights in international and constitutional law, often with a comparative focus. Claire is working on articles on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the relationship between tikanga Māori and the state legal system, tensions between human rights and Indigenous peoples' rights and on the legitimacy of Indigenous peoples' rights under international law, which will be published as a book by Cambridge University Press. Claire is also working on a number of collaborative research projects including on Indigenous peoples' self-determination and the philosophical foundations of Indigenous law. and is a member of the International Law Association's Committee on Indigenous peoples' rights. Claire was awarded a Royal Society Rutherford Discovery Fellowship in 2017:

Claire has typically combined her academic research and teaching with advocacy for the rights of Indigenous peoples at the domestic and international levels and is currently a trustee on the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. In 2016 - 2017 Claire was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly to advise him on enhancing Indigenous peoples' participation in the United Nations. From 2010-2013 Claire worked for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, focusing on the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Claire is currently the director of the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law.

June L. Lorenzo (U.S.A.)

June L. Lorenzo, PhD. Laguna Pueblo/Navajo (Diné), is an attorney and consultant. Her law practice has included serving as attorney for Native nations, US Senate and US House of Representative committees; the US Department of Justice (voting rights litigation), in land claims litigation, and in human rights advocacy for Indigenous Peoples before the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Currently she serves as a Judge at Zia Pueblo, and practices law in tribal and state courts in New Mexico. She remains engaged in projects at Laguna Pueblo, including advocacy on uranium legacy issues, protection of sacred sites, and protection of cultural patrimony. She holds a JD from Cornell Law School and a PhD in Justice Studies from Arizona State University.

Romeo Saganash (Canada)

Romeo Saganash was the Member of Parliament for Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou from 2011-2019.

Romeo's story is not a typical story: values from the Eeyou Cree, a childhood spent in the forests of Northern Quebec, a survivor of Residential School, hard work and education to become the first Indigenous Lawyer from the Université du Québec a Montréal law school, and a lifetime working to uphold human rights.

His father was a hunter from the Broadback forest of central Quebec and his mother is the inspiration and foundation for her children and her community. Romeo was born on the shores of a lake in his parents' tent because his parents lived a traditional lifestyle; the only language he heard and spoke for the first seven years of his life was Cree.

After he finished residential school, Romeo was asked by his Chief to attend a conference on the 10th anniversary of the signing of the first modern treaty in Canada: the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. It was there that his love for the law began.

His accomplishments are many: he was one of the principal authors of La Paix des Braves - a landmark agreement between the James Bay Cree and the Government of Quebec - and he has been a key negotiator for many national and international initiatives, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Romeo founded the Cree Nation Youth Council in 1985, served as Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Cree for a number of years. A passionate environmentalist, Romeo served as vice-chair of the Cree Regional Authority and Chair of the James Bay Advisory Committee on the Environment. His work in the economic sector with Creeco Inc. and the Eeyou Co. showed his understanding of how to balance our duty as stewards of the land with sustainable economic growth.

Romeo has a son and two daughters and two grandchildren.

Medicinal Plant Walk at the Morgan Arboretum (Mac Campus)

SEPTEMBER 15, 2021

Video: Virtual Medicinal Plant Walk at the Morgan Arboretum (McGill University- Macdonald Campus) with Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Knowledge Keeper, Elaine Delaronde and Brooke Rice.

Student Health & Wellness Kitchen Table Conversation

SEPTEMBER 16, 2021

4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. EST

Open the video in YouTube here.

Co-Moderated by Richard Budgell, Assistant Professor (Inuk – Labrador) and Alex M. McComber, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine (Kanien’kehá:ka).

Alex Allard-Gray, BSc, Listuguj Mi'gmaq; Outreach Administrator, Indigenous Health Professions Program 

A photo of Alex Allard-Grey, a man with long brown hair and glasses

Alex Allard-Gray hails from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation and works as the Outreach Administrator with the Indigenous Health Professions Program at McGill University. Alex completed his B.Sc. at McGill, where he was a founder and later acted as president of the McGill Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society.


Tamara Hansen, Inuk, Inuvik, Northwest Territories; MSc candidate (applied) in Nursing

A photo of Tamara Hansen, a woman with long blond hair

Tamara Hansen is a Master of Science (Applied) in Nursing student at McGill, currently in her third and final year.  Originally from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, she is a beneficiary of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. She is passionate about being a role model for indigenous youth looking to pursue post-secondary education.  






Codey Martin, Mi’kmaq; BSW candidate, School of Social Work (Negm, he/him)

A photo of Codey Martin, a man with brown hair and glasses

I am Mig’maq Gespe'gewa'gi Listuguj, QC, now currently living in Kahnawake Territory; 3rd year BSW candidate, School of Social Work.

I am also a life-long learner of Indigenous cultural practices and our oral knowledges. I am also a part of my department's new race caucus and McGill's VOICE Indigenous Youth Advisory Council.




Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, Kanien’keha:ka, Kahnawake; Vanier Scholar, PhD candidate in Educational Studies 

A photo of Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, a woman with long brown hair

Wahéhshon “she walks about” is a traditional Wolf Clan member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation at Kahnawà:ke and mother of three. She works on language and culture revitalization at the Kahnawà:ke Education Center. Her research examines Indian Day School experiences, centralizing Kanien’kehá:ka life stories about navigating historic, contemporary, and multigenerational colonial traumas while demonstrating identity reclamation and cultural land-based education as pathways to resilience and well-being.

The Words Before All Else: The meaning of the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen and Other Teachings

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 

With Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Elders Kahnawa:ke Otsi'tsaken:ra Patton and Niioie:ren Patton (McGill Alumna)  

PDF icon ohenton_karihwatehkwen.pdf

Open the video in YouTube here

Note: The explanation of The Words Before All Else begins at 57:00.

Environment & Sustainability (Mother Earth & 7 Generations Principle)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 

With Kanien’kehá:ka Elders from Kahnawa:ke: Otsi’tsaken:ra Patton and Niioie:ren Patton (McGill Alumna).

Open the video in YouTube here

Introduction aux plantes médicinales à la Réserve naturelle Gault

SEPTEMBER 20, 2021

(This presentation will be in French)

Introduction aux plantes médicinales à la Réserve naturelle Gault. Promenade virtuelle avec le spécialiste Abénaki Michel Durand Nolett.

A photo of a man in a red shirt in a field with trees during a medicinal plant walk

People stand in a field in front of a forest during a medicinal plant walk

National Building Reconciliation Forum Workshops

SEPTEMBER 21-23, 2021

SEPTEMBER 21, 2021

10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. EST

National Building Reconciliation Forum: Falling into Step with First Peoples students

An annual national Forum supported by Universities Canada with participants from postsecondary institutions and Indigenous communities working to create change and advance reconciliation 

The 2021 pre-forum is hosted by Kiuna College, in Odanak, QC. Free registration on the event website.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Day 1: National Building Reconciliation Forum: Falling into Step with First Peoples students

Free registration on the event website.

1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EST

52 Calls to Action and Indigenous Awareness Weeks

Presentation by McGill University


Raising Awareness among postsecondary institutions about the realities of First Peoples.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. EST

Day 2: National Building Reconciliation Forum: Falling into Step with First Peoples students

Free registration on the event website

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of McGill’s Pow Wow: Reflections with Ellen Gabriel and others

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021

12:00 p.m. 

Open the video in YouTube here

A photo of a dancer in pink regalia at a Pow Wow at McGill

Closing Ceremony

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 

By Otsi'tsaken:ra (Charlie) Patton, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Elder from Kahnawa:ke. 

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