This panel will feature key members of the Indigenous community in the London area, an area not generally explore nor taught in our education systems. Typically, Indigenous communities in the Plains or further North are more well-known. Panelists will discuss the resurgence of their cultural traditions, given the impact of the Residential school system largely cancelling their practices in these territories. A discussion around the Circle Dance, its healing powers and its importance to these communities will also be discussed. This will also feature a special performance by Crystal Shawanda, a very well-known singer Blues singer in these communities. This panel will include:

Gordon Nicotine-Sands is a fourth generation singer, originally from Bkejwanong territory, and the Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.  The “Eagle Flight” singers (lead by Gordon) are a First Nations singing group based out of London, On. and have been active for over two decades.  The group has travelled extensively in the Great Lakes area(internationally on occasion) participating in festival-like celebrations known as “Pow-wow”.  “Eagle Flight” has also honoured invitations from professional and educational institutions in the form of educational song and dance performances.  In addition to creating and sharing traditional music, Gordon also serves as an MC to many winter celebrations in the Great Lakes known as “Round dance” which are trending cultural events that originated out west.  Gordon is a graduate of Fanshawe’s Fine Art program and Father to four.

Leslee White-Eye currently works in Indigenous education and governance for eight First Nations at an inter-nation table called the First Nations with Schools Collective in Ontario seeking jurisdiction over education.  She is the former Chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.  She is Anishinaabe Ojibwe Kwe, mother, wife and community advocate with a focus on community development.   Prior to being Chief, Leslee was an Education Officer for the Ontario Ministry of Education writing curriculum, supporting school boards in Indigenous education and coordinating the development of the first two Native Studies textbooks to be added to the Trillium List, Ontario’s approved textbook list.    

Leslee Henry-Whiteye was recently honoured to receive an Honourary Doctorate of Laws from Western University.  She earned her Political Science and Master of Education degrees at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and her teaching degree at Nipissing University in North Bay.  She currently sits as an Independent Trustee on Wasauksing First Nation’s M’tigo Min Trust.  And is a board member of Kings’ University College in London, Ontario and board member of the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE).

Jennarose Sands is a Plains Cree/Anishinaabae artist and writer who’s take on the current state of Indigenous affairs here in Canada are expressed through informative “Zines”.  While questioning a variety of wide-spread issues regarding the Indigenous population in Canada, Jennarose fuses written word with dynamic mixed media for a powerfully visual result.  These works are meant to invoke change, in the language and ideas regarding the Original people of this continent, one “Zine” at a time.

Lo•t^t Honyust is a 44 year old member of the On^yote’a•ká• Nation. He is of the Wolf Clan and resides in Oneidatown.  Lo•t^t has worked at Tsi’ niyukwalihó•t^ Learning Centre since 1999 teaching Oneida language and culture. A father of one son and two stepsons, Lo•t^t enjoys creating Iroquoian crafts/artwork and singing Iroquoian songs.

Crystal Shawanda (Juno award winner) grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario, Canada, Her parents raised her on Country music and taught her to sing and play guitar, but it was her oldest brother who introduced her to the blues. He would hang out in the basement cranking Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Etta James, and Crystal would sit at the top of the stairs, straining to hear those soulful sounds. There was a part of her that often wondered if she would ever be able to sing like that. And when no one was home, Crystal would practice singing the blues.

She learned early on, by observing her family, that music was like cheap therapy. That’s what the blues is all about: releasing and healing. While she was secretly pining to be a blues mama, out on stage it was Patsy and Loretta. She started performing country when she was six and started getting paid gigs when she was 10, relentlessly playing every stage she could.