Rarely are performers as at home in Lincoln Center as they are in a longhouse. Of Mohawk descent, Dawn Avery’s Indian name is Ieriho:kwats and she wears the turtle clan. Composer, cellist, vocalist, educator and Grammy and NAMA nominated performer Dawn Avery has worked with musical luminaries Luciano Pavarotti, Sting, John Cale, John Cage, R. Carlos Nakai and Joanne Shenandoah. Her latest CD won a Global Music Award and Our Fire, won nominations in the Indian Summer Awards, New Mexico Music Awards, and Native American Music Awards. Dr. Avery holds PhD in Ethnomusicology with research on the application of Indigenous theory on Native Classical Composers and their music. Nurturing future generations, Dawn Avery is a professor at Montgomery College and won United States Professor of the Year in 2014. Dawn’s meditation workshops help artists, professionals and people align their own inner calling with the needs of the world.  

Banakonda Kennedy-Kish Bell, Awnjibinayseekwe Change Thunderbird Eagle Woman, is Bear Clan, Bowating, from Rank Reserve, Sault Ste Marie. Banakonda teaches at First Nations Technical Institute and has done so for 28 years. She is an artist, a poet, a Traditional Practitioner, teacher, facilitator, Indigenous knowledge carrier and curriculum developer. She has been involved in the healing and wellness field for at least 35 years. She teaches and develops curriculum and remains on the front line by engaging in Indigenous Traditional practice. Banakonda is a member of the Midewin Lodge and has been for 30 years. She is a ‘Program Elder’ for the Bachelor of Social Work at Ryerson University in partnership with First Nations Technical Institute, an Elder and Advisor for Humber College.  

Sadie was born into a long line of traditional singers and dancers. Her life as a traditional singer has honed her training and performance skill to a master level. Sadie has taken her traditional training ideology and transposed that to her contemporary life as an artist, performer, facilitator, director, author, trainer, researcher and consultant. Sadie is also the lead singer of the Six Nations Women’s Singers, one of the most influential female Native singing groups. They have recorded with Robbie Robertson and performed at the Presidential inauguration in 1997. Representing the Onkwehonwe people, she is from the Seneca nation of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and Tonawanda Seneca. Currently a part-time instructor at UWO and sessional instructor at McMaster University, she has also taught at Harvard University, Hamilton College, University of Toronto and at the National Aboriginal and Islanders Skills Development Corporation in Australia. Sadie Buck established and ran the Aboriginal Women’s Music Program at the Banff Centre for three years where she organized and co-led the JUNO nominated recording, “Hearts of the Nations”. The success of this program brought together Aboriginal women from all over the world to collaborate together, sing and perform. Sadie also wrote and co-directed the celebrated Aboriginal dance opera “Bones”. Honoured for her significant contributions to Ontario’s folk music community, Sadie was the recipient of the Estelle Klein Award in 2015.  

ChocoSol is a Learning Community Social Enterprise that makes chocolate in Toronto using organic, forest garden, shade-grown cacao, sourced directly from horizontal trade relationships with Indigenous communities in Southern Mexico. ChocoSol chocolates are made without dairy, gluten, soy and nuts, and are also vegan. ChocoSol specializes in both eating chocolate and drinking chocolate (xocolatl), and offer a number of other sustainably grown ingredients that are sourced directly from farmers. ChocoSol was founded in 2004 in Oaxaca, Mexico. ChocoSol is a learning community/social enterprise that focuses on making the ‘food of the gods’ – commonly known as cacao – into fresh, whole food, stone ground chocolate on an artisanal scale.

Christine is an established professional dancer, choreographer and certified yoga instructor who is from the Temagami First Nation and resides in Ottawa. As a dance artist for 24 years, she recently launched her company Pukawiss Performance, and describes her style as free, lyrical explosive, contemporary-Indigenous dance with a traditional approach. As a Vinyassa (flow) and Hatha yoga instructor for 9 years, her classes are modified to suite all levels with a focus on connecting breath into the body to allow mobility and release tension for better body awareness. 

Jacqui Lavalley is of Ojibwe ancestry and a member of Shawanaga First Nation. She has a strong relationship with the Toronto Indigenous Community. Jacqui has been very active in her role as an Ojibwe Traditional Teacher/Elder most of her life. As well she maintains an active partnership/role within the educational area. Jacqui returned (at the age of 64) to the role of student in 2006 as she pursued a ‘Masters Degree in Environmental Studies’ at York University. She also filled the role as ‘President of the Board” at the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts for 12 years. Today she maintains the role of ‘Elder on the Street’ at the Native Men’s Residence and ‘Elder in Residence’ at OISE (Ontario Institute of Studies in Education), University of Toronto. As well she sits on the Board of Native Women in the Arts as the ‘Traditional Advisor’. She is a mother of 2, a grandmother of 4 and in a relationship for 43 years. Jacqui also holds her 2nd degree in the ‘Three Fires Grand Medicine Lodge’.

Ms. Matoush-Snowboy holds a B.A. in Psychology from Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario. She is trained in suicide intervention (ASSIST, 2002), spent six years as the Social and Health Planning and Programming Officer for CBHSSJB in Chisasibi, Quebec, and worked as an interviewer for Health Canada in Eeyou Astchee. She works closely with her husband, Harry Snowboy, in running various traditional and healing gatherings both in Cree and urban communities, as well as offering drug and alcohol awareness seminars. She also facilitates training and coaching for women’s sweat lodge ceremonials. (Languages – English, French, Cree.) She is of Cree and German ancestry.

Esstin McLeod is a tribal member of the Misswezahging First Nation in Northern Ontario along the North Channel of Lake Huron. She is a Practitioner of Traditional Medicine; servicing health centers in Northern and Southern Ontario. Esstin’s passion for her work was facilitated by her grandmother’s role as a healer, and for the past 30 years, she spent most of her life studying and researching herbal medicine and conducting Ojibway ceremonial practices. She completed her BA Hons thesis “An Old Model of Healing,” from Laurentian University and facilitated numerous workshops, and seminars promoting Traditional Healing practices. At one point in her professional career, Esstin was Education Director in her community, with her duties to fulfilling two roles, as Healer and Director she decided to pursue her passion. Mrs. McLeod is Director and owner of Mskwa Miikinan Traditional Medicine Lodge and continues on with her vision advocating Traditional Healing. Last year she implemented a series of workshops, “Ancient Wisdom of Healing,” and is currently working on completing the manuscript for this series. She lives with her husband in Misswezahging First Nation, with her five children living close. 

In addition to being a certified Chef, Lisa Myers is an artist, independent curator and musician. Lisa grew up in Southern Ontario with her Mother’s family roots from the Shawanaga and Beausoleil First Nation and her Dad’s family roots from English and Austrian ancestry. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Criticism and Curatorial practice from OCAD University, which focused on the use of food in Indigenous practice. Lisa has exhibited her work in solo and group shows including, Urbran Shaman (Winnipeg), the Art Gallery of Peterborough and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is “a gifted writer who brings passion and commitment to her storytelling and who has demonstrated an uncommon ability to manage an impressive range of genres from traditional storytelling to critical analysis, from poetry to the spoken word, from literary and social activism.” Leanne is the author of three books; Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, The Gift Is in the Making and Islands of Decolonial Love, and the editor of Lighting the Eighth Fire, This Is An Honour Song (with Kiera Ladner) and The Winter We Danced: Voice from the Past, the Future and the Idle No More Movement (Kino-nda-niimi collective). She was named the inaugural RBC Charles Taylor Emerging Writer (2014), nominated for a National Magazine Award (2014) and won the Briarpatch Magazine’s Writing From the Margins prize (2012). Leanne is also a musician combining poetry, storytelling, song writing and performance in collaboration with musicians to create unique spoken songs and landscapes. Her first album, Islands of Decolonial Love was #3 on RPM.FM’s best of 2013 list. Leanne holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba and has lectured at universities across Canada. She is of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and a member of Alderville First Nation.


An Elder of the Plains Cree Red-tail Hawk clan, Pauline Shirt was born and raised in Saddle Lake Reserve, Alberta. Since the late sixties, Pauline has been greatly recognized for her commitment to the Toronto Indigenous community and for her dedication as a teacher and lecturer. She is a member of the Three Fires Society and the Buffalo Dance Society. Pauline is a founder of the First Nations School and the Red Willow– just two examples of her hard work ethic and perseverance to enhancing the betterment of the Toronto Aboriginal community. Today, Pauline serves as a mentor to many Aboriginal youth and young families as an experienced and trusted Grandmother. She also works in all levels of government conducting Opening Prayers and attending meetings, making sure the Aboriginal community is positively recognized as she offers a voice for her people.

ELAINE SMOOKLER from Centre for Mindfulness Studies, Toronto 
Elaine Smookler B.Mus. is a therapist, teacher and writer. For the past 20 years, she has helped individuals, schools, organizations and businesses develop mindfulness and resilience in everyday life. Elaine has received the Core MBCT facilitation Certificate from the University of Toronto Factor-Inwentash Fculty of Social Work and offers mindfulness therapies online through eMindful, is the facilitator of the Mindfulness Project at Sick Kids Hospital, provides support through The Artists’ Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital and teaches at the U of T Medical

Originally from the coastal Cree community of Fort Albany First Nation, off the coast of James Bay, Rosary Spence is an Indigenous singer, actress, and emerging playwright as well as an established craft artist. As an Indigenous singer, steeped in time-honoured Aboriginal rhythms and styles, Spence’s debut album (released May 2015) is titled Maskawasiwin, a Cree word for Strength. It is dedicated to all of the teachings and teachers whom have provided her with strength thus far in her life’s journey. As an actor, Spence has performed with Jumblies Theatre Company in “Like An Old Tale” (2011) and “Nigamo” (2012, 2014), in Native Earth Performing Arts 26th Weesageechak Festival (2013), “Treaty 9” by Falen Johnson (2014), and in television series Paranormal Witness: Season 4 (2014). Spence has also added the title of playwright in her repertoire with “N’Mooshum Ayamehewin”, a play dedicated to her late grandfather, Frederik Spence. Rosary Spence has many years of experience in Aboriginal Fine Arts and has an extensive background facilitating workshops and presentations in schools, community centres, social agencies and related organizations.