Presenter Bios

Saqamaw (Chief) Misel Joe

Misel Joe was born in Miawpukek into a strong Mi'kmaq family; both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw. Misel has been educated in all the Mi'kmaq ways and traditions.

Since 1973, Misel Joe has been involved in First Nation Politics, first as a Councilor and after the death of his uncle, Chief William Joe in 1982, he became Traditional Saqamaw and the Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi'kmaq Grand Council. Currently, he is serving his 15th consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief of Miawpukek First Nation and is the spiritual leader of his people. In this capacity he has gained recognition provincially, nationally, and internationally, particularly in the area of spiritual healing. 

Saqamaw Misel Joe is committed to preserving the language, culture and traditions of his people. In May 2004, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador. The degree was awarded in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social and political development of the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland & Labrador.

He is a recognized author and has published 3 literary works. In 2012, he was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee medal and in January 2018 he was awarded the Order of Canada. Misel has been the Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 5 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group since 2019. 

Elder Dr. Albert Marshall

Elder Dr. Albert Marshall has devoted his life to tirelessly preserving, strengthening, and spreading Mi'kmaq culture, language, values, and concepts. He is a co-creator of the influential Etuaptmumk/Two-Eyed Seeing (E/TES) guiding principle, which serves to integrate traditional Indigenous ways of knowing with other systems of thought, synthesizing them to create a strong, healthy common ground. Not only has it been profoundly meaningful for Indigenous peoples, it has also been important for non-Indigenous organizations who are endeavouring to become healthier, more welcoming spaces for Indigenous peoples.

Elder Albert and his late wife, Elder Dr. Murdena Marshall, travelled across Turtle Island to speak about E/TES to a wide variety of institutions, promoting E/TES as a model for intercultural collaboration. Elder Albert has published widely, with his works serving as valuable guides that have shaped everything from environmental decision-making to health research to economic development.

He is the recipient of many awards including an honorary doctorate of letters from Acadia University and Cape Breton University. Recognized for the exemplary role he has had in enhancing the lives of others and awarded a lifetime achievement award as A Professional Champion by the Canadian Council of Psychotherapists Association. He is the 2023 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Indspire, the highest honor given by the Canadian Indigenous community.

Within his Eskasoni community, Elder Albert shares his knowledge through workshops and mentors youth as well as adult community members who want to learn more about their Mi'kmaq culture. His work with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources has been influential for decades. Elder Albert always remains firmly rooted in the Mi'kmaq Seven Guiding Principles - and has touched countless hearts and minds in the process.

Elder Emma Reelis

Inuk Elder Emma Reelis (nee Ford) was born in Nain, Nunatsiavut and spent much of her early life in Happy Valley Goose Bay where her father worked. She is a survivor of the residential school system in Labrador. Emma married and moved to St. John’s where she spent many years working in the health care field. She is a mother and grandmother of 5 children, 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Emma is the proud recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award and the Senate of Canada 150th Anniversary Medal for her on-going work with youth, women, and Indigenous people at all levels of society. In 2020 she received the Seniors of Distinction Award recognizing and celebrating the contribution, achievement, and diversity of Seniors in this province. Emma is the former President and Vice President of First Light and is currently an Elder of the Board of Directors.

Elder Ellen Ford

Inuk Elder Ellen Ford (nee Hunter) was born and raised in Nain, Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador). Her biological mother and adoptive mother were both survivors of the Spanish influenza which struck OKak and surrounding areas in late 1918, a flu which wiped out approximately two thirds of the community including all the men of OKak. Ellen has fond memories of growing up in Nunatsiavut traveling by dog team and boat with her father, Joe and other family members. She has a strong knowledge of Inuttitut and she speaks it with other as often as possible. Ellen attended residential school at Yale in North West River from a very young age until grade 8, traveling home to Nain only during the summers. She attended high school in St. Anthony up until grade 11. Ellen has worked for the Grenfell Mission in North West River and Nain and for Canada Post. She currently lives in St. John’s. She is the former Vice President and board member of First Light. Ellen has 5 children, 15 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

Christopher Aylward

Chris has made films in several African countries, including Rwanda (Shooting in Rwanda), Zambia (Red Flower), and Malawi (Water is Life), as well as with Native communities in Canada (Conne River: Paving the Way; The Beothuk Story). He served for years as Program Director and Associate Professor of Film Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he specializes in writing for film, documentary research, and film production.

On his film, The Beothuk Story, Chris says "all of my filmmaking has been characterized by a common thematic thread of cross cultural interaction between human beings living in very different orbits. It's my sincere hope that The Beothuk Story will, in the long tradition of Canadian documentary filmmaking, help change the conversation about colonial erasure, a critical issue so fundamental to our country's collective psyche and its sense of identity."

Elder Marjorie Muise

Hailing from Conception Bay South, with deep seeded roots on the west coast of NL in St. Georges, Marjorie Muise is a strong willed, determined and inspiring Elder who is gifted in many ways. A traditional dancer, drummer, singer/songwriter, story teller and cultural knowledge bearer, her spirit is filled with love and adoration for all those that enter her space. She is a survivor who has a story of resilience, determination and courage. She will be the first to say that she does not look at herself as a traditional Elder; however she is so often called on to share her wisdom and knowledge of traditional ways because she is a perfect example of all that the title represents. She seeks guidance from her fellow Elders and is always humbled by their teachings and kindness toward her. Marjorie is a treasured mentor and leader at First Light Native Friendship Centre in St. John’s. Her years of dedication to community has brought a new generation of leaders who have followed in her influential moccasins.

Deputy Grand Chief
Mary Ann Nui

Mary Ann Nui grew up in Davis Inlet. She currently resides in nearby Natuashish and is the Deputy Grand Chief of the Innu Nation. Mary Ann Nui is a dedicated advocate for Labrador Innu and Indigenous rights. Nui was elected Deputy Grand Chief in the summer of 2020. Her voice was at the forefront in announcing the decision of Innu Nation leadership to launch a $4-billion legal action against Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls Labrador Corp., seeking compensation for ecological and cultural damage from the Churchill Falls hydro project. She is a vocal anti-racism activist and her current work reaches into areas including economic development and the continued and tireless push for a finalized, federal land claim.