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Tanya Talaga, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, and Mike Downie

Honouring National Indigenous History Month

This June marks the 10th anniversary of National Indigenous History Month, a month dedicated to honouring the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

We’re celebrating some of our incredible speakers whose powerful keynotes help spread Indigenous stories and history across Canada and the world.

Tanya Talaga, Award-winning Journalist | Author, Seven Fallen Feathers

Tanya Talaga is an acclaimed storyteller who humanizes the legacy of residential schools and colonization while also sharing her hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.

An award-winning journalist and author, Tanya is also the first Ojibway woman to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures — a renowned lecture series that travels to cities across Canada. Her lectures stemmed from her national bestselling book Seven Fallen Feathers, which introduced us to seven Indigenous high school students who mysteriously died in Thunder Bay. Tanya’s book won the RBC Taylor Prize in 2018.

Tanya is of Polish and Indigenous descent. Her great-grandmother was a residential school survivor and her great-grandfather was an Ojibwe trapper and labourer. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a journalist, and is now a columnist for The Toronto Star. She has been nominated five times for the Michener Award in public service journalism, and was the Atkinson Fellow in Public Policy for The Canadian Journalism Foundation in 2017-18.

Watch Tanya in action! In 2018, she took part in The Walrus Talks lecture series on disruption. She spoke about the Indian Act, an oppressive Canadian law that has been in place since 1876, and the need to give Indigenous people the right to determine their future.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Environmental, Cultural, and Human Rights Advocate

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is a Canadian Inuit activist and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her advocacy work on the impact of global climate change on human rights — especially in the Arctic, where it is felt more immediately, and more dramatically, than anywhere else in the world.

Having worked with global decision-makers for more than a decade, Sheila offers a new model for 21st century leadership. She speaks with passion and urgency on the issues of today — the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability — providing a big picture look at where we are and where we’re headed.

Sheila is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, the Norwegian Sophie Prize, and the Right Livelihood Award. She is also the author of the memoir The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole Planet.

Watch Sheila’s 2016 TEDx Talk titled “Human Trauma and Climate Trauma as One”, where she highlights the intimate connection between the suffering of Aboriginal peoples and the degradation of the global climate. Trauma at the human level and trauma on the planetary level, she says, are one and the same.

Mike Downie, Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker | Co-Founder, Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

The co-founder of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, Mike Downie is a celebrated storyteller and a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker.

One story in particular has been life-changing for Mike — Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibway boy who died while running away from his residential school. When Mike told Chanie’s tragic story to his brother, celebrated musician Gord Downie, they vowed to find a way to share his story with the world. The result was the award-winning multimedia project Secret Path, which has captured the hearts and minds of people across Canada.

Using Chanie’s story as a starting point, Mike helps audiences understand Canada’s troubling legacy of residential schools, to explore how to reconcile with the past and bring healing as individuals and as a nation.

Mike spoke about Chanie and the legacy of residential schools at a We Day event in 2016. In the clip below, he encourages the audience of 20,000+ students to support a path of reconciliation and help ensure that their generation doesn’t keep repeating the same mistakes and injustices.

Interested in learning more about these speakers and what they can bring to your next event? Email us at info@speakers.ca.