National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, an opportunity to learn about the unique cultures, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It's a time to honour the stories, achievements and resilience of Indigenous Peoples, who have lived on this land since time immemorial and whose presence continues to impact the evolving Canada.

Source:  The paragraph above is taken from the National Indigenouse History Month - Government of Canada site. 

Growing up in Montreal in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I became aware of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake located on the Southshore of this island city via numerous stories of the bravery of these First Nation bridge builders. Every bridge connecting the Southshore to Montreal Island was constructed mostly by these First Nation high Steelworkers. We were told that they were fearless when working across steel girders as if they had superpowers. This of course wasn’t true. Enough of them died proving they didn’t have superpowers. What they did and do possess is the ability to control that fear. It is said that it has become a rite of passage. One they are very proud of.

This same First Nation helped construct New York City’s Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center and the Twin Towers. They were there helping when they fell and helped again to build the new One World Trade Center.

If you have seen the “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper“, the famous 1932 photo of 11 men sitting on a steel beam high above Manhattan, as many as four men are Mohawks.  Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge had many local First Nation’s skilled steel workers construct it too. 

If you have ever watched two films from the 1970’s, Little Big Man and The Outlaw Josey Wales, you would have enjoyed a local actor, North Vancouver’s Chief Dan George OC. Chief George was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh. Besides being a superb and very funny actor ( really recommend you watch these films ), Chief George was an activist, writer and musician. I always smile when I think of this gracious gentleman.

On a very personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting a remarkable First Nations woman. It was 1976, I had moved to Calgary and enrolled on a public speaking course. There had to be forty or so people on this course, but I only remember one. Elizabeth “Delra” Sooyikitstaki ( Water Offering ) Scout. She was known as ‘ Liz ‘ to us all. Remarkably, Liz was the first First Nation’s person I had ever met. Quiet, calm and always beautifully dressed with something red on, Liz possessed a strength and dignity that I have always remembered.

Recently, in a conversation with another remarkable person, Liz came to mind again. I decided to Google her. I figured she would have accomplished something special.

Liz had survived Residential school, finished High School and went to work in journalism. As written about her, ‘ she quickly realized she had a bigger purpose, which was to serve and support her community’. I met Liz when she was in Calgary where she was working to secure ‘meaningful employment’ for First Nation’s people. This would be remarkable enough, but Liz moved forward into justice and policing. Liz realized that to assist First Nation’s people being misrepresented in the Canadian justice system, it was necessary to bring community policing to her Nation.

It was in 1988, that Liz was appointed the first female Indigenous Chief of Police in Canada. A truly historic event.  Liz went on to serve on the Blood Tribe Chief and Council. She retired in 2015 due to failing health but spent her remaining five years caring for her family and being a mentor to so many. You can read more about my classmate online, when Googling Liz Scout at the Legacy Funeral Home site. 

Memories from Dr. Chris Walker



Dr. Christopher Walker

Dr. Christopher Walker

Contact Me