Welcome to Kana Wain Dida 2021

(Looking After Each Other) ​

Dr. Jennifer Denetdale

Indigenous Gender Politics of Care in the Time of Covid

Day 1 Speaker

Jennifer Nez Denetdale is a citizen of the Navajo Nation. She is professor of American Studies and a historian. She is the author of Reclaiming Dine’ History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita (University of Arizona Press), two Navajo histories for young adults and numerous articles and essays. She is the chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

Dr. Rawiri Taonui

Day 2 Speaker

Dr Rawiri Taonui is a semi-retired independent academic writer. Dr Taonui was the first Professor of Indigenous Studies in New Zealand. He was a Professor of Māori and Indigenous Studies and Head of the School of Māori Art, Knowledge and Education at Massey University and the Head of the School of Māori & Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury. Rawiri is a well-known political commentator and writer. He has written and delivered over 750 features, columns, articles, documentaries and conference presentations and won nine writing awards. Rawiri has presented papers at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (New York) and the UN Experts Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Geneva) and was co-editor of Conversations About Indigenous Rights: The UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and Aotearoa New Zealand (2017) evaluating the 10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Dr Taonui has been one of the principal Māori commentators and writers on the Covid-19 Pandemic in New Zealand. He is the Principal Advisor to the National Iwi Leaders Chairs Forum Pandemic Response Group (covering the main 76 tribal groups), an Advisor to the Office of the Kingitanga and Ngā Marae Tōpū (this includes the leadership of 65 traditional communities in the Waikato-Tainui area) and an Advisor to Te Kahu o Taonui (the tribal collective representing the seven main tribes in Northland). 

Dr. Rawiri Taonui

Senator Mary Jane McCallum

Day 3 Speaker

“Lessons Learned from COVID-19 through a First Nations Lens: Why Western Science is Not Enough”

Mary Jane McCallum is a Cree woman from the Barren Lands First Nation in Brochet, Manitoba. Her husband, Ron Phillips, is a professor at Nipissing University and her two daughters, Courtenay and Keeley Phillips, are both lawyers, one working in Saskatchewan and the other in British Columbia. In 2016, Mary Jane reunited with her son, Jonathan, whom she gave up for adoption in 1975. In the reconnection to her son and his family, Mary Jane is learning the importance of stepping softly, choosing her words carefully, and respecting their sacred space.  Mary Jane uses their sacred reconnection as an example of reconciliation.  She wishes to thank Jonathan’s family, especially his mother and father, for being parents who loved, kept him safe and prepared him for his journey on earth. 

Mary Jane started her career in the dental field as a dental assistant in 1973. Mary Jane then received her dental nursing diploma in 1977, dental therapy diploma in 1979, and her dental degree from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry in 1990.

Mary Jane spent most of the past forty-eight years providing dental services and treatment to First Nations in Manitoba as a dental nurse, dental therapist and dentist. From 1996-2000, she worked as the Regional Dental Officer for the province of Manitoba. In 2000, she worked as an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba. Yet, her passion always remained working with Indigenous people in the community-based setting. After nearly five decades in the dental field, Mary Jane has recently retired from dentistry.

Mary Jane went to the Guy Hill Residential School in Manitoba from 1957–1968. Mary Jane continues to present to school children, university students, academics, and communities about residential school. She believes that Canada must never forget the genocide of their Original Peoples and that lateral and vertical violence against Indigenous Peoples still exists today; a result of sustained governmental policies.

On Dec. 2, 2017, Mary Jane was appointed to the Senate of Canada as a representative of the province of Manitoba. She assumed this mantle with reconciliation top of mind, recognizing its importance for Canada if we are to be recognized as human rights leaders. Mary Jane supports the ongoing resistance, resurgence and rebirth of Indigenous sovereignty.   In recognizing and reclaiming our own autonomy, she believes that Indigenous Peoples are well on our journey towards reclaiming our spirit and power.  As one Elder had told her:  “Our children and grandchildren will climb on our shoulders as we did with our ancestors.”