Celebrating Unreserved's class of 2021
This year on Unreserved, Indigenous leaders and changemakers from across Turtle Island shared wisdom and stories of how they're creating positive change.
The Unreserved team sifted through interviews from the past year for highlights. Here are some of the cultural guardians from Unreserved's class of 2021 who deserve a little pomp, circumstance and celebration.
Michael Greyeyes is an actor and director from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. His ability to take on important historical roles, such as Sitting Bull in the 2017 film Woman Walks Ahead, comes from knowledge he learned on set and from listening to the Indigenous nations that know these characters best. Greyeyes has appeared in more than 50 films and television shows over his storied career, including the role of Gooch in Dance Me Outside (1994), a zombie-killing warrior in Blood Quantum (2019) and Terry Thomas in the television series Rutherford Falls.
Angeline Boulley is the author of Firekeeper's Daughter, a young adult mystery novel that's reaching young people in ways that only a good story can. Before the release of Firekeeper's Daughter, her first novel, Boulley worked for the United States Department of Education. This experience, she said, gave her insight into the struggles young people face as they seek out their individual identities.
Emmaline Beauchamp (Mshkogaabwid Kwe) is an Anishinaabemowin learner and teacher. She and her husband, Monty McGahey (Ozaawaa Giizhigo Ginew), are raising their children in an English-free home. They're both constantly learning as they discover new words and ways to explore the world around them in their Ojibway language.
Natan Obed is president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the organization that represents 65,000 Inuit in Canada. In 2019, the ITK released its National Inuit Climate Change Strategy, which Obed is now trying to get on the desks of leaders around the world.
Lisa Koperqualuk is vice-president of international affairs with the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), an international non-governmental organization representing about 180,000 Inuit from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka (Russia). Koperqualuk was part of a delegation of Inuit leaders attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, that shared stories of the dire impacts of climate change on the Arctic.
Brian Pottle was also part of the Inuit delegation to COP26. He's president of the National Inuit Youth Council, an organization established by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Pottle reminds us of the connection between a changing climate and suicide rates in the North. Many communities are losing important connections to their traditional ways of life because of vanishing sea ice and rising sea levels, he said.
Murray Sinclair was the chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the very commission that is responsible for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A former Canadian senator, lawyer and judge, Sinclair continues his commitment to working toward reconciliation. He said that everyone has a role to play in this country's reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Curtis Jonnie, who performed under the name Shingoose, was an activist, musician, residential school and Sixties Scoop survivor. He helped create the Indigenous music category at the Juno Awards and was inducted into the Manitoba Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Jonnie died in January due to complications after contracting COVID-19.
On November 11, at the age of 71, celebrated Sto:lo poet, activist and author Lee Maracle became an ancestor. She created scores of iconic books, including Celia's Song, I Am Woman, My Conversations with Canadians and Ravensong, and in the 1980s, made a series of spoken word tapes. Unreserved dedicated a full episode to the incredible woman after her passing, but didn't have space to include one of her spoken word tapes – with legendary rapper Chuck D, from Public Enemy.
(WARNING: Explicit language)