Northern Advisors

Northern Advisors are very diverse. There’s not a bunch of old people or a bunch of young people. It’s a spectrum. So, it’s nice having different generations bringing their opinions and how they feel.

Northern Advisor Ervin Bighetty,
Leaf Rapids

Photo: Northern Advisors – Mervin Traverse, Hilda Dysart, Sophia Rabliauskas, Elizebeth Palfrey, Jim Beardy, Ervin Bighetty, Becky Cook (Missing: Marlyn Cook)

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Northern Advisors

Northern Advisors offer local and cultural knowledge and critical insight about how best to partner with and develop relationships with Northern and Indigenous communities. They support setting the strategic direction of the Collaborative and guide the collaborative in all aspects. Northern Advisors attend gatherings and meetings in support of the NMFCCC by sharing their own experiences and knowledge. There are seasonal Northern Advisor meetings and bi-annual in person gatherings. In many ways, the Northern Advisors are the NMFCCC Elders, and we are grateful for their teachings and support. Northern Advisors receive honoraria, offerings, and gifts to honor their time and contributions.

Becky Cook

Misipawistik Cree Nation

Becky Cook is from Misipawistik Cree Nation. Her parents are Shelley (Parsons) and Ron Cook, her Grandparents are Nora (McKay) and Walter Cook of Grand Rapids and Betty (Torrens) and Syd Parsons of Winnipeg. She was raised on the lands and waters surrounding Misipawistik and Lake Winnipeg. Her family camped out every summer at their family camp at saskasceweyak and spent the fall at the fishing camp at MacBeth Point. A love for the land developed at a young age and eventually led to her receiving
her B.Sc. in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Manitoba in 2006 and her Ph. D. in Marine Geophysics from the University of Southampton in 2015. After completing her Ph.D. she returned home to Manitoba to continue her traditional education learning from the Elders. She is currently working with the Misipawistik Cree Nation Lands Department on various projects including land-based education programming for youth, youth guardians training and the MCN kanawenihcikew environmental monitoring program.

Ervin Bighetty

Leaf Rapids

I have been a Northerner all my life. I’ve had my share of the struggle of living in remote communities and living day to day with little to no food. As time has passed and I matured, I saw that this way was not only a problem in places that I lived but in many other communities. No Food and health problems. I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world, that I had to learn more about food and the care of plants and nature. In order for me to do more, I had to learn more, I wasn’t going to be any help if I didn’t know what I was doing. One of my greatest mentors and who is still helping me learn everyday, is my friend Chuck Stensgard. I’ve learned so much from him and his philosophy of life. I’ve gone a different path form what he taught, but his teachings are still there and are still greatly appreciated. I wouldn’t have followed this path of food and learning if my friends didn’t insist on me going to help with the place known as the Nursey today. I had helped with the early stages of that area and it was a lot of trail and error, as we didn’t know much about plants and gardening, but there was a plan set in motion; our work was the first step into something so much bigger. The reason I had taken on the position of Northern Advisor so that I could learn and help as much as I could. I never pass a learning opportunity, because one opportunity opens another, and this cycle continues.

I never thought that I would have experienced the things that I have and continue to do. I worked at the Leaf Rapids Co-op for 8 years, ending in a management position. I was part of the volunteer firefighters in Leaf Rapids. I also successfully ran for Mayor of Leaf Rapids and it was an important learning experience. I am now working at the health centre and learning more about health services in the north. Recently, I was nominated and received the Queen Elizabeth ll Platinum Jubilee Medal for service of public service.

I look forward to reengaging with the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture, and Community Collaborative so I can again learn about the work taking place all across the province, visit over communities to learn about how they manage to get by with the health problems in their community and what they have done to battle growing food costs. To share my thoughts, feelings, and my story and hopefully see their projects, community, and people grow and become healthier. This is what I want. I want the North to become healthy and strong like it used to be. Like the stories I heard from grandfather, how the men would hunt for their own food and grow their own food. Once I have done my part helping the North, I hope one day I have gathered enough knowledge to help change the world.

Hilda Dysart

South Indian Lake

I am from South Indian Lake and have lived here all of my life. I have been involved with many community committees and am involved in all aspects of our community life. I have always lived off the land and for as long as I can remember my family has had gardens. I am one of the founding steering committee members of Ithinto Mechisowin Program, a food sovereignty program in our community. I enjoy working with youth and have worked at the school for 32 years as the school counselor.

I help out with the Northern Manitoba Food, Culture & Community Collaborative because I am really interested in having the traditional foods coming back to the community and finding ways to help them come back. I am grateful for all of the different organizations that have decided to work together to help out in my community and so many others in northern Manitoba. It’s better to work together.

Marlyn Cook

Misipawistik Cree Nation

Dr. Marlyn Cook is a proud member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. The daughter of Dan and Angelique Cook, she is number thirteen of their fourteen children. Dr. Cook is also the mother of two beautiful children, James and Ashley.

Marlyn first graduated as a nurse in 1975. After working within the health care system as a nurse, Marlyn decided she wanted to become a stronger advocate for health care for First Nations people. Dr. Cook returned to school and in 1987, Dr. Cook graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba and completed her Family Practice Residency Program at the St. Boniface Hospital in 1989 becoming the first First Nation woman to graduate from Medicine in Manitoba.

Dr. Cook has practiced medicine in Cross Lake, Manitoba; Sioux Lookout, Ontario; Pikangikum, Ontario; Akwesasne, Ontario; Moose Factory, Ontario; her home community, Misipawistik Cree Nation; and other First Nations communities. Dr. Cook believes in Traditional Indian Medicine and incorporates this with Western practice. Her belief is that healing needs to be focused on all aspects of the person – spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. Marlyn is a sun dancer, a pipe carrier and a sweat lodge keeper. She also acts as a role model for young people and in this capacity she has traveled extensively throughout Manitoba and Canada encouraging young people to continue to pursue their dreams regardless of obstacles they face and promoting the importance of education. 

Dr. Cook is very active in her community both in her capacity as a physician and as a member of the community. She has sat on many boards and committees including: the Advisory Board for the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, the Advisory Committee of the Mino’ Ayoawin, Health and Well Being Project at the Native Women’s Transition Centre, the Manitoba First Nations Child and Family Services Task Force, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Sophia Rabliauskas

Poplar River First Nation

I was born and raised in Poplar River, Manitoba. I grew up with the teachings from my parents and grandfather, they taught me the importance of the land and life on that land that the creator has given to us. They taught me the importance of living off the land, from the animals, birds, plants and water, that sustain our health, and the importance of always showing respect for that life. This has led me to continue to work on the protection of the land and to pass on this knowledge to our future generations. Currently I work for Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project, which includes our traditional territory, that will provide, when approved, a strong protection for our land and our way of life.

Mervin Traverse

Interlake Community

Mervin comes from a long history of agriculture starting with his grandfather who was a pathfinder in agriculture. He grew up by a lake where his family was known for being commercial fishermen. This led Mervin to follow his education journey that took him to the city and then a career working at Agriculture Canada. His work taught him about the agriculture industry, the anatomy of animals, and reportable diseases. Mervin spends time sharing awareness around truth and reconciliation within the government.
Traditional knowledge of wild game and natural foods are very important to Mervin and being part of the Collaborative helps him to help other communities around food security. As one of the Northern Advisors Mervin guides the Collaborative and provides input around different ways and opportunities for granting and partnership with communities.

Jim Beardy

York Factory Cree Nation

Jim Beardy is a former Northern Advisor (2013 – 2016). Retired from Keewatin Tribal Council after 30 years, where he last worked in senior management as Director of Finance and Administration, as well, held other management roles including serving as a Community Services Technical Advisor in several different capacity areas for KTC. He currently serves on the board of the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund, Thompson Community Development Corporation and the Thompson Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation. He’s currently taken on work to support his home Nation of York Factory First Nation as CEO of their development corporation. Jim has a keen interest and understanding of the issues that impact Indigenous Peoples and is a strong advocate for their well-being. Jim promoted many practices to the NMFCCC that are still in use today including: the principal of not leaving anyone behind (we cannot just say no), staff pictures on the inquiry and proposals sheet, and he was a strong advocate for NMFCCC staff to have slow clarifying conversations with community partners before ever sharing an application form.

Elizebeth Palfrey

Manitoba Métis Nation

Past Northern Advisors

Carl McCorrister

Peguis First Nation

Moneca Sinclair

Winnipeg/Opaskwayak & Moose Lake

Noel Allard

Thompson/Saint Laurent

The NMFCCC is made up of many individuals and groups

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