In 2003, when Don Julien invited us to guide the development of Mi’kmawey Debert, we agreed, because sharing our culture is of great importance to us. When we visit Debert, we feel the spirit of our ancestors and our pride in ourselves, and our history is renewed and strengthened. It is this sense of renewal and strength that we want for our people. Each of us brings ideas about what we think visitors will enjoy. We hope visitors will leave Mi’kmawey Debert feeling and knowing our connection to this landscape and the long and rich history of our people. Everything else we do — planning, creating, discussing, and communicating about the project — are all, in the end, undertaken so that we can give visitors a true sense of who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.
Our goal for general visitors, students and teachers, and our own communities, is to immerse them in our pride and knowledge about our culture and history, and to convey our attachments to our communities and homeland — this is place we call Mi’kma’ki. We hope Mi’kmawey Debert will be a living place where visitors will experience our culture. Our history and ancestors are alive in our world, and we want visitors to share in our spirit and communities.
Meet the Elders on the EAC
- Dr. Elsie Charles Basque
- Judy Bernard Julian
- Sarah Francis
- Mary-Ellen Googoo
- Phyllis Googoo
- Theresa Isaac Julien
- Dr. Donald M. Julien
- Doug Knockwood
- Lillian Marshall
- Dr. Murdena Marshall
- Sister Dorothy Moore
- Agnes Potter
- Florence Walsh
The late Dr. Elsie Charles Basque was a Mi’kmaw woman, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, Elder and teacher. Born in 1916, she was the first Mi’kmaw to hold a teacher’s license from the Provincial Normal College, and the first to teach in a non-native school. In 1939 she re-opened the first day school in Indian Brook, which had been closed since February of 1930 after the Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie was built. It was no longer necessary for Mi’kmaw children to be placed at the Residential School at young ages.
Elsie spent much of her life in Boston, MA, but moved back and lived in Saulnierville, NS, and continued to share her knowledge with students of all ages. She held three honorary doctorates from the Provincial Normal College (i.e. Nova Scotia Teachers College), the Université Sainte-Anne, and, most recently, Acadia University. Elsie was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Queen Diamond Jubilee medal, and was a member of the Order of Canada. In 1999 she received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community. As an educator and volunteer, Dr. Elsie Charles Basque serves as a role model and a champion of Native values and traditions.
Judy Bernard Julian is from the Paqtnkek First Nation. She and her husband Albert are the proud parents of eight children and grandparents of seven grandchildren. Judy was involved with the Federation of Foster families and the former Chair of the local support group. She holds a B.A. (Anthropology and Native Studies) from Trent University. During her career, Judy worked as the Educational Counsellor at Paqtnkek First Nation, and then as Aboriginal/Black Student Advisor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS. She is a former member of the Strait Regional School Board.
Sarah Francis of Pictou Landing First Nation has influenced people in her community through her dedicated work in her church, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Mawiomi annual gathering. She was a Band Councillor for 10 years and resigned to enter into the Congregation of Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish. She teaches religion classes to young people, leads marriage counselling, and is well-known for her participation in the annual Ste. Anne’s Mission in Maligomish. In 2001, Sarah received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community.
Dr. Mary-Ellen Googoo lives in Membertou First Nation with her husband, Francis. Originally from Eskasoni First Nation, she is the granddaughter of Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy. Mary-Ellen is the mother of seven children, 28 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Mary-Ellen holds a Bachelor in Education from University of New Brunswick, a certificate in Special Education from Acadia University, and a Masters degree with a focus in curriculum development, as well as an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University. Mary-Ellen is the former Director of the Mi’kmaq College Institute at Cape Breton University. Her extensive community work includes serving with the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. In 2012, she received the Sarah Denny Award for excellence in the promotion for language and culture.
Phyllis Googoo is a member of the Waycobah First Nation. She and her husband Bernie are the proud parents of three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. As a Mi’kmaw speaker and life-long advocate of the Mi’kmaw language, Phyllis raised her children to be fluent in Mi’kmaq. Phyllis has also always loved teaching. She is a graduate of the Nova Scotia Teachers College and St. Francis Xavier University, and currently works and teaches at the Waycobah First Nation School. Phyllis is an Assembly of First Nation Regional Elder, and a member of the We’koqma’q Elders Council, the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, and the women’s drum group We’koqma’qewiskwa’q. In 2008, she received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community.
Theresa Isaac Julien lives in the Millbrook First Nation. She and her husband Keith have raised three sons and a daughter. Theresa was born and raised by her parents George and Janet Isaac (Martin) in the Listuguj First Nation in Quebec, one of the youngest in a big family. After attending school on and off-reserve in her home community, she attended Concordia University (B.Ed. Teaching English as a Second Language), Harvard University Summer School, and then the University of New Brunswick, where she earned an M.Ed. After teaching at the Elsibogtog (Big Cove) First Nation and in provincial public schools, Theresa joined the Nova Scotia Department of Education, where she helped produce “Mi’kmaq Past and Present, A Resource Guide.” Presently, Theresa and her family run a small business in Millbrook.
Dr. Julien is a Mi’kmaw historian and the executive director of The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, which has grown under his leadership over the last two decades into one of the most respected tribal councils in Canada. With over 40 years researching and documenting Mi’kmaw history, Donald shares his knowledge and experiences through speaking engagements, university lectures and research papers. Donald is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia for his work promoting Mi’kmaw history, language and culture. He has also been awarded two honorary degrees from Acadia University and Mount Saint Vincent University. Donald is a peace time veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and has served in the United Nations Peacekeeping Tour in Cyprus. He continues work with the Canadian Armed forces in a community advisory role, the RCMP Aboriginal Advisory Group, as well as the Auditor General on Aboriginal matters. He sits on the Advisory Board for Admiral of the Canadian Navy, and he was appointed Honorary Lt. Colonel in 2011. Donald and his wife Diane live in Truro, and are the proud parents of four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Doug Knockwood, a respected Elder from Indian Brook First Nation, has worn many hats throughout his life, including that of Canadian Special Forces member, a chef, and a former student at Saint Mary’s University. A man dedicated to helping his people, Doug co-founded treatment programs for Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia, and served as an alcohol and drug counsellor and treatment director for 30 years. Since his retirement in 1991, Doug continues to share the wealth of his experience and knowledge in advocating for Mi’kmaw issues, sharing his wisdom and spirituality. One such example is his work with the Indian Brook School Board, coordinating “talking circles” for teachers, staff, students and parents. He is a proud grandfather of five generations. In 2003, Doug received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing his lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community.
Lillian Marshall has worked for her home community of Potlotek (Chapel Island) since December 1975 in different aspects of Aboriginal education. Lillian is continually working towards the preservation and promotion of Mi’kmaw history, customs, values, language and culture. She wrote several books, developed language CDs and created children stories and games. Her most recent project was to create a playing cards game for waltes that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is played exactly like the actual old Mi’kmaw dice game (waltes), but instead of dice, it is played with playing cards. Lillian completed the Native Language Immersion Teaching program at McGill University and is a graduate in Early Childhood Education, Froebel Centre, Truro, NS. A life-long learner, she also holds a B.A. (Community Studies) from Cape Breton University and a Diploma in Counselling from Acadia University. In 2007, Lillian received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community.
Murdena Marshall, granddaughter of Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy, was born in Waycobah. She now lives in Eskasoni with husband Albert. She is a mother of 6 children; a grandmother and great grandmother. Murdena lists the Mi’kmaw language as her greatest love. Considered a traditional knowledge expert, she has worked with her husband Albert to develop and to promote the concept of Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing) as a guiding principle for co-learning with different cultural knowledges. Among other publications, Murdena has co-authored Mi’kmaq Hieroglyphic Prayers: Readings in North America’s First Indigenous Script (with David Schmidt), and Muin aqq Luiknek Tesijik Ntuksuinuk (Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters) (with Lillian Marshall). Murdena earned her B.Ed. (Native Education major) from University of New Brunswick, and an M.Ed. from Harvard University. In 2009, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Cape Breton University. She was appointed a Mi’kmaw Justice of the Peace in 1995. In 2006 Murdena received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community. Murdena generously shares her deep knowledge of Mi’kmaw culture with as many people as possible.
Sister Dorothy Moore, from Membertou First Nation, entered the Congregation of Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish shortly after graduating high school, and became the first Mi’kmaw Religious Sister in Nova Scotia. Sister Dorothy, as she is affectionately known, has dedicated much of her life to education. She received her teaching certificate from the Nova Scotia Teachers College, Bachelors degrees (both Arts and Education) from St. Francis Xavier University, and an M.Ed. from Mount Saint Vincent University. Her contributions to the province have been recognized by both the Order of Nova Scotia (2003) and Order of Canada (2005). Sister Dorothy received honorary doctorate degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University, Cape Breton University (previously the University College of Cape Breton), and Saint Mary’s University and has made a significant impact on Native Studies in Nova Scotia. She is currently an Education Consultant with the Membertou First Nation.
Agnes Potter from Bear River First Nation is recognized as someone who brings honour and a lifetime of service to her community. A mother of six, a grandmother and great grandmother, Agnes is known in her community and beyond for her loving, kind and modest personality. Agnes is also well-known for her craftsmanship. Agnes is a lifetime Mi’kmaw Elder for the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia and the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s National Elder of the East. In 2012, her outstanding contributions to the Mi’kmaw community were recognized with the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award. Agnes Potter was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012. She is the newest member of the Mi’kmawey Debert Elders’ Advisory Council.
Florence Walsh was born in Dort’s Cove, Guysborough County, and grew up in the Millbrook First Nation. She and her husband James have three children and eight grandchildren. Florence is recording secretary with Mi’kmawey Debert Elders’ Advisory Council, and brings with her a diverse business background. After graduating with honours from Success Business College, Truro, she worked in Boca Raton, Florida, then in Toronto, Massachusetts, and back to Nova Scotia. Florence has also worked with the Native Council of Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaw Kina’masuti (now called Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey), and R.J. & Sons Foundation in Pictou Landing. She is presently active with two Native Council committees, and is a board member of Indian Island Church Committee (Maligomish, Pictou County, NS).