The committment of the Council of Elders is fundamental to the work of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. The Elders are historians, teachers, spiritual caregivers, language experts, and advisors. With their input, support and guidance, the TRCM is able to address specific Treaty language and knowledge to ensure deeper understandings in the TRCM research initiatives such as the Manitoba Treaties Oral History Project and the Historical Atlas of First Nations in Manitoba. In addition to the research initiatives, the TRCM Council of Elders has advised in the areas of curriculum development and leadership forums, and have participated as members of the TRCM Speakers’ Bureau.
Council of Elders Biographies
Elder Florence Paynter is from Sandy Bay First Nation and is the Treaty 1 Elder. She is also a band member of Norway House Cree Nation. She is a third degree Mide Anishinabekwe and holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Manitoba. Florence speaks Anishinabe fluently and has been involved in many language and cultural initiatives and ceremonies. She helps teach the cultural and spiritual knowledge and traditions of the Anishinabe people. Florence attended residential school and works hard to teach about the history of her people, the legacy of Indian residential schools, and its impact on us as people. She believes that we can be proud of who we are by learning about our own families, our own histories and our own languages.
Elder Harry Bone is from the Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation and is the Treaty 2 Elder. Elder Bone has worked tirelessly throughout his life to bolster Indigenous rights. He has served extensive terms in many fulfilling roles such as Chief and Director of Education. He also served as a CEO at the West Region Tribal Council and as a Director of the Manitoba Indian Education Authority. He is a graduate student in political studies at the University of Manitoba and he has been a Student Advisor and Lecturer. He was a Director of Native Programs for the Federal Government, a Vice-President of Aboriginal Cultural Centres of Canada and currently sits as Chairperson of the TRCM Council of Elders.
Elder Bone is experienced in First Nations Governance. He has led delegations that have met with all levels of government while being instrumental in projects such as the Oral History Project and the Historical Atlas of First Nations in Manitoba. Elder Bone and Elder Doris Pratt co-authored Untuwe Pi Kin He – Who We are: Treaty Elders’ Teachings. Like Elder Bone, the book aims to inspire people through compassion, reason, humility and human dignity.
His distinguished achievements in leadership, scholarship and public service have been recognized by many individuals and communities that have been touched by his work. The University of Manitoba honoured Elder Bone with an Honorary Doctor of Law degree for his trendsetting work that continues to advance Aboriginal education in Canada.
In December 2017, Elder Bone was announced as an appointee to the Order of Canada “for his contributions to advancing Indigenous education and preserving traditional laws, and for creating bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities.”
Elder Elmer Courchene is from the Sagkeeng First Nation and is the Treaty 3 Elder. Elder Courchene is fluent in Ojibwe and English. His first educators were his parents until the age of five, when he was sent to the Fort Alexander Residential School where he received education until Grade 8. He travelled, working in several fields as a Tradesman, Labourer and General Contractor. Traditionally practicing Anishinaabe customs, Elder Courchene is a pipe carrier and sundancer, and continues to help at traditional ceremonies. He was instrumental during the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (precursor to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs) in the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. He participated in discussions of the 1969 White Paper, Wahbung: Our Tomorrows that included the movement of Indian Control of Indian Education, with his home community being the pilot to transfer administrative control from the federal government to the First Nations government. As well, he became Advisor to Chief and Council for several years. In 1997, Elder Courchene served as the Elder Advisor and Spiritual Giver to then National Chief Phil Fontaine at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). Elder Courchene currently sits as the Manitoba Elder representative to the AFN Senator Council. Most recently, Elder Courchene has served as the Elder Advisor to the AMC Executive Council of Chiefs and has been appointed to the TRCM Council of Elders.
Elder James Cote (Makade Makwa) is from Waywayseecappo First Nation (Wewezhigaabawing) and is the Treaty 4 Elder. He is the son of James and Margaret Cote. Elder Cote attended the Birtle and Brandon Residential Schools from 1947 to 1957. He worked as a farm labourer prior to his marriage to Lena McKay in 1967. He served as a Band Councillor for 16 years and an Ojibwe Language Instructor for two years. Currently, he enjoys his retirement and sits on the TRCM Council of Elders.
Elder William G. Lathlin is from The Opaskwayak Cree Nation and is the Treaty 5 Elder. His first teachers were his parents, Liz and George Lathlin, and his grandparents, Horace Whitehead and Mary Lathlin. William was raised with three sisters and three brothers in winter camps until he was sent to Prince Albert Residential School, which he attended from 1950-1954. He obtained a Grade 7 educationand went on to marry Myra Personius and raise five children. He sponsored his own Diploma in Business Management, he served as a Band Councillor for Opaskwayak Cree Nation for 24 years from 1974 to 1997, and he served as Chief of Opaskwayak Cree Nation for one term from 1997 to 1999. William was committed to improvement in the areas of health, education, economic and social development for Opaskwayak Cree Nation. He currently involves himself with youth issues by promoting education and teaches at the school when he is asked. William is currently developing a land based/traditional teachings program for disengaged youth in his community.
Elder D’Arcy Linklater (Wapiskiw-Ma’inkan from the Ma’inkan Clan) is from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and is the Treaty 5 Adhesion Elder. He was raised by his grandparents who taught him to live openly like the water and the river to experience life to the fullest. His great grandfather was Pierre Moose the Chief who made the Adhesion to Treaty #5 with the Crown in Nelson House on July 30, 1908. Elder Linklater has worked as a trapper, fisherman, hunter and miner. Elder Linklater served as Executive Director for his Cree Nation and as an elected leader for over fifteen years. Elder Linklater has a keen interest in justice and equal rights for his people. He continues to work tirelessly for his people with the aim of combating injustices and poverty. He seeks sustainable ways to use the natural resources in a way that will provide meaningful opportunity for First Nations people while at the same time providing the protection and respect for the land.
Elder Joe Hyslop is from the Northlands Denesuline First Nation and is the Treaty 10 Elder. His late father was Chief for 27 years for the Barren Lands Band. He is fluent in his first language of Dene and is grateful and continues to cherish his early formative years of education that he credits to his parents and grandfather, the late Donald Tssassaze Sr. Joe went to the Guy Hill Residential School for seven years in The Pas. He worked as a Welfare Administrator for the Barren Lands First Nation, and from 1993 to 2010 he served as Councillor and then for two terms as Chief. He has also been involved with the North of 60 Negotiations Team from 1999.
Elder Doris Pratt is from Wikoza Wakpa (Sioux Valley Dakota Nation). She has dedicated her life to revitalizing and preserving the Dakota Language for the benefit of this vibrant and resurging culture, which she has shared with her three daughters and three sons, encouraging them to always take pride in the gifts of the Dakota language and culture. Elder Pratt earned her Masters in Education from Brandon University and holds an Educational Specialist Degree from the University of Arizona. Elder Pratt has developed a wide range of Dakota Language related materials for classroom and home education, including materials that range from the Primary School Level to Senior Advanced Studies in the Dakota Language.