Yvonne Vizina

Be'sha Blondin
Sahtu Dene Elder, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Be'sha Blondin, a well-known Sahtu Dene Elder, grandmother, healer and midwife, cultural teacher and activist from the Northwest Territories. A traditional woman of the land, she is engaged in ongoing inter-generational cultural training and knowledge transfer activities; Be'sha learned the Dene Way of life at an early age and developed her gifts through the teachings of the traditional spiritual leaders and her parents on the east arm of Great Bear Lake. She is a fearless guardian and protector of the aboriginal ways of knowing, the water

and all life on Mother Earth and shares her traditional knowledge to help all people.

In 2010, Be'sha founded Northern Integrated Cultures with the Environment - Northern ICE - to help Elders pass on the First Nations Sacred Way of Life to the youth to become strong Elders for generations to come and together build strong, vibrant and prosperous communities grounded in ancestral teachings with a healthy environment. Northern ICE emerged from a vision passed on to her by her parents. Dene Elder Ehtseo Ayha (1858-1940) foresaw the environmental changes Mother Earth would undergo and that only a few people would communicate with Elders in the future. Ayha's vision for Elders was that they gather together in a special place to teach by the beginning of the 21st century. Be'sha also applies her cultural knowledge to help improve people's lives through the health, social and justice systems.

The work of Northern ICE continues and is expanding. Be'sha and others recently founded the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation (AIWF), a self-determined traditional wellness initiative with the mandate of culturally reviving healing services and practices in the North. Solely defined and led by traditional protocol, elders will be the guiding force and vision for how the AIWF fulfills its mandate. Born out of the vision from Northern Ice and the Dene Elder's Council, the AIWF legacy has the capacity to bridge cultural divides to ensure that traditional wellness knowledge does not get lost with the next generation. Both Inuit and Dene elder leaders have united with young Indigenous trail blazers, including Metis, with expertise in different fields to bring this project to the people of the North. They consider this a transboundary, cross-cultural model to be shared with anyone in preserving and/or integrating timeless Indigenous Knowledge into community wellness programs.
AIWF: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/indigenous-wellness-centre-yellowknife-1.4003777
Northern ICE: http://www.northernicenwt.org/
The Circumpolar Health Research Network: http://circhnet.org/

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