Knowledge Keepers Program

The Centre for Indigenous Initiatives is pleased to continue a tradition of providing opportunities for knowledge keepers and Elders to connect with students and staff. The Centre for Indigenous Initiatives recognizes the significant need for linkages between Indigenous and Western knowledge, as well as the importance of passing such knowledge on to those who will keep those teachings for future generations.  Further, the Knowledge Keepers Program provides a culturally safe and relevant space for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, faculty, professional services staff and community members to obtain assistance and cultural enrichment.

The Knowledge Keepers Program offers teaching circles on a variety of topics throughout the academic year (September to March) in the Ojigkwanong Centre (228 Paterson Hall). Everyone is welcome! Those interested in more personal conversations can approach the knowledge keepers in accordance with the Guidelines for Working with Elders.

For questions about the Knowledge Keepers Program, contact us.

History

For nearly twenty years First Nations, Inuit and Métis knowledge keepers, traditional teachers and Elders have played a critical role in the success, retention and inspiration of Carleton students, faculty and professional services staff.  Over the years, Carleton University has invited these knowledge keepers to campus to share their incredible wisdom and traditional knowledge. Knowledge keepers from numerous Indigenous nations have come to Carleton as special guests and even “Elders-In-Residence” to assist students in their academic endeavors, and to foster an environment of understanding among the non-Indigenous Carleton community.  Click here for a a short history of Elders’ and other influential Indigenous peoples’ visits to Carleton.

In the 2010/11 academic year, the Centre for Aboriginal Culture and Education (now known as the Centre for Indigenous Initiatives) was proud to coordinate the Visiting Elders Program (now known as the Knowledge Keepers Program) which welcomed Elders Paul Skanks and Thomas Louttit. That year, both Elders came to campus nearly two dozen times to share in their traditional knowledge, and to assist students in their unique and challenging academic endeavors.

The Centre for Indigenous Initiatives is excited to continue to share in the cultural enrichment and support provided through the Knowledge Keepers Program.

Biography

Paul Skanks, Mohawk Traditional Teacher from the Mohawk Nation

Paul was raised in Kahnawake, Quebec, a Mohawk Nation in Quebec. His spirit name is Tiao Re Hen Sere, “The First Light of Day” and he is of the Turtle Clan. Since retirement, Paul has embarked on a journey of cultural rebirth. He has engaged in an active pursuit of knowledge based on teachings shared by Elders and Traditional Teachers from various First Nations on Turtle Island. Paul works with Indigenous communities toward the improvement of education, women’s safety and personal wellness.

Thomas Louttit was born on September 4, 1948 in Coral Rapids, Ontario where his father was stationed with Ontario Northland Railroad. He is second oldest of nine children. Thomas spent his early years being cared for in Moose Factory by his parents and his maternal grandfather. At five years old he was sent to Fort Albany Indian Residential School in Ontario and at nine to Fort George, Quebec. In the 1965 Thomas was placed in the care of Children’s Aid Society. For next three years he lived in many different foster homes throughout southern and northern Ontario. Thomas moved to Toronto where he became a Flat Roofer, a career that would last 32 years. In the early 1980s he began to construct a life free of alcohol, abuse and other destructive patterns that he addressed through traditional ceremonies. He has spent many years pursuing his own healing from physical and sexual abuse. In 1994 he graduated from the three-year Ontario Native Education Program.

Thomas describes himself as an Oskabay-wis, “a helper to the people“. He spent thousands of hours assisting Elder Jim Dumont, Elder Roger Jones, and Hectory Copegog; Enaathig Healing; and Onkwatenro`shon:` a Health Planners Lodge (Dr. Ed Connors); and various others as a traditional fire keeper for Sacred Sweat Lodge and most recently conducting Sweat Lodge. For the past twenty years he has been facilitating Traditional Healing Circles, mostly for men’s groups. Thomas is highly sought after by schools and community groups to speak on the Indian Residential School experience and to share his personal healing journey. Presently, Thomas provides elders services for the Assembly of First Nations, Indigenous Peoples Television Network, and the Government of Canada, to name a few. His volunteer work includes being a founding member of the Barrie Native Friendship Centre.

Thomas is the father of Erica and Thomas Wilson (deceased), and grandfather of sixteen. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife, Pennie.

Carleton University conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Thomas R. Louttit in November 2016, in recognition of his wise leadership and gracious service to the community as an Elder and the inspiration he offers those he mentors. Click here for the news story.