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Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Community Helpers

The Indigenous Student Centre is honoured to have the support of many wonderful people who are willing to share their experience and culture with the campus community.  Below you will find a description of the Elders, Knowledge Keepers and community helpers who regularly contribute to the life of ISC. If you're looking to connect with one of them, please contact us by email at

Miptoon Chegahno

Miptoon (Tony) Chegahno is a member of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. He is married and has 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren. Miptoon attained his Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Education and a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies.

Miptoon has held a number of leadership positions in his home community including Youth Worker, Pastor and Director of the Native Child Welfare Program. As well, he was a Band Councillor for many years and a member of the Nawash Board of Education ADHOC committee. For the past five years, Miptoon has worked with Parks Canada as a resource technician under the Species At Risk program. Miptoon has sat under many Elders as they shared their knowledge of life and nature. As knowledge holders, the Elders have always made it clear that future generations have their responsibilities in protecting nature.

Alicia Hamilton​

Métis Knowledge Keeper, Alicia Hamilton, did not grow up knowing about her Métis ancestry. She was about 16 years old when it was discovered, beginning her family’s journey of learning about who they were, where they came from, and what it means to be Métis. Alicia is now Chair of the Grand River Métis Council and loves continuing to learn more about her ancestors and sharing that knowledge with others. She enjoys working with students of all ages, teaching Métis history, cultural art, and helping them with their own journeys of self-discovery.​

Lois MacDonald

Lois is a Missanbie Cree First Nation member originally from the Thunder Bay area, and is currently working at GVI as an Elder/Spiritual Advisor. She provides support and cultural guidance to Indigenous women who are incarcerated. As a community helper, Lois shares her knowledge and wisdom gained through the teachings and personal life experiences to guide others to follow their hearts as they walk their personal life journey to become their own leaders.

She is a woman who lives a very simple life. The values and beliefs that were instilled to her as a child are still there. However through life experiences and the teachings she has learned new ones to live by. Throughout her life, the journey she has been on has taken her to places that she could not imagine. These sacred places are not out of the country or off the continent; they are here in her own back yard, where she started her learning journey and discovered what it means to “Walk in Both Worlds” by “Walking the Red Road”. This life-long guided journey is never ending, new people to meet and other sacred places to find. Or do they find us? That is the question; with many answers and many roads to be guided down on this life-path and to be gifted the opportunity to share with others is an honour and privilege, Chi-Miigwetch. All My Relations.

Rene Meshake

Rene is an Ojibwe elder, visual and performing artist, award-winning author, storyteller, flute player, new media artist and a Recipient of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. He works to fuse Ojibwe and English words into his stories, poetry and spoken word performances, Rene communicates his Ojibwe spiritual heritage to the contemporary world. He was born in the railway town of Nakina in Northwestern Ontario and was raised by his Okomissan grandmother meaning he is Gete Ombigidj. His education includes: Anishinaabe oral tradition, language, arts and culture. Rene has a diploma in Graphic Design from Sheridan College and a certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers. Rene’s body of artwork, stories and his flute improvisations create a strong, expressive, and entertaining presentation for an ever-increasing audience. He also has an active on-line and performing presence as a Funky-Elder.

Jan Sherman

Elder Jan Sherman, Anishnabe mother, culture keeper, storyteller, drummer, and spiritual guide has spent the last 25 years of her life helping people remember ancestral earth teachings in relation to our personal spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical journeys on Mother Earth. Jan has gathered knowledge and wisdom from Grandmothers and Aunties from around the world which she shares to support individual inner peace that she believes will become community and global peace.

Dan and Mary Lou Smoke

Elders Dan and Mary Lou Smoke are an exceptional couple, who for many years, have fostered and advanced racial harmony and the elimination of discrimination in our community. It has been through their individual and collective efforts of sharing knowledge of the First Nations faith, history and culture that they have greatly enhanced cross-cultural understanding, healed and improved the climate of race relations in London, Ontario, and provided new means of overcoming barriers and differences.

Dan is a member of the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. Among his many credits, Dan is an Adjunct Professor at Western University. Dan has been working with traditional knowledge carriers from many Nations which include: Cree, Lakota, Ojibway, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, and Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee. He has also been working with an Ojibway Medicine Man to learn "the pipe and the fasting ceremonies". Both he and Mary Lou help to conduct purification ceremonies for the people when requested, and have been holding New Year's Eve sweat lodge ceremonies for the past 18 years in the London area.

Mary Lou, a member of the Ojibway Nation, is a gifted writer, singer, guitarist, and traditional drummer who willingly volunteers and shares her talents with the community at large. Mary Lou has performed internationally, nationally, and locally. She also performs at traditional pow wows and Indigenous Music Festivals. She is the founding member of a local women's drumming group and has contributed to the healing and well-being of Native and non-Native women and to a greater understanding between women of many faiths. The drum group is called the "Ogitchidaw Kwe Wag Singers" (translates to Warrior Women).

They recently celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary in London, with many friends and relatives.