Aboriginal Education Research Forum 2011

Elder Biographies

John Martin

John is a residential school survivor from the '50's. Over the years he has worked as welder for 9 Years in Winnipeg and in 1973 began working with Moose Lake Loggers. He also became involved in local politics in Moose Lake as a Councilor for 20 years.

John became interested in his culture and traveled to learn from the Elders. From these teachings, his life experiences and his cultural work he has received recognition from his community as an Elder. He performs sweat lodge ceremonies, feasts and traditional weddings; and also holds a license to do wedding ceremonies.

At the request of Manitoba Corrections, John has worked with inmates at The Pas and Egg Lake Camp, and has also traveled to Headingly, Stony Mountain, Portage La Prairie and various youth centres for seven years. He was also asked to work with Community & Youth Corrections (Probation), which he did for 6 years.

In 1998, John was asked to work at KCC (now UCN) as an Elder to work with staff, management, students, and communities. At UCN, he has provided cultural camps for students and staff, tepee teachings, medicine wheel teachings, and teaches Traditional Change courses. He speaks at conferences on Elders perspectives and research, education, treaties, etc. In addition, he is currently involved with the UCN Council of Elders plus other Elders' councils with other organizations.


Mary Guilbault

Mary Guilbault is from Fisher River Cree Nation.  She is a retired social worker from the Manitoba Department of Health and Social Services.  She worked in this position for twenty six years.  She has been involved and was instrumental in the start of all types of organizational structures that are presently ongoing today.  Some of these organizations include: Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, Manitoba Metis Federation, Provincial Upgrading Program which is now a national program and at the University of Manitoba, organizational structures that include Faculties of Social Work, Education, Engineering and Nursing.  Mary was also instrumental in the Kindergarten program at the Friendship Center which was taught by Yvonne Monkman. Mary was present at many negotiating tables and she also worked with the inmates from Stony Mountain through the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre.   

Mary’s’ grandmother was instrumental in her progressive thoughts in education and encouraged her to strive and attain high standards in education.  Her grandmother encouraged Mary to maintain her cultural and traditional life which would give Mary insight into all aspects of life.  She was taught to never give up on your faith in all that you do.  Mary is the mother of five daughters who were all successful in attaining their education.  She is also the grandmother of nine grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.

Emma Gossfeld

Emma Gossfeld {nee Moose} is a Cree woman of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Nelson House, Manitoba. She was born at a camp on Setting Lake out of Wabowden, Manitoba. She began her schooling at Brandon residential school up to Grade 4 but was kept home until after Grade 8. She completed Grades 9 to 12 at Portage la Prairie and Dauphin Collegiate. Emma and her husband Alec, together for 43 years, have one daughter, two granddaughters, two great-granddaughters and three great-grandsons. 

Emma began permit teaching in 1965 with INAC. In 1971, she attended the IMPACTE teacher training program at Brandon University and received her B.T. in 1973, her B.ED in 1979. In 2004 she completed the coursework and Practicum for the M.Ed. but due to family health crises did not complete the final thesis. She has taught under Indian Affairs, Local Education Authorities and Mystery Lake School District in Thompson, Manitoba. She worked in Elementary Resource and in an Alternative High School program for students from outlying communities attending schools in Thompson. Emma also trained as an Assistant Superintendent of Education with INAC, was a Curriculum worker with Manitoba Indian Education Association and served as the Director of Education for Keewatin Tribal Council.

After retiring from teaching at RD Parker Collegiate in 2004, Emma was asked to teach Cree on term in her home community of Nelson House to cover the regular teacher’s sick leave. Having lost her first language in residential school at a very young age and reclaiming it during her brief time at home with the family, her first language is something which she is passionate about and wishes to pass on to the children. She commuted daily to Nelson House from September 2004 to February 28, 2006. Then she really retired from classroom teaching!

Emma is the Resident Elder for University College of the North {UCN} Thompson.


Don Robertson

Don Robertson is a Cree from Norway House. He retired as the Executive Director for the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. He received his education at Cook Christian Training School, Phoenix Junior College in Arizona and at Union College in British Columbia where he was ordained as a United Church Minister. His subsequent theological training concentrated on clinical counseling at Brandon General Hospital and the Calgary Pastoral Institute. He served pastorates in Melita and Russell, Manitoba. He received an honorary doctorate from Brandon University in 1992 and from the University of Manitoba in 2007.

Don received the order of Manitoba in 2004. He is currently the president and chair of the Median Credit Union. 

Within the field of education, Don was Education Superintendant of the Manitoba Indian Education Board and was previously employed by Brandon University as a counselor and coordinator of the Indian-Metis Project for Action in Careers Through Teacher Education (IMPACTE) program; Director of the Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Program (BUNTEP); Coordinator of Community and Program Liaison for Special Projects. For the province of Manitoba, Department of Education, he was Coordinator of Program Support Services and Education for the Core Area Training and Employment Agency. He was also Director of Education for the Island Lake Tribal Council. He was Chair of the Council on Post-Secondary Education and Chair of the Implementation Team for the University College of the North.

Before coming to Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, he was Dean of Aboriginal Education and Institutional Diversity and Red River Community College.