The Council of Elders guides the TRCM in the spirit of honouring the Treaties by providing a First Nations persprective on the Treaties from each of the Treaty areas.
Elder Florence Paynter, B.Ed., M. Ed. is an Anishinabe ikwe and Treaty 1 Elder originally from Sandy Bay First Nation. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. In her youth, Elder Paynter attended residential school and has worked tirelessly throughout her life to foster awareness and deepen our understanding of the intergenerational impacts of residential schools.
Elder Paynter holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Manitoba and teaches the cultural and spiritual knowledge of the Anishinabe people. In the 1970s and 80s, she was a trail-blazer in education. She was both bold and passionate and strived to ensure that all Manitobans, both First Nation and non-First Nation, developed an understanding of the culture and history of her people. As a professional and ground breaker in her field, she was a role model for the younger generations. In 2002, she began working for the Research Unit with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. In recognition of her many years of service and contributions in education, she was given the Aboriginal Circle of Teachers’ Award.
A fluent Anishinabe speaker, Elder Paynter has been involved in many language and cultural initiatives. She believes that we can be proud of who we are by learning about our own families, histories, and languages. After her retirement, she was able to focus on her first passion – the restoration of identity and spirit through ceremony. A 4th degree has been bestowed on Elder Paynter by the Midewiwin lodge and sacred teachings continue to guide her in all that she does.
Elder Paynter currently sits on the Elders’ Council for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Treaty Commission of Manitoba. In addition, she is a Speakers Bureau member for the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba and is often invited to speak on various issues including the Numbered Treaties, residential schools, and the impacts of colonization. For the past several years, Elder Paynter been invited as a guest lecturer at the University of Winnipeg. As a recognized Knowledge Keeper, she sits in an advisory capacity to the National Council of Elders at the world-renowned Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng. She is also an Elder in Residence at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. She was recently recognized for her many years of cultural leadership at the 2021 Keeping the Fires Burning, where she was inducted into the Circle of Honour.
Dr. Elder Harry Bone B.A. (Hons.), LL.D./13 (U of M), C. M., is a Treaty 2 Elder from Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation. Dr. Elder Bone was raised by his grandparents, who taught him the importance of maintaining ties to language, land, and culture. Their influence and teachings helped him to become a strong supporter of First Nations rights throughout his life.
He has an honours degree from Brandon University and also completed graduate studies in political studies at the University of Manitoba. While pursuing his Master of Arts degree, he was also a student advisor and lecturer for the university. Upon completion of his studies, he served as Director of the Manitoba Indian Education Authority, Director of Native Programs for the Federal Government, and Vice-President of Aboriginal Cultural Centres of Canada. He went on to become Chief and Director of Education for his community, CEO of the West Region Tribal Council. Due to his extensive knowledge of First Nations governance, he has led delegation meetings with all levels of government.
Dr. Elder Harry Bone’s achievements in leadership, scholarship, and public service have been recognized by the countless individuals, organizations, and communities that have been touched by his work. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Manitoba for his trendsetting contributions that continue to advance Indigenous education in Canada today. He is also a recipient of Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada, in recognition of “his contributions in advancing Indigenous education, preserving traditional laws, and for creating bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities.”
In addition to his years of advocacy and efforts to foster greater understanding of Anishinaabe perspectives, Dr. Elder Harry Bone is co-author of the following books: The Journey of the Spirit of the Red Man: A Message from the Elders, 2012; Untuwe Pi Kin He, Who We are: Treaty Elders’ Teachings, 2014; and Wahbanung – The Resurgence of Our People: Clearing the Path for Our Survival, 2021.
Dr. Elder Harry Bone is currently the chair of the Council of Elders for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. He maintains a close relationship with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba as a special advisor and is involved in many of their initiatives such as Treaty Education and the Speakers Bureau. He is also an Elder in residence at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, a member of the Turtle Lodge, and a member of the National Elders Council of the Turtle Lodge.
Elder Sherry Copenace is a Treaty 3 Elder, is a Grandmother Niizhoosake, Saagimaakwe, Atik dodem, Elk Clan, and Midewewin Elder, was born and raised on the community of Ojibways of Onigaming which is located in Northwestern Ontario and on the east side of Lake of the Woods. Sherry is firm in her ways of knowing and being Anishinaabe. She is fluent in her original Language, Ojibway, and she has a great love for the Land, Waters and Peoples. Since 2011, Sherry has led Makoosekawin-Anishinaabe young women coming of age teachings and ceremonies. She is part of a Knowledge Circle at Nanaadawewigamig, FMHSSM and helps at Anishinaabe Teaching and Sacred Lodges. Sherry has her MSW degree and is associated with several institutions and organizations who continually engage with her for her knowledge and lived experience.
Elder James Cote, Makade Makwa is a Treaty 4 Elder from Waywayseecappo First Nation, Wewezhigaabawing. He is the son of James and Margaret Cote and 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. He is currently enjoying retirement and the time he spends as a member of the Council of Elders.
Elder Katherine Whitecloud is a mother, grandmother and Knowledge Keeper from the Wipazoka Wakpa Dakota Oyate. Learning from her Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Father, Mother, and her extended family, her greatest passion is to insure that the language and teachings of our ancestors are shared and continue to live and thrive through the youth of today. Katherine is an Educator, fulfilling roles as Teacher, Guidance Counsellor, Director of Education, Superintendent, Education Board Chairperson, and Regional Director of Education. She has been Executive Director for the DOTC, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Assembly of First Nations. As a Leader, Katherine was chosen by the People of Sioux Valley to be Council Member and Chief, and by the Chiefs of Manitoba for the Role of Regional Chief. She has served as Board member for many Institutions and organizations in support of our First Nations Peoples. Katherine’s professional life has been devoted to supporting Indigenous Peoples, her Nation, and most importantly our Children. Her personal life is devoted to fulfilling her responsibilities as a Dakota Winyan, Mother, Grandmother and helper. A strong advocate for children and families, her love for children and understanding that without healthy children, we cannot have healthy families, and without healthy families, we do not have healthy communities, guides her role and responsibility as a Knowledge Keeper and Grandmother. With a profound faith in the goodness, love and guidance of our Creator, Katherine’s message reinforces that without our children, we have no tomorrow. Our greatest gift is to be blessed with new life through the gift of children and the dawning of each new day. Katherine’s greatest blessing is the gift of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
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 education and went on to marry Myra Personius and raise five children. He sponsored his own Diploma in Business Management, served as a Band Councillor for Opaskwayak Cree Nation for 24 years from 1974 to 1997, and then 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.