Pope Francis will visit Turtle Island from July 24 to 29, 2022. This follows the visit by an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) delegation to the Vatican March 28 to April 1, 2022. During that trip, Pope Francis offered an apology, a significant gesture and a historic step to fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #58.

We are optimistic that the Holy Father will take the next step and apologize to all Indigenous Peoples on our homelands for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential institutions. We seek to hear his words of apology on our lands.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Government of Canada are leading the logistics and planning of the Pope’s visit, including ticketing. The AFN’s focus is to ensure the needs of First Nations, particularly Survivors, are met.

Wellness Resources

Throughout the papal visit, trauma-informed supports are available to Survivors, their families and communities, including Traditional Healers, Elders, and mental wellness supports.

2022 AFN Vatican Delegates

AFN NWT Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, Dene Nation, Delegation Lead

Gerald Antoine was born and raised at Gahtthiah, twenty-four miles upriver from the community of Łı́́ıdlı̨̨ Kų́ę́ in Denendeh (Northwest Territories). He is one of thirteen children born to Cecile and William Antoine. Both his grandfathers, Ehthelo and Nahkek’o, were present when Treaty 11 was made in 1921.

In 1974, Gerald received a two-year scholarship to attend the prestigious Lester B. Pearson College near Victoria, BC., where students from over fifty countries attended.

In 1975, Gerald witnessed the joint assembly of the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT (forerunner to the Dene Nation) and Métis Association of the NWT, where the Dene Declaration was developed and passed unanimously. In the following year, he was a witness and a presenter to the historic Berger Inquiry hearings. In 1977, he was chosen to be a spokesperson for the Dene Youth Assembly which organized a presentation to the Dene National Assembly held in Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta (Smiths Landing).

In 1977, he attended the Native Studies program at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario where he was elected President of the Trent University Native Association.

National Chief Antoine has since held several leadership positions prior to being elected Dene National Chief in December 2021. He served two terms as Chief of his home community, Łı́ı́ dlı̨̨ Kų́ę́, beginning in 1985 to 1988 and then was re-elected 2013 to 2017. Among his major accomplishments include working with the Indigenous Nations and preparations with his community people for the Papal visit in 1987. He also served as regional Dehcho Grand Chief first elected in 1993 to 1997 and then re-appointed in 2007 for an eighteen-month term. During his term, he was successful in re-establishing the Dene and Crown relationship based on the oral understanding of Treaty 11. He was a member of the Indigenous working group which drafted the original draft of the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

In 1997, he was presented with a traditional drum and in 2010 he was selected as a cultural performer at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Between 2004 – 2008, he became a well-known Dene Announcer for CKLB Radio The Voice of Denendeh where he created a popular radio character, “Dene in the City.”

In 2010, Gerald assisted in the development and implementation of a strategic plan for Nah?ą Dehé (Nahanni National Park Reserve) including the reinstatement of Dene place names. Between 2012-2013, he accepted a position as intern to the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Gerald Antoine’s life illustrates a life-long commitment to lead, inspire and engage people in the restoration and rebuilding of Dene culture, values, and priorities.

Gerald Antoine lives in Denendeh with his wife Beatrice and together they have three children, Nekia, Jonathan and Mary Ann and two grandchildren Akesha and Nazehi.

Dr. Wilton Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Alberta Representative

Dr. Wilton Littlechild, IPC, QC is the former Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. He’s a member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation which is located on Treaty 6 territory in Alberta, Canada. He is a residential school survivor and lawyer who has worked to advance Indigenous rights and Treaties in Canada and abroad. He was a member of the 1977 Indigenous delegation to the United Nations (UN), and contributed to the UN and OAS Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Former roles include Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a member of Parliament, Vice-President of the Indigenous Parliament of the Americas, North American representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and chairperson for the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform. He has been inducted into eight Sports Halls of Fame: including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Order of Sports and the Order of Canada, medal for Meritorious Service and the Alberta Order of Excellence.

Fred Kelly, Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, Spiritual Advisor

Fred Kelly is a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming, a community of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3. Kizhebowse Mukwaa (Kind Walking Bear) of the Lynx Clan is an Elder in Midewin, the Sacred Law and Medicine Society of the Anishinaabe. As such he is a Keeper and Practitioner of Sacred Law. He is also a Drum Keeper and a Pipe Carrier and has been called upon to administer healing therapies among many indigenous people on Turtle Island and to conduct sacred ceremonies across Canada, in the United States, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, and Israel.

Fred Kelly heads the Nimishomis-Nokomis Healing Group. He is a survivor of Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario and Lebret, Saskatchewan. He was a member of the Assembly of First Nations team that negotiated the historic Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and continues to advise individual victims on their healing journeys.

In 1965, at the age of twenty-three, he led the first protest march of its kind in Canada that is now known as the birth of the indigenous civil rights movement in this country. He was one of the organizers of the National Indian Brotherhood and assisted in its transition to become the Assembly of First Nations.
Fred served as Chief of his own community and is Grand Chief Emeritus of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3. He also held the role of Ontario Regional Director of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. He continues to function as a spiritual advisor to First Nation leadership in Canada including the Assembly of First Nations; Chiefs in Ontario; and Grand Council Treaty #3 where he is the principal advisor on the restoration of the traditional constitution, governance and jurisdiction. He organized the Chiefs of Ontario in 1975 then went on to play a key role in the negotiations that led to the recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the Canadian Constitution.

Fred Kelly operates a successful consultancy in strategic planning and management, negotiations and policy development, corporate governance for over forty years. He is also a practitioner of traditional methods in conflict resolution including mediation and other customary intervention approaches.

Phil Fontaine, Sagkeeng First Nation, Manitoba Representative

Mr. Phil Fontaine is the owner of Ishkonigan Inc., a company specializing in Indigenous engagement, consultation and negotiation. Mr. Fontaine is also the Special Advisor of the Royal Bank of Canada.  Mr. Fontaine served as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations for an unprecedented three terms.  He is a Member of Order of Manitoba and has received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Equitas Human Rights Education Award, the Distinguished Leadership Award from the University of Ottawa, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and most recently was appointed to the Order of Canada. Mr. Fontaine also holds eighteen Honorary Doctorates from Canada and the United States.

John Bekale, Dene Nation, Northwest Territories Representative

John Bekale served as Chief of Gameti in 1980 – 81. In 1984 he was elected as Vice-President of the Dene Nation, and began work with the Dene-Metis Joint Negotiations Secretariat in 1986. In 1990, he worked for the Department of Resources, Economic Development and Wildlife, and joined the negotiations team for the Dogrib Treaty 11 Tribal Council (now known as Tlicho Government) in 1993. Between 1995 and 2014, he served as Senior Aboriginal Advisor for BHP Diamonds. John has served several non-consecutive terms on the Denendeh Development Corporation Board of Directors since 1984, and the Denendeh Investments Incorporated (DII) Board since 2006 and was reappointed to both in 2015. He was recently elected Chairman of DII.

Adeline Webber, Kukhhiittan Clan of the Teslin Tlingit Nation, Yukon Representative

Adeline Webber was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. She is a member of the Kukhhiittan Clan of the Teslin Tlingit Nation. Her Tlingit name is Kh’ayade.  Adeline is married to Bill Webber and they have three adult children, Cindy, Wendy and William, a grandson Stephane and a granddaughter Marissa.

In her career, Adeline worked for the Council for Yukon Indians as an enrolment officer and served for several years as the Chair of the Enrolment Commission.  She worked in federal government in the employment and training areas where she advanced to the District Director for the Public Service Commission of Canada. During her tenure with the federal public service Adeline was recognized for excellent work and was a recipient of the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal, an Employee Recognition award and the Head of the Public Service Award.  Though now retired from this role, she is busier than ever and maintains an active role in bettering Yukon.  In 2018, Adeline was appointed as Administrator of Yukon by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and was recently reappointed to this role for another three year term.

Throughout her years of service, Adeline has been nominated for and been the recipient of numerous awards. On her retirement from the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre Board, she was made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Society and in recognition of her participation and commitment as a volunteer she received the Keish Award and she was appointed to the Senate of the National Association of Friendship Centres. Adeline was awarded the Yukon Commissioner’s Award for Public Service and she is an honored recipient of a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her years of service and advocacy. In 2019, she was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional office.  Then in 2021, Adeline was honored by the Council of Yukon First Nations by being added to their Wall of Honor for her continuous years of dedication for the betterment of Yukon First Nation People.

More than all the places she has volunteered and the things she has done, Adeline is a role model and mentor in her community. She has worked tirelessly to build community capacity, support the leadership of Indigenous women, and has been an auntie and friend to countless youth throughout the territory. She is a territorial treasure, and a testament to the strength and resilience of Indigenous women.

Kukpi7 Chief Rosanne Casimir, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, British Columbia Representative

Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir is a strong, confident Secwépemc woman leading by example as the 14th elected Kukpi7/Chief for Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc. She is honored to be working as the community’s political advocate and to be building on the previous leadership’s initiatives. She looks forward to what the future holds for Tḱemlúps as Chief and Council continue to support membership and develop pride as Tk’emlúpsemc, exercise Title and rights, and build economic security for future generations.

As Chief, Kukpi7 Casimir is committed to building a strong and supportive Chief and Council that develops respectful and professional relationships with all internal and external parties.

Kukpi7 Casimir is a political advocate, wife, mother, godmother, grandmother (Key7e), and a proud owner of a Jack Russell.

Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier, Okanese First Nation, Saskatchewan Representative

Marie-Anne Walker was born in Regina, Saskatchewan on April 15, 1954. She was raised by her maternal grandparents Calista and Adelaird Starr on Starblanket First Nation.

Marie Anne went to day school on Okanese, then residential school at Lebret and finished grade 12 at Bert Fox in Fort Qu’Appelle. She then went to the University of Regina, and after 3 years left to raise her two small children.

Marie Anne worked as a Senior Child Care Worker at Lebret Residential School, and soon after started with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in the area of Treaty Rights and Research. In this position, she interviewed Elders and was educated by them in oral history and research. At this time, Okanese First Nation called her home, first as a contractor and then elected as Chief. Marie-Anne became Chief Walker of the Okanese First Nation, Treaty 4 Territory in 1981 at the age of 26.

Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier served for 39+ years in her home community and holds esteem not only as the longest consecutive serving female Chief, but also as the longest consecutive serving Chief in all of Canada.

In the early 90’s Chief Walker legally changed her last name to Day Walker to honor her great grandfather, Joseph Day Walker who was a Chief for many years.

Marie-Anne Day Walker- Pelletier has always prioritized eradicating violence, especially involving women, children and elders. She has consistently embarked on projects that address family violence. She believes addressing violence will be foundational to creating safe and healthy communities for everyone.

She is very proud of her roles in the creation of the Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission, the evolution of the TFHQ Safe Shelters, and the Provincial Partnership Committee on Missing Persons.

Chief Day Walker- Pelletier has been the recipient of many awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, the Medal for the Centennial of Saskatchewan, an honorary diploma in Business Administration from SIIT, a member of the Order of Canada and most recently was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.

Marlene Cloud, Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Ontario Representative

Marlene Carmen Cloud is from the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point. Marlene attended the Mohawk Residential School in Brantford, Ontario. After the Residential school, Marlene spent 2 years in the TB sanatorium London Ontario before she was finally able to come home.

Marlene raised 7 children in poverty. But she dreamed of a better life for her children. After raising her children, she went to college at age 50 and earned her Early Childhood Education Diploma from Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario. Marlene worked as an ECE educator in her community until she retired. However, Marlene always wanted the government and the churches that ran the residential schools to be accountable for the abuse and suffering that the students received in the residential schools. She worked alongside a group of survivors to take them to court. The group filed a class action suit and eventually this became known as Cloud (et all) vs Canada. Marlene received the Anishinabek Lifetime Achievement in 2021 for her work on this. Marlene continues to share her story and raise awareness of the residential schools.

Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty, Grand Chief of the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee, Quebec Representative

Mandy Gull-Masty is a member of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi; the second woman elected Deputy Grand Chief, the first woman to be elected Grand Chief in the Cree Nation.

First elected to public office in 2014, she served as Deputy Chief of her home community, the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi.

She has also served as a representative of her community on the Cree Nation Government’s Council.

Mandy successfully pursued an educational path that included Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Sciences and another in Public Affairs and Policy Study from Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs. In addition, she has over 12 years of experience in administration and management, working for various Cree entities and organizations at both the local and regional levels.

She also ventured out as an entrepreneur and for a number of years operated the first female Cree-owned management consulting firm — Kapatakun Consulting — which provided support and services to clients throughout Eeyou Istchee.

In July 2017, Mandy Gull-Masty was elected to a four-year term as Deputy Grand Chief and Vice-Chairperson of the Cree Nation Government. She was pleased to serve Eeyou Istchee in mandates that included Chairmanship of the Eeyou Land Use Planning Commission, Justice Committee Member, and leading the Cree-Quebec Table on Environment and Protected Areas. She is also a member of the Cree Nation Government Executive Committee, a Board member of the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Regional Government, and Honorary Member of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association.

On July 29, 2021, the Cree Nation elected Mandy Gull-Masty to a four-year term as the Grand Chief and Chairperson of the Cree Nation Government.

Rosalie LaBillois, Eel River Bar First Nation, New Brunswick Representative

Rosalie LaBillois is a 24-year-old Mi’gmaw woman from the community Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. Currently a student at Cape Breton University and working as a Youth Engagement Officer for Ulnooweg Foundation. Aside from her studies and work, she is quite active in some leadership roles as being the female youth representative for the NB/PEI region and serving her third term as one of the Co-Chairs for the Assembly of First Nation’s National Youth Council.

Marlene Thomas, Lennox Island First Nation, Prince Edward Island Representative

Marlene Thomas is a Mi’kmaq Elder from the Lennox Island First Nation. Her and her husband Joe have been married for more than 35 years and have a combined total of 9 children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When Marlene was younger she attended the Shubenacadie Residential School which was located in Nova Scotia. When Marlene returned home from the residential school she attended the Indian Day School in Lennox Island and also a boarding school in Tracadie.

Marlene has been involved in many organizations throughout the years and has become a strong advocate for First Nations people. She is the past president of the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI and worked in the area of Native addictions for a number of years.

In July of 2017 Marlene was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Phyllis Googoo, Waycobah First Nation, Nova Scotia & Newfoundland Representative

Phyllis Googoo is a member of the Waycobah First Nation. She and her husband Bernie are the proud parents of three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. As a Mi’kmaw speaker and life-long advocate of the Mi’kmaw language, Phyllis raised her children to be fluent in Mi’kmaq. Phyllis has also always loved teaching. She is a graduate of the Nova Scotia Teachers College and St. Francis Xavier University, and currently works and teaches at the Waycobah First Nation School.

Phyllis is an Assembly of First Nation Regional Elder, and a member of the We’koqma’q Elders Council, the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, and the women’s drum group We’koqma’qewiskwa’q. In 2008, she received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elder Achievement Award recognizing her lifelong contribution to the Mi’kmaw community.

Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, Fort Nelson First Nation, Youth Representative

Taylor Behn-Tsakoza is Eh Cho Dene and Dunne Zaa, and a proud member of Fort Nelson First Nation in Northeast BC, Treaty 8 Territory. Growing up under the guidance of her Mother, Grandparents, and the values of her Nation, Taylor developed a strong passion for her culture, education and sports. After completing her degree in Health and Physical Education in 2020, Taylor returned home to work for her community in the areas of land-based education and renewable energy. Recognizing her role as an emerging leader comes with responsibility and commitment, of which Taylor is ready to take on.

Taylor’s knowledge of her people’s way of life has inspired her to use her voice to engage in dialogue across the province and country about contemporary and historical issues on Turtle Island. The vision of having future generations be in a position that allows greater influence and healing for her people has driven Taylor in her actions, thoughts, and words. Taylor brings her professional and life experiences and passion for creating a culturally-connected, youth-driven future into her role as the Female Youth Representative for BC AFN.

Michelle Schenandoah

Michelle is an inspirational speaker, thought leader and traditional member of the Onʌyota’:aka (Oneida) Nation Wolf Clan of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She presented as a female spiritual advisor to Pope Francis with the First Nations Delegation at the Vatican which prompted his apology regarding abuses at Indian Residential Schools. As a Haudenosaunee woman, she carries the values and responsibilities of being Haudenosaunee throughout her life. Inspired by her grandmothers who led generations of Oneida Nation land claims, Michelle walks in her ancestors’ footsteps to rematriate her people’s lands and bring about the truthful telling of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s global influence on modern democracy and women’s rights.

She is the Founder of the non-profit Rematriation that uplifts Indigenous women’s voices and leadership across Turtle Island. She is the co-founder of Indigenous Concepts Consulting that she co-owns with her husband. Together, they collaborate with corporate, non-profit and film making leaders to integrate Indigenous based values into business and media. A trained lawyer and a visionary for change, Michelle creates space for Indigenous voices to be honored fully with light and love.

Accredited media wishing to report on the 2022 Visit to Canada should visit the official Papal Visit website: Media – Pope Francis in Canada (papalvisit.ca)

For further information, follow the AFN on Twitter: @AFN_Updates.

Celso CercadoPapal Visit