Kêhtê-ayak is Cree for "Old Ones." Kêhtê-ayak need to find their place again across the sacred fire and have a space to share their knowledge, wisdom and teachings in how things were traditionally practiced. As Indigenous people we need to reclaim our identity by addressing how we see ourselves, a picture which has become distorted through the lens of colonization. Our Kêhtê-ayak have a vital role to play in seeing this happen.
iEmergence Saskatchewan is grateful to be guided by the wisdom of the following Kêhtê-ayak:
May Desnomie is a proud Nehiyaw Iskwew, a proud Cree woman. She is a mother of 4 intelligent grown children and kokum and capan to 20 amazing grand and great-grandchildren. Been married for 49 years to a wonderful man from Peepeekisis Cree Nation in Treaty 4 Territory. May was born and raised in the small hamlet of Sandy Bay, SK. Her education started on a trapline situated along the shores of the mighty Churchill River. The land is of the Canadian Shield, with forests, waterways and rock formations. Her ancestors on both sides of her family, had survived off this land since time immemorial. They intimately knew the land, the waters, the animal, the plants and all of the immediate creation. All her family and the community members spoke only the Cree language and practiced the Cree culture. At age 6, May was taken away by the local priest and taken to the Guy Hill Indian Residential School in The Pas, Manitoba, 300 kms away. She was removed from her family, friends and community members; removed from her environment; and from the teachings of her community, family and elders. She spent her elementary schooling at the residential school from Grade 1, age 6 to Grade 9, age 14. She went to Notre Dame College, Wilcox, SK for grades 10 and 11, completing her high school and graduating from E.D. Feehan High School in Saskatoon. She attended the University of Saskatchewan and attained her B.Ed. Teaching degree. Her husband, also a teacher and May lived and taught at various urban, rural and First Nation communities – Prince Albert, Red Earth First Nation, Saskatoon, Grassy Narrows Ojibway Nation, Peepeekisis First Nation and Regina, SK. She has been working as a kêhtê-aya (Old One) or as she calls herself a ‘visiting kokum’ and interacting with elementary and high school students at various schools. She is also a Life Skills Coach and a childcare counsellor at a woman’s shelter. She also does presentations and speaks on Indigenous issues.
Brenda Dubois is a mother and grandmother (kokum), from Muscowpetung First Nation. She has worked extensively in the areas of Child welfare, Human justice, and environmental issues. She is an advocate for education and vulnerable peoples. Brenda believes that practicing culture and traditions is important for people to continually learn and evolve. She has contributed to many community building initiatives including Northern Survival Gathering, Peyakowak, Family Support Centre, and the Randall Kinship Centre. “I consider it a great honor to be placed in such a position to mentor youth and young adults from a variety of cultures, for we are all one human race.”