We are pleased to add a new member to our team. Pembina Trails recently welcomed Winston Wuttunee as our official Elder in Residence.
Winston was born in Battleford, Saskatchewan and was the fourth born in a family with seven children. A proud member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Cree was his first language. His full last name was Kinew Wuttunee, which means eagle tail feather, in Cree, but Kinew was dropped to shorten his name.
Growing up he says he was no stranger to racism and discrimination. Despite facing challenges, Elder Winston achieved success that few ever reach. The talented musician, with 17 CDs and two in the works, once opened for Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. He has played music across North America, Europe and Australia and even appeared on Canada's version of Sesame Street. A career highlight was taking the stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall in celebration of Canada’s 100th Birthday.
“When I think about it, I am proud. I am so proud of that. They didn’t call me back, but at least I sang there once,” said Winston with a grin. He is also proud of his 1989 performance at the Grand Opening celebrations of what is now called the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.
Despite all his fame and musical accomplishments, Winston is humble and believes some of his most rewarding work has been connecting with young people. In the early 80s, he taught an Indian Music course at the University of Brandon and helped guide curriculum in Saskatchewan through the Indian Cultural College. Winston also developed two music resources, Aboriginal Headstart Music and Aboriginal Music Course, that are listed in the Learning Resource Centres of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. You will find Elder Winston in Gerald Keuhl's recently-released book, Portraits of the North. Winston and his wife Geri were part of Sheri Moir's book called, Our Drum Story: Carpathia School's Aboriginal Drum Club. The proud grandfather has also somehow found time to present to more than 2,500 schools, universities and conferences across the globe.
In 1974, when he first started recording music, he was nominated for a Juno. In 2002, he became a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, an honour bestowed upon him by the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards (CAMA). In 2008, an APTN biography on the singer called "Kitochikew", meaning the One Who Makes Music, won a CAMA for Best Television Special. In 2013, the Indspire Awards presented him with an award for Culture, Heritage and Spirituality in Saskatoon. Needless to say, these are just a few of the many awards he has received over his career.
The soft-spoken Elder has already been busy working and building relationships with students and staff across Pembina Trails. He reminds everyone,"Our ancestors are always with us in our blood memory. We hear them the loudest in the silence of nature". In the traditional way of an Elder, his wife, Geri, accompanies him wherever he goes and assists him in whatever way she can. His first meeting with our students proved to be a powerful moment.
“When I spoke, everyone just listened and they came over and talked to me because I was part of them,” shared Winston.
Some of his most important work, so far, has been offering guidance, support and cultural teachings to Indigenous students. “I fell in love with a life of helping and I realized I never had a job that made me feel so good as working with these children.”
Winston wants everyone to know that if you see him in the halls of one of our schools or at the administration office, please stop and say hello.
On behalf of our Board of Trustees and Senior Administration, we want to thank Elder Wuttunee for his work with our community.