The term “witness” is a reference to the Indigenous principle of witnessing, which varies among First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Through witnessing by honoured and respected guests, the event or work that is undertaken is validated and provided legitimacy. 

Four witnesses from the UM Indigenous community who represent Elders, faculty, students and staff will bring the MomentUM launch history back to their internal and external communities and inspire their peers to sew Reconciliation into discussions and actions as it has been woven into the strategic plan.


The witnesses will bring today’s history back to their internal and external communities and inspire their peers to sew Reconciliation into discussions and actions just as it has been woven into the strategic plan.

  • Elder Margaret Lavallee.
  • Elder Margaret Lavallee

    Lavallee is Anishinaabe Ikwe from Sagkeeng First Nation. She is Elder-in-Residence at Ongomiizwin Education - Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. She was also honoured by the University of Manitoba with an honorary doctorate degree for her lifelong work for the Indigenous community in the health care field.

    Margaret’s role as Elder-in-Residence for the last 17 years ensures Indigenous knowledge and world views are incorporated into all levels of student support at the University of Manitoba.

  • Dr. Leo Baskatawang.
  • Dr. Leo Baskatawang

    Dr. Baskatawang is an Anishinaabe scholar from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation in Treaty 3 territory and an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba and is the author of Reclaiming Anishinaabe Law: Kinamaadiwin Inaakonigewin and the Treaty Right to Education.

  • Nicki Ferland.
  • Nicki Ferland (she/they)

    Ferland is a two-spirit Métis wife, mother and aunty living in Winnipeg. Nicki is descended from scrip-bearing Métis families with ancestral roots in St. Vital and St-Boniface in Winnipeg and Lorette, Manitoba. Nicki is a Community Engaged Learning Coordinator (Indigenous) at UM where she facilitates urban land-based education, and she is also a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan.

  • Ishkode Catcheway.
  • Ishkode Catcheway

    Catcheway is proud to be Anishinaabe from Minegoziibe (Pine Creek First Nation). She is graduating in spring 2024 with a Bachelor of Health Studies degree with a minor in Anishinaabemowin and a focus in Family Health. She has recently been accepted into the Masters of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. Her involvement on campus includes University of Manitoba Students' Union, University of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association (UMISA), the Indigenous Circle of Empowerment and the Neechiwaken Peer Mentor program. One of her most significant contributions as the Indigenous Students’ Representative is her work on the development of the UMISA Lounge – a safe space on campus for Indigenous students. She is the recipient of the Manitoba Indigenous Youth Achievement Award (Health South), a UM Honouring our Indigenous Campus Community award, a UM Emerging Leader Award, and of an Indspire Building Brighter Futures award.

Witness testimonials

Elder Margaret Lavallee

As a witness, I think it's important that we attended this event to have some ideas on what the university would like to see happen, especially where Indigenous students are concerned because, for me, that's the most important. What's important is that they always feel comfortable and safe here without racism. That's one of the things that we have to look at in all faculties, not only our places where there are a lot of Indigenous students. I think all faculties have to realize that we belong here too; I think that’s important.

I really enjoyed the (MomentUM launch) event. I love the speakers that spoke about five years down the road of what the plan is going to be, and it's important to have all of the people that witnessed it and the ones that are supportive of our new Vice-President (Indigenous) Angie Bruce and her role. I think it is very important for the Elders to always be by her side and support her for her work in changing things here because that's what we need. We need big change.

I think if we, as a witness, continue to work at a community level with our communities talking about reserves and giving them the knowledge of what is available for students to come here and feel welcome and feel safe. That's one of the key things that has to happen.

Dr. Leo Baskatawang

My role as a witness to the unveiling of the University of Manitoba's five-year Strategic Plan is one in which I have read the plan and have also listened to the administration's pledge to execute the plan in good faith and solidarity with UM faculty, staff, and students, in addition to all other communities within the province of Manitoba at large. Over the next five years, I see my role as a witness to the Strategic Plan evolving to not only staying informed, but also being included in the implementation process, and eventually being a leader in holding the university accountable to the obligations and commitments it has undertaken here today.

The big take away from the (MomentUM launch) event was seeing the university's dedication to process, especially as that relates to Reconciliation. The university went through a rigorous consultation process with various stakeholders to identify its institutional goals over the next five years and the principles that will be adhered to in accomplishing those goals.

As an Indigenous person who happens to be a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, the message I will bring to the various communities I work with is that the University of Manitoba is deeply committed to serving all the communities it is already associated with, as well as expanding its community outreach. In addition to that, I think people need to know that the University of Manitoba recognizes its role in being an institutional leader in the province of Manitoba, which involves setting a good example for all other institutions to follow – not just academic ones, but also governmental agencies and private corporations as well – especially as that relates to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with Indigenous communities.

Nicki Ferland

My role as witness includes sharing the university’s new strategic vision and plan with peers and colleagues, and helping my communities implement UM’s commitment to Reconciliation within our working, teaching and learning environments.

The university has launched an ambitious framework driven by a new strategic vision that acknowledges the value of Indigenous knowledges and commits to Reconciliation. By embedding Reconciliation in the plan and recognizing Indigenous knowledges in our new vision, we are demonstrating a commitment to indigenize and decolonize our campuses, curriculum and work processes, which will have positive influences on the wellbeing of Indigenous staff, faculty and students.

One of the main messages that I will bring to my communities about UM’s plan is that the university sees Reconciliation as a strategic priority, that our work, research and studies can and will be enriched by Indigenous knowledges. The broad nature of the plan provides units and faculties with space to make meaningful change in their own working, learning and teaching contexts.

Ishkode Catcheway

I see my role as witness to ensure institutions are not throwing around land acknowledgments and buzz words like ‘Reconciliation’ and to hold them accountable as much as I can.

My main takeaway from the (MomentUM launch) event was the affirmation from the university towards Reconciliation. That they are taking it seriously and will work hard towards their goals outlined in the strategic plan, which a lot of hard work must have gone into.

My message to my communities will be to continue to gain their feedback on what they think the university should be focusing on to further advance towards a true Reconciliation. Too often, Reconciliation is used as a buzz word and I will talk to those around me to ensure the university is not just using it because that is the word that is popular at this time.