About the author
I am a registered and claimed member of the Metis Nation of Ontario (www.metisnation.org), the federally and provincially recognized representative government for our community. Specifically, I am from the Historic Métis Community of Sault Ste. Marie and hold section 35 Indigenous rights. Many of my family are also registered and claimed members. The family names in which hold my Metis ancestry are Pilon, Beaudry, Tranche, and Couturier. My family line is one of the verified root ancestor lines documented and recognized by the MNO.
My grandpa was Wilbert Couturier, born in May of 1939 to Ida and Douglais Couturier. My entire life my grandparents lived up the road from and I saw them almost every day until my grandpa passed in 2005. He was my best friend and so much of his influence shines through in my work and writing. He taught me many things about our history, our culture, and our future. During his childhood him and his siblings were shamed for his identity. There was fear around who they were and as such he was not allowed to learn the languages his father spoke. The language my family spoke died with my great grandfather, the last fluent speaker of what we believe to be (through family stories and history) Anishinaabemowin.
Douglais Couturier was born to Marie Pilon. My grandfather was close to his grandmother when he was a child and told stories of her kindness. She is the only person documented to be born in a canoe and spent many hours, days, and weeks on canoe voyages with her father who was the manager of the HBC post at Lac La Cloche. My family line includes the territories of Fort William (Thunder Bay), Shebononing, and Sault Ste. Marie, and my ancestors Metwaikemekenang and Marie Pilon both received treaty annuities through the Tahgaiwenene Band (now Wahnapitae First Nation).
I grew up with many stories of our families connection to the fur trade, our days of trapping, and it is from these stories that my love for dogsledding was born. I also grew up with a mixed family, many of my cousins are First Nations and Metis, and being that I had a big family with lots of cousins who spent time living with me or living with my grandparents, we spent a lot of time together and a lot of my inspiration, stories, and identity comes from being a blended family of blended backgrounds - as well as wanting to write stories that center my nieces and nephews.
After my grandfather died I found many ways to connect with culture and honour his memory. I did my degree in Indigenous studies as it offered me a way to both learn about my history but also help me advance my education and help make change for Indigenous communities. I’ve spent the last 10+ years working and living in Indigenous communities and supporting the next generation (minus the two years I did in England to connect with my other roots!). Our identity does not only come from what our blood is, but it also comes from the people we meet, the places we live, and what we see and experience. So many of my stories are written for the youth I meet and the communities I am a part of; and so a lot of my writing is a blend of my own culture and theirs. I am very blessed to have a network of incredible Indigenous folks who help to review and guide my stories as they take on this blend of cultures. I am beyond thankful to them. I am also beyond thankful to have been a part of multiple Indigenous communities as I took on a nomadic lifestyle. All of the people I have met have worked to shape my identity and have inspired so much of my advocacy.
I am a storyteller. I am not a politician, elected official, nor do I speak on behalf of anyone other than myself. I try to make space for experts in their fields to speak and spend a lot of time critically thinking about my role and if I am the best fit before I take on any work or speaking engagements. I try my best to support and amplify other Indigenous folks, especially youth, as well as put funds back into community and the Indigenous economy. I am very opinionated and will advocate for the Indigenous causes that I am passionate about; but I do not claim to be an expert nor am I beyond making mistakes. I do the best I can to create a better future for Indigenous kids, that is always my goal.
Photography by Story Thornburn Photography
My first sled dog Storm - the year we won the Bon Soo dog pull in 2005 (I was 12) - My grandpa got me my first real sled that year
My grandpa and me