69 years old
By Feather Bourque-Jenner, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
Bernadette was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta in the traditional territory of the Cree and Dene. A respected Elder and Knowledge Keeper in her community, as a young child Bernadette loved to sing and dance and speak her native tongue.
With her three sisters and nine brothers, she spent her early years on the shores of Beaver Lake where her father built their cabin. At the age of eight, she was sent to Residential School where she almost lost her language and culture. As a residential school survivor, she has always been an advocate for youth, MMIW, and cultural retention efforts.
Bernadette has sat on many boards and committees over the years, being the voice of her people, bringing awareness to the lasting effects of intergenerational trauma and the importance of preserving culture and identity. As an elected Councilor for the Fort McMurray # 468 First Nation, she served two terms, she has taken on many roles over the years such as a Consultation Coordinator, Cultural and Recreation Director, and a Coordinator regarding Traditional Land Use Studies.
She has taught Native Studies in various capacities; she was a teacher’s assistant and worked closely with children with special needs. She has spoken in classrooms to teachers and students about the Cree language and culture and taught traditional dances. Bernadette has fostered 20 children in her lifetime and is a proud grandmother and great-grandmother.
Bernadette is a talented artist who’s multifaceted in many art forms, as an author who co-wrote Nistawoyou “Where the three rivers meet” and a singer/songwriter of the album “Rising Cree: North American Breed” which has reached over 21 countries. She is a proud traditional dancer and regalia designer and loves to perform the red river jig to give homage to her Métis lineage.
Bernadette created a traditional dance group called the Cree Mountain Dance Group and Drummers, in 2000 and they have performed on special occasions for many years. This group helps the youth express their traditional values and helps those who have faced cultural challenges in residential schools.
Those who have had the pleasure to meet Bernadette can see the light she has around her. Her hard work and dedication to reclaiming and sharing her language and culture are admirable.