Emily Pauline Johnson (also known as Tekahionwake, “double wampum”), poet, writer, artist and performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in Vancouver, BC) was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century.
Katherena Vermette, Métis poet, short-story writer, novelist, filmmaker, teacher (born 29 January 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Métis writer Katherena Vermette is a rising star of Canadian literature. In her poetry, prose and film, she explores some of the most vital issues facing Canada today: the search for identity and the ongoing effects of historical and institutional prejudice. She won the Governor General’s Award in 2013 for her first collection of poems, North End Love Songs, and is the author of the acclaimed 2016 novel The Break.
Richard Wagamese, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) novelist, journalist, mentor (born 4 October 1955 in northwestern ON; died 10 March 2017 in Kamloops, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer in Canada, Wagamese won several awards including the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize (2013) and the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Matt Cohen Award (2015).
Daniel Nicholas Paul, CM, Mi’kmaq elder, author, social justice advocate (born 5 December 1938 on Indian Brook Reserve, NS). Paul is the author of We Were Not the Savages, one of Canada’s first history books from an Indigenous perspective, and has long campaigned for the removal of Halifax’s statue to its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis.
Freda Ahenakew, OC, Cree scholar, author (born 11 February 1932 on the Ahtahkakoop First Nation Reserve in Saskatchewan; died 8 April 2011 at Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan). Ahenakew is recognized as one of Canada’s leaders in the acknowledgment and revitalization of the Cree language in Canada.
Rita Joe (née Rita Bernard), PC, CM, Mi’kmaq poet (born 15 March 1932 in Whycocomagh, NS; died 20 March 2007 in Sydney, NS). Often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people, Rita Joe wrote powerful poetry that spoke about Indigenous identity and the legacy of residential schools in Canada. Her works continue to influence Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists alike.
Dan George, OC, Tsleil-Waututh actor, poet, public speaker (born 24 July 1899 on the Burrard Indian Reserve No. 3 in BC; died 23 September 1981 in North Vancouver, BC). By his film roles and personal appearances, Dan George helped improve the popular image of Indigenous people, often represented in stereotypical ways.
Tomson Highway, CM, playwright, novelist, pianist and songwriter (born 6 December 1951 in northwestern Manitoba). A Member of the Order of Canada and named in Maclean's magazine as one of the 100 most important people in Canadian history, Tomson Highway has proved himself one of Canada’s most prominent and influential writers.
Joseph Boyden, CM, author (born 31 October 1966 in Toronto, ON). Joseph Boyden's work focuses on the historical and contemporary experience of First Nations peoples of Northern Ontario. He became widely known in Canada following the publication of his debut novel, Three Day Road (2005), which won numerous awards and was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2015. Born in Toronto to Blanche and Raymond Wilfrid Boyden, a highly decorated medical officer who served in the Second World War, Boyden has claimed Indigenous heritage through both his father’s and mother’s ancestry. However, he has been accused of misrepresenting himself by those who say his claims cannot be documented or confirmed.2
Thomas King, CM, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, screenwriter, photographer (born 24 April 1943 in Roseville, California). A Member of the Order of Canada and two-time nominee for the Governor General’s Award, King is often described as one of the finest contemporary Aboriginal writers in North America.
Elizabeth Goudie, née Blake, writer (b at Mud Lake, Lab 20 Apr 1902; d at Happy Valley, Lab 10 June 1982). Of Inuit, Indian, French and English ancestry, she married Jim Goudie, a Labrador trapper, in 1920. For 40 years she raised her family and lived the difficult life of a trapper's wife.
Gregory Scofield, poet, playwright, teacher, social worker (b at Maple Ridge, BC 20 July 1966). A Métis of Cree, Scottish, English, French, and Jewish descent, Gregory Scofield was raised by his mother, an aunt, and in several foster homes in northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, and the Yukon.