The Kokum’s Circle is an initiative designed to decolonize WHC's healthcare practices and transition our business model to a traditional Indigenous model. Called ka ta pway yoot (kata pway ya-oot), or 'those who tell the truth', this is an initiative WHC has dreamed of implementing for years. Thanks to the continued efforts of WHC’s staff and leadership team and a generous grant from the federal government, the dream became a reality this year.

Created by Elder Louise McKay and funded by Healthcare Excellence in Canada, we will have one Kokum serving each WHC site. The knowledge and experiences shared by the Kokums will influence WHC’s programs, practices and deliveries of care in an effort to decolonize a portion of the larger health care system WHC is a part of.

Albert McLeod is a status Indian with ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Metis communities of Cross Lake and Norway House in northern Manitoba. He has over thirty years of experience as a human rights activist and was one of the founders of the 2-Spirited People of Manitoba. Albert began his 2Spirit advocacy in Winnipeg in 1986 and became an HIV/AIDS activist in 1987. He was the director of the Manitoba Aboriginal AIDS task force from 1991 to 2001. 

In 2018, Albert received an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Win­nipeg. He was also a member of the sub-working group that produced the MMIWG 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan Report in 2020-2021. In 2020, Albert joined Team Thunderhead, the team that recently won the international competition to design the LGBTQ2+ National Monument in Ottawa. Albert lives in Winnipeg, where he works as a consultant specializing in Indigenous peoples, 2Spirit history and identity, cultural reclamation, and cross-cultural training.

Jeannie White Bird is an enrolled member of Rolling River First Nation. She is honored to have a second community in Selkirk, Manitoba where she’s raised her two young adult children, Asa and Alvina Red Eagle. At nine years old she became part of the federal/provincial policy of forced removals of indigenous children from their families and communities, and was denied her culture and heritage and lost her language in a period known as the Sixties Scoop. Jeannie transformed her lived experience by sharing her truth at the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and intertwined those elements with breathtaking beauty expressed in imagery and stories.

Jeannie is honoured to be part of the Thunderbird Sundance Family along the Southshore of Sagkeeng First Nation. In 2019, Promoting Aboriginal Student Success (P.A.S.S.), Empowering Indigenous Youth, presented Jeannie with a COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP award. She’s also recognized as a LIFELONG KNOWLEDGE KEEPER for the P.A.S.S. Program. Most recently, Jeannie became a first time Kookum to beautiful granddaughter, Cedar (Ozhaawashkwaa Anang/Blue Star) Jones.

Louise McKay is a Traditional Elder and is a descendant of the historic Metis of the Red River Settle­ment in Manitoba. She continues to live in her home community of St. Laurent and speaks her Traditional language of Michif, along with English and French. In 1987 Louise graduated from University of Winnipeg with a BA - double major in Psychology & Justice and Law. Later she completed the Social Work Pre-masters Program, at the University of Manitoba and has completed the MSW course work with her thesis pending. 

Louise has worked in child welfare, justice and law, education, health, women’s issues, addictions, spiritual care and with children and communities in crisis. From 2000-2014 she helped to developed policies, procedures and strategies for the Southern First Nations Child Wel­fare Authority, that guided the return of Indigenous children to their home communities and agencies. Louise believes that Creator promises us all a good life - to achieve that he gave us the medicine wheel which teaches us to live in mental, emotional, physical and spiritual balance. She believes that when we combine our gifts, we more easily find our balance and thus have a more rewarding and full life.

Louise McKay

Margaret Lavallee is an Anishinaabe Ikwe from Sagkeeng First Nation and an Elder in Residence at Ongomiizwin Education from the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing at Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. 

Margaret’s experience comes from over 40 years in varied Human Relations responsibilities within the health care field. Margaret holds a degree in Bachelor of General Studies from Brandon University. She was also honoured by the University of Manitoba, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences 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. Margaret assists with research, classroom presentations, and traditional cultural teachings for both staff and learners.

Margaret Lavallee