Cree and First Nations across Canada are mourning the death of elder Alma Kytwayhat, a senator of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and renowned ambassador of Cree culture, language and tradition.
Funeral services were held on Wednesday September 21 for the 69-year-old, who “passed away peacefully” on Monday September 19, the FSIN said in a statement.
“Senator Kytwayhat did so much work with non-First Nation people teaching them about Cree language, culture and traditions,” FSIN Vice Chief Morley Watson said in the statement. “She also helped teach 7,000 Saskatchewan schoolteachers about the history and meaning of Treaty.”
Originally from Thunderchild First Nation, Kytwayhat moved to Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation when she married, the FSIN said. She was a featured Elder in CTV’s Treaty Message Minutes in 2006, participated in the 100th anniversary of the first opening of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly and the following year served as an Elder on the Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission as well as being appointed to the FSIN senate.
During 21 years she also served as Kohkom (grandmother) to more than 1,000 participants in the Bold Eagle program, an Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification course coordinated by the Canadian Armed Forces that provides military training to aboriginal youth, incorporating aboriginal culture and teachings.
She was a “catalyst of change,” according to her biography at the website of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner’s Speaker’s Bureau. “As an ambassador of a 7,000 year-old history and pipe keeper, Elder Kytwayhat has made connections with the province’s youth, teachers, and leaders to build understanding and a harmonious future for all Saskatchewan citizens.”
Kytwayhat’s numerous awards and recognitions include a place on the Wall of Honor at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., the speaker’s bureau said.
She was mourned nationally as well.
“On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, I offer my thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of FSIN Senator Alma Kytwayhat and the membership of Thunderchild and Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nations,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said in an e-mail to Indian Country Today Media Network. She was “a traditional woman well versed in Cree customs, traditions and languages,” Atleo said, noting that “many people sought her guidance” and calling her advice and knowledge about Treaty matters invaluable.
“She will be greatly missed,” the FSIN said.