Gwich’in Elder Sarah Jerome has been appointed to the national Historic Sites and Monuments Board until 2026.
The board, which advises the federal government on “national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked history in Canada,” is made up of representatives from each of the provinces and territories.
There are also board members from Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, and Parks Canada.
Jerome told Cabin Radio she is excited to represent residents of the Northwest Territories and its Indigenous peoples. Throughout her term, she said, she wants to remind the Canadian government about its commitment to working with Indigenous groups in the country.
“I’m probably one of the first Aboriginal people to sit on this board. I hope to bring the Indigenous perspective not only to the board, but to the Government of Canada,” she said.
“I want to share with Canada that we came from a strong background, a proud nation where we were living on the land with our parents and extended family, grandparents, and our leadership.
“They entrusted the traditional knowledge to us in the hopes of us carrying it forward into the future, for our future leaders, to our children or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, so that they know how to survive on the land with all the protocols of respecting the land, people, animals, everything.”
Jerome teaches Indigenous knowledge to youth in Inuvik, including a program which “explores educational pursuits, genealogy, language and culture,” a biography of Jerome reads.
Jerome was previously a member of the same board in the mid-1980s.
She was the N.W.T.’s language commissioner from 2009 until 2013 and has served on the Porcupine Caribou Management Committee and Gwich’in Renewable Resource Council. She helped to develop the Indigenous curriculum that is taught in N.W.T. schools.
Jerome said that work had involved her in many discussions about how to incorporate Indigenous culture in the territory and the importance of language revitalization.
“It takes a whole community to teach a child, they say. Even as an Elder, I feel that I need to move forward and learn as much as I can about how the government still operates today and how can we include that Indigenous perspective into the work that they’re doing,” she said.
“Now we’re sort-of educating people right across the board to make them understand where we’re coming from and why First Nations need to be involved with whatever decisions, whatever kind of work the government is doing right across Canada.”
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio