June 21, 2024

Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day - Our Team Members and Partners in KCI-NIWESQ Magazine

A promotional banner for National Indigenous Peoples Day by DAWN Canada featuring an electronic tablet displaying the cover from the May issue of KCI-NIWESQ, the Native Women's Association of Canada Magazine. The cover features a photo of Judi Johnny, an Indigenous disability advocate wearing a black jacket and hat. The banner includes a quote from the issue, "Disability is a spectrum, and all human beings will experience some form of it in their lifetimes. But disproportionately more Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people identify as living with disability. Although support for celebrating conditions is a human right, many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis say there are societal actions that prevent them from accessing the assistance that could help them lead normal, happy, and productive lives."

As we commemorate National Indigenous People's Day (June 21), DAWN Canada is proud to highlight the exceptional contributions of our staff and partners who were recently featured in the May Issue of KCI-NIWESQ, the magazine of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC).  

This edition delves into the intersection of Indigeneity and disability, and we are honored to have Evelyn Huntjens, Neil Belanger, and Ena Chadha among those who contributed their insights to this issue. Additionally, we celebrate the memory of Judi Johnny, whose legacy continues to shape our community, with reflections from DAWN’s CEO, Bonnie Brayton


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Honoring Judi Johnny: A Legacy of Advocacy 

Our CEO, Bonnie Brayton, shares her memories of Judi Johnny, a formidable advocate for the rights of disabled people. Judi Johnny, a member of Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw First Nation, was a proud feminist and a residential school survivor. She founded the feminist disability collective "Women With Wings" in Whitehorse, advocating for the leadership of Indigenous women with disabilities. Judi’s tireless fight for equality and accessibility has left a lasting impact on our community. 

Judi Johnny’s story highlights the urgent need for systemic change to support all individuals, regardless of their abilities. Her legacy challenges us to work towards an inclusive and truly accessible society where every person can live with dignity and respect, free from systemic barriers. 

Evelyn Huntjens: Championing Indigenous Initiatives 

Evelyn Huntjens, Director of Indigenous Initiatives at DAWN Canada, has been instrumental in amplifying the voices of Indigenous women living with disabilities. Her dedication to creating support networks and mentoring programs within remote communities ensures that cultural links and community bonds remain strong, despite existing barriers. Evelyn’s efforts are crucial in addressing the unique needs of Indigenous peoples with disabilities and fostering environments where they can thrive. 

Neil Belanger: Bridging Gaps in Disability Services 

Neil Belanger, Chief Executive Officer of Indigenous Disability Canada and the B.C. Aboriginal Network on Disability Society, has been a vocal advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples with disabilities. His work highlights the disparities in disability rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, focusing on the root causes such as diet, poverty, and systemic racism in healthcare. Neil's advocacy is pivotal in pushing for equitable access to necessary health services and support systems for Indigenous communities. 

Ena Chadha: Advancing Human Rights 

Ena Chadha, Board Member of DAWN Canada and former Interim Chief Commissioner of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, brings attention to the compounded mistreatment and systemic discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples with disabilities. Her work underscores the importance of recognizing disability as a fundamental human right and ensuring that protections are upheld at all levels. Ena's contributions are vital in the ongoing fight for a more inclusive and accessible society for all. 


As we celebrate this special day, we honor the contributions of these remarkable individuals and reaffirm our commitment to advancing the rights and well-being of Indigenous peoples with disabilities.