Board of Directors & Executive Director
Victoria Sedgwick - President
Victoria Sedgwick, President of VJS Coaching & Consulting provides clients with an effective combination of Indigenous community and corporate expertise.
Victoria has over 36 years of experience specializing in Indigenous engagement, supporting inclusive work environments and community and individual capacity development. The majority of Victoria’s past working years have been spent in the Energy Sector where her focus was on supporting the creation of meaningful, long term relationships, training and education to employment partnerships and healthy life choices awareness initiatives. She has also spent a few years working within the Alberta Justice System supporting our youth gain the foundational life skills to prepare for their transition out of the incarceration systems.
Victoria has a very personal connection to the Indigenous community and is a very proud mother of two and grandmother of four precious grandbabies.
It’s hard to see where Victoria’s work and personal life start and end as she keeps busy connecting with the community, offering her experience and guidance as past Chair for one of the many committees of the now retired Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI); and as a current member of the Canadian Foundation of Aboriginal Relations (CFAR); the Aboriginal Opportunities Committee of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce; member of the Indigenous Advisory Committee supporting Careers: The Next Generation and a long term Senior Associate with the Indian Events Committee - Calgary Stampede. Victoria is currently the President of the Board and Chair of the Personnel Committee for Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society – Emergency Women’s Shelter.
Victoria is a recipient of the Senator Thelma Chalifoux award for supporting Aboriginal Education, to recognize the many years of work she has done to support our youth in furthering their education.
Victoria’s life experiences combined with her work experience gives her a unique and rounded viewpoint that strengthens her ability to bring a diverse, big picture perspective to building sustainable relationships and positive outcome programs.
Gerri ManyFingers - Vice President
Gerri comes from a family with community spirit and involvement. She is a member of the Blood Tribe and from the early age of 8 her community pride guided her interest in social change. Although she did not know the meaning of the words then she knew she would engender change and became an influential Social Entrepreneur. Gerri has 25 years of involvement advocating for healing from family violence and co-founded Awo Taan Healing Lodge and the first Executive Director. She also led the founding of Kainai Women’s Wellness Lodge, Red Crow Student Housing, Moses Lake Community Housing Projects, Blood Tribe Economic Development, and the Indian News Media. Gerri volunteered and provided direction on numerous boards such as the Alberta Human Rights Commission, Vision Network TV, and presently the boards of the Kainai Community Corrections and National Circle Against Family Violence.
Gerri is a recipient of the Esquao awards, YWCA Women of Distinction, the Alberta Centennial Medal and Alberta Human Rights Commission Board appreciation. She is an accomplished Fashion Designer featured throughout North America and Europe. Gerri was commissioned by the Alberta government to produce matching white buckskin coats for Prince Charles and the “Late Lady Diana”, as well as the ambassador of Mexico, Pierre Trudeau and Robin Williams. Gerri is the mother of 5 boys and has enjoyed a 25 year partnership with Donald White. She is also a keen horsewoman, outdoor enthusiast and animal lover.
Teri Matula - Treasurer
Teri is a senior business consultant bringing over 25 years’ experience to Awo Taan in her roles as Treasurer and Chair of the Governance Committee. She works in both the private and public sectors, supporting a variety of companies including energy, utilities and finance. Her specialty is assisting companies in redesign of their business operations and facilitating organizational change to support a long-term or strategic vision. In addition to her project management and business consulting experience, Teri is also a Lean practitioner and Change Manager.
Teri’s connection to the aboriginal community is through her Metis roots, as a descendant from the Papaschase Band near Edmonton. She has grown up seeing and experiencing many of the issues that face the Indigenous community, and is committed to lend her time and skills to help those dealing with Indigenous women’s rights and issues.
Teresa White Quills-Knife – Director
Christine Hutchinson – Director
Christine is a Lawyer at Legal Aid Alberta for the Siksika Justice Department. This is a unique partnership for LLA and Siksika providing LLA services in the community of Siksika. Christine has over 12 years of experience practicing law in Regina, Saskatoon, Tsuu Tina and the Siksika Justice Department. She is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan. Christine graduated from Grade 12 then relocated to Saskatoon to attend the University of Saskatchewan. She received her BA with Distinction in 1998. Prior to attending law school, Christine worked at the Education, Justice and Youth Departments for First Nations and as a Court Worker for the Saskatchewan Court Circuit. While attending Law School, Christine worked as a tutorial instructor with the Native Studies Department in the United States having the opportunity to attend a semester at the Harvard Native American Program in Cambridge, Mass. Christine graduated from law school in 2001, and has practice law in both the private and government sectors, specializing in legal services for First Nations. Christine commenced her position with Legal Aid Alberta (LLA) at the Siksika Nation office in 2007. Christine is married with two children.
Josie Nepinak - Executive Director
Josie Nepinak is the Executive Director of Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society, the only aboriginal urban women’s shelter in Alberta, and has a strong 25 year background steeped in complex, social issues working with Aboriginal organizations and advocating for aboriginal women and families affected by family violence. She has a degree in Women's Studies with a graduate studies in Management. Josie is Anishinabe from the treaty four area and believes in a balanced approach, with teachings of Aboriginal wisdom and healing in combination with contemporary western methodologies in promoting the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals, families and communities. Josie brings focus, clarity, creativity and inspiration to ensure Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society achieves results.
Anett Chicomny Pon - Secretary
Anett was raised in Chatham Ontario and received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Carleton University, Ottawa in 1985. Her majors were Sociology and Psychology with concentration in Criminal Behaviour and Justice. Upon graduation Anett began a career with the federal government in the budget office of Department of National Defense. She worked in various departments as Clerk then Finance officer until 1991, when Anett joined the National Energy Board (NEB) and moved to Calgary that same year. In 1998, Anett began her studies in mathematics and completed a Bachelor of Education at the University of Calgary in 2002. She completed her Masters of Education in 2012. She taught fourteen years at a Treaty 7 Nation high school. Most recently, is working at a local public school Board as a substitute teacher.
Anett volunteered as Interim Member of the Board from October 2013 through June 2015. She is currently a Director as well holds the office of the Secretary to the Board since June 2015.
Alvin Manitopyes - First Nations Advisor
Alvin is a First Nations of Plains Cree and Anishnawbe ancestry and is an enrolled member of the Muskowekwan First Nations, Saskatchewan, Canada. Alvin was raised in a traditional manner and was taught the importance of preserving ancient Indigenous knowledge and interpretation of natural laws according to the teachings of his Elders. Alvin is recognized as an accomplished traditional dancer on the North America pow-wow circuit and has travelled extensively throughout Europe and South America sharing his culture and traditional knowledge. Alvin’s experience and knowledge in traditional healing practices has been utilized by many organizations in particular for staff who desire to understand Indigenous cultures.
He has presented workshops/lectures for numerous environmental and wellness conferences for both mainstreamand Native American audiences throughout North America and abroad. Alvin has considerable experience in advancing the social and economic development of First Nations through designing innovative capacity-building initiatives for several national and community based organizations. Alvin has co-founded several social and educational organizations in Calgary such as the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School. He currently sits on the board of the Awotaan Healing Lodge. Alvin was directly involved in initiating a national Aboriginal training programs sponsored by Eco-Canada. Alvin has functioned in the capacity as an advisor for several National Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations and numerous First Nations leaders in areas of self-government, treaty interpretation, and economic development. Alvin has over 25 years of experience in areas of Aboriginal government programs management, project development and management, community development, corporate strategic planning, international marketing, business development, human resource development, and joint ventures projects associated with resource and environmental development operations on First Nations and Native American tribal lands in North America. Alvin has also been involved in developing Aboriginal community engagement policies for corporations and consultation policies for Indigenous communities. Alvin has worked as a consultant for the Public Health Agency of Canada, Alberta region for 16 years.
Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society is A Women's Emergency Shelter in Calgary, Alberta