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Get to Know Elder Betty Ross

May 31, 2022

5-minute read

If you have ever attended a Chamber event or an Advisory Council meeting, you will likely recognize her. Elder Betty Ross is an instrumental part of The Chamber and brings wisdom, cultural teachings and guidance to the work that we do. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to sit down with Elder Betty and learn more about her.

Get to know Elder Betty below!

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce (WCC): Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Photography by Mike Sudoma

Elder Betty Ross (EBR): My name is Elder Betty Ross from Pimicikamak Cree Nation (a.k.a) Cross Lake First Nation. I’m a Residential school survivor of 2 systems, namely: Cross Lake – St.Joseph’s Residential School. 

Assiniboia Residential School in Winnipeg Manitoba. I share my residential school experiences within my 2 storybooks, Sugar Falls-2011, ‘Did You See Us?”-2021. I’m a mother of two sons and two daughters, a grandmother of 15 grandsons, and 12 granddaughters and a great-grandmother of 10 great-grand generations. 

I worked for Health Science Centre as a Cree Interpret/ Resource Worker for 11 years until I was recruited by Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in 2009 to work as a Spiritual Cultural Care Provider for Indigenous Health/ Cultural Initiatives. I retired from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority in 2018, and took long-overdue rest to rejuvenate before travelling to New Mexico, Gathering of Nations, where I danced for Canada. Shortly after returning from the United States, I was recruited again this time by the Seven Oaks School Division as Elder in Residence. I’m currently working for three different schools, specializing in Indigenous Cultural Initiatives for kindergarten to grade 12. I connect with over 300 students monthly and just love my line of work today. I’m also very busy connecting with various community organizations by sharing the true history of residential school experiences. 

WCC: Can you tell us how you became involved with The Chamber?

EBR: On August 25, 2018, I met Jessica Dumas at St. John’s Park after I opened an event with Traditional prayers. She briefly described her work with The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, which sounded so extraordinarily exciting! Shortly after that initial meeting, Jessica invited me to participate in Blanket Experience events. That first experience was so emotional and spiritually motivating– I knew this was where I needed to be.  I felt safe and secure sharing the truths of residential schools to newcomers, professionals and the general public. Journeying back towards time immemorial, retrieving the Truths before colonization felt very challenging but uplifting and rewarding. This is how I became involved with the Chamber. To Jessica Dumas, I say,  Ekosani! Thank you very much!

WCC: You have opened many Chamber events and meetings with a prayer. Can you expand on the importance of opening prayer at events? How has this partnership impacted you?

Photography by Mike Sudoma

EBR: I utilize my first language in opening prayers at Chamber events as a trailblazer and a motivating factor towards empowerment. The importance of my language invokes bridging the gaps of healthy communication and relationship building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Having my Indigenous voice heard in opening prayers creates and helps maintain a partnership and inclusion for people today. This has affected me in a matter of knowing that I am still here today and difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

WCC: Why do you believe Truth and Reconciliation is important within the Winnipeg business community and Winnipeg as a whole?

EBR: I always expound on the significance that Truth must come first before Reconciliation. It is crucial and paramount for the business community and Winnipeg as a whole to accept, acknowledge, adhere to, and adjust to the Truth. Truth is what is embedded within Indigenous history since time immemorial and without truth in business, then it is empty. Because of colonization, we are working extra hard to meet those existing barriers by connecting through knowledge-sharing, helping, and learning together to allow people to move forward toward Truth and Reconciliation. This is instilling hope for the future. Furthermore, having the strength and capacity to journey to the past, and retrieve the truth, traditional knowledge, and wisdom is so crucial to share today. It is truly a historical journey.

WCC: What does Reconciliation stand for or mean today?

Photography by Mike Sudoma

EBR: I am not there yet, I am too preoccupied constructing the meaning of Truth as a concrete foundational platform, strong enough to withhold Reconciliation for our future generations.

Therefore, I took the initiative to gather my generations from ages 5-25 years old in a circle to interpret and identify what Reconciliation means to them.

Some of their responses:
“It’s huge, humongous!”
“The four directions of mankind”
“Circle of courage with Indigenous Pride and Voices!”
“It is you and me, Grandma”
“It’s powerful!”
“It’s today like us and tomorrow not born yet”
“It’s a circle like the whole world Grandma!”
“ It’s a relationship built on trust and truth”
“It’s generational upon generational!”
“It’s a journey for all mankind”

My 7-year-old grandson “The Thinker” stated, “I know, I know Grandma! It is about the light of knowledge… I think it’s called hope… H.O.P.E ”. I think he nailed it! My own Indigenous Generational Voices of today moving forward with these timeless priceless teachings. Do we hear and understand the same concept? Are our voices united as one? I want to be understood and I want the future voices of our generations understood too.

I am honouring my role as an Elder sitting in the North Direction of wisdom today, to bring forward the meaning of Truth first and then Reconciliation from different generations. Because, when the best and brightest come together, the possibilities are endless.

Ekosan! Thank you very much!

In Healing,
Elder Betty Ross

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