Mission & Vision
CIER supports Indigenous people and communities to be leaders of positive environmental change, using the best of Western and Indigenous knowledge to create a world that is in balance and supports the well-being of all living things.
CIER is Canada’s first and only Indigenous-directed environmental non-profit charitable organization. CIER was founded in 1995 by 10 First Nation Chiefs from across Canada. These leaders recognized the need to build technical environmental capacity within Indigenous communities, so they have the tools they need to protect and sustainably use their lands and waters, regardless of whether non-Indigenous governments agree that they can — or should. Since 1995, CIER has worked on 450 projects with over 300 Indigenous nations across Canada.
How we work
CIER focuses on meeting Indigenous nations’ needs, as they define them. We change the world by listening to and enabling, our First Nations partners to build on their strengths. We use and value traditional, local, and Western science methods, and work across political boundaries and cross-cultural settings on environmental issues, recognizing and respecting Indigenous rights.
CIER’s team members are based in BC, MB, ON, and NWT. Staff are Indigenous as well as non Indigenous, as CIER leadership has always recognized that solving environmental challenges requires many different perspectives and worldviews. CIER is governed by an Indigenous Board of Directors and we collaborate with numerous national and regional Indigenous partner organizations and advisors.
CIER does not receive core funding from any sources, government or corporate. All of CIER’s funding is secured on a project-by-project basis through donations, grants and contracts from foundations, government department funding programs, corporations, corporate foundations and private donors. We work with our project partners to determine which sources of funding they are comfortable with accepting, and as such, the pursuit of funds differs from community to community and project to project.
Board of Directors
B.A. (Manitoba), LL.D. (Brock), LL.D. (R.M.C.), LL.D (Windsor), LL.D (Lakehead)
Larry Phillip Fontaine, Anishinabe from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, is an exemplary leader with a proven track record of getting results in the advancement of First Nations people and recognition of Treaty/Aboriginal rights at the local, regional and national levels.
In July 2006, Phil Fontaine was re-elected to his third term as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, with a strong mandate to improve the lives of First Nations people through the Getting Results agenda. The results:
- First Nations Political Agreement on Indian Residential Schools – negotiation of a $4 billion federal compensation package on behalf of 86,000 former students, along with the establishment of a truth and reconciliation process;
- First Nations Political Accord on the Recognition and Implementation of First Nations Government – addressing broad issues of self-government, a new fiscal transfer system, implementation of Treaties and restoration of lands and resource rights;
- AFN Renewal Commission – 47-recommendation report on improving the political structure of the AFN, including a universal First Nations vote for National Chief;
- First Ministers Meeting on the Future of Health Care – securing a $700-million investment for Aboriginal health and ongoing efforts for the control and administration by First Nations;
- First Ministers Meeting on Aboriginal Issues – First Nations-led discussions at the First Ministers Meeting in Kelowna saw federal, provincial and territorial leaders agree to a 10-year challenge to eradicate First Nations poverty in Canada.
Phil was first elected as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in 1997. During his term, he helped negotiate the federal government’s Statement of Reconciliation [in response to the Royal Commission’s Report on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)], First Nations involvement in the federal government’s Clarity Bill, and the development of the Certified General Accountants of Canada’s Memorandum of Understanding. He helped build bridges between Indigenous people of North America through the Declaration of Kinship and Cooperation and was the first Native leader to address the Organization of American States. His belief in creating an inclusive Assembly of First Nations ensured that all information was accessible in both French and English languages for the first time.
Following his term, Phil was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission. During this time, he oversaw the resolution of an outstanding 1907 land claim that resulted in a $94.6 million settlement for Kahkewistihaw First Nation of Saskatchewan.
Phil’s political career began as a youth activist with the Canadian Indian Youth Council. At the age of 28, he was first elected Chief of Sagkeeng, serving two consecutive terms. Under his leadership, the community was the first to establish three milestones among Canada’s First Nations – a locally controlled education system, child and family services, and the first on-reserve alcohol treatment centre.
Motivated by his dedication to his people, Phil’s next stop in his career path was to take a different approach, by becoming Regional Director-General of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) in the Yukon. He next completed a degree in Political Science at the University of Manitoba in 1980, before becoming a special advisor for the Southeast Resource Development Council.
Phil’s passion for improving the lives of his people led him back to politics, where he was elected for three consecutive terms as Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Working with Manitoba’s First Nations, Grand Chief Fontaine played a key role in the development of Manitoba’s Framework Agreement Initiative, the signing of an Employment Equity Agreement with 39 federal agencies, and in the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord. As Grand Chief, he was the first Aboriginal leader to publicly expose the shocking abuses that existed in secrecy within the Indian residential school system by sharing his personal experiences during his 10 years at these federally-run schools.
In recognition of his many accomplishments, Phil has been awarded Honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from Royal Military College, Brock University, the University of Windsor and Lakehead University. He was made a Member of the Order of Manitoba in 2004. In 2005, Phil was selected number one as the Top 50 Capital People of 2005 by Ottawa Life Magazine. One of his greatest honours came from this own people when he received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his work in the public service.
Throughout his political career, Phil has remained closely connected to his culture and traditions, and is a fluent speaker of the Ojibway language. A family man, he is the proud father of two children and Mishoom to five grandchildren. In his spare time, Phil enjoys listening to music and is an avid runner.
Peigi L. Wilson
Peigi L. Wilson
Peigi is Métis. She was raised in Dundas, Ontario. She guided and taught canoeing to help pay for university, where she earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts Double Major in History and Political Science from the University of Western Ontario in 1984 and a law degree from the University of Victoria in 1990.
In 1992, following her call to the Bar of Ontario, Peigi moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where she wrote for business and legal publications on Thai business and environmental law. In 1994, Peigi moved to Nairobi, Kenya where she worked at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Environmental Law Centre. At UNEP, Peigi focused on international trade and water law. While overseas, she traveled extensively throughout Asia and Africa.
Upon her return to Canada in 1998, Peigi turned her focus to national law and policy, working for one year each at Indian and Northern Affairs and Environment Canada. She joined the Assembly of First Nations in 2000, serving from 2004-2006 as the Director of Environmental Stewardship.
Over the years, Peigi has worked on a wide variety of Aboriginal, international, and environmental issues. At the international level, in addition to trade and water law, Peigi has worked on issues of climate change, biological diversity, hazardous wastes, respect for traditional knowledge, and intellectual property rights. At the federal level, Peigi has supported the reform of all major environmental laws to ease their negative impact on Aboriginal peoples, and the implementation of law that respects Aboriginal peoples’ rights and interests.
Peigi is currently pursuing a Master of Laws at the University of Ottawa and does freelance environmental research and writing. She lives in Ottawa and at Crow Lake, Ontario with her husband.
Mr. Augustine, a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick, was Chief of Eel Ground First Nation from 1980 to 1996. Prior to that, he served on council for four years. The AFN Regional Chief for First Nation communities in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, he has been involved in politics, economic development, and the environment for over 30 years.
During his time as a community leader, Mr. Augustine co-founded the Atlantic Policy Congress (APC), which is the political voice for First Nations Chiefs in Atlantic Canada. He also co-founded the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council. In 1981, Mr. Augustine was one of several dozen representative Chiefs from across Canada who signed the historic 1981 Declaration of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
Mr. Augustine considers one of his greatest career accomplishments to be in the field of addictions treatment. After receiving specialized credentials from St. Francis Xavier University in Drug and Alcohol Education, Mr. Augustine made enormous strides in dealing with addiction in his community by introducing a curriculum for Eel Ground Federal School. During his tenure as Chairman of National Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board he received several awards in his field. He is still chairman of the Rising Sun Treatment Centre at Eel Ground. He is also a trained mediator (Alternative Dispute Resolution, University of Waterloo), a member of the ADR Institute of Ontario, and has used his skills in crisis response situations.
In 1995, Mr. Augustine successfully negotiated a $90 million partnership between eight New Brunswick First Nations communities and U.S. lumber companies. Two years later, the First Nations received a $2.5 million profit.
– in development
Kristy is located in Red Lake, ON: Treaty 3 territory, the territory of the Anishinaabeg Nation, and within the English River Watershed.
Kristy is in the process of completing a MSc in Soil Science, and much of her graduate work has involved working on a safe drinking water security research initiative in several Indigenous communities. As part of this work, Kristy has established a study method and design, prepared ethics proposals, organized meetings with various Chief and Councils, designed a job advertisement for a community researcher position, gathered and analyzed household water survey data collaboratively with three Indigenous Communities on drinking water security, prepared reports for Chief and Council, created and distributed summary of results to individual homes, and has presented results to community members and the general public.
Kristy loves how her activities change with the seasons we have here in Canada. Spring is her time to plan the garden and get out on her bicycle. Summer and fall is when she gets to enjoy harvesting from her garden, picking berries, hunting with her family, and canning food with whoever will help her. Winter is best spent with several creative projects and a few adventures out on the frozen lakes to spend time with loved ones and fish.
Kate is located in Hamilton, Ontario: on the traditional territories of the Erie, Neutral, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Mississaugas.
Kate has been a member of the CIER team for seven years, and currently provides support as a Senior Project Manager.
With over eighteen years’ experience working with Indigenous communities, she has gained a diverse skill set in community engagement strategies, facilitation and collaboration techniques, and analytical skills to solve complex problems. She has led a range of projects from local to national in scale and across diverse thematic areas, including water, waste, climate change, and biodiversity. Kate has a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo; and, a bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Native Studies from Trent University.
When she is not at her desk, you will find Kate spending time outdoors, curled up with a good book, or planning her next trip.
Richard has worked as a Research Associate at CIER since January 2020. His previous experience includes working in non-profit, consulting, and public sector roles, including the Management Internship Program with the Government of Manitoba, data analysis for Coast Funds on the BC coast, and agricultural extension work in Malawi.
In addition to working at CIER, Richard currently serves as Coordinator of the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW). Richard graduated from the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University in 2019 with a Master of Resource Management (Planning) degree, where his research focused on watershed co-governance in British Columbia. Richard also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Political Studies and History from the University of Manitoba.
Richard enjoys paddling and spends much of his spare time exploring Manitoba’s backcountry lakes and rivers.
Hannah is located near Winnipeg, Manitoba: Treaty 1 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations, in the Lake Winnipeg Basin
Hannah graduated from the Creative Communications program at Red River College, where she discovered a passion for working with non-profits.
Hannah has 5 years of experience working in Communications and Social Media Management and has been working with and for non-profits since 2016. Hannah has worked with CIER since 2019 and permanently joined as a staff member in May 2021. Although she majored in advertising while attaining her Creative Communications Diploma from Red River College, she also received training in public relations, journalism, design, and audio and video editing.
Hannah supports CIER projects by increasing public knowledge and awareness of CIER solutions, tracking engagement and interest in projects, and connection virtually with interested individuals and organizations.
When Hannah is away from her desk, she can usually be found spending time with her cat Po, often trying new food, watching local theatre, or playing video games.
Melissa is located in Cobourg, ON: the traditional and treaty territory of the Michi Saagiig (Mississauga) and Chippewa Nations, collectively known as the Williams Treaties First Nations, in the Lake Ontario Basin.
Melissa has 10 years of experience in the Environmental and Government/Aboriginal relations field; 6 years working directly with First Nation communities. Melissa joined CIER in May 2021. She is Métis and grew up in Lac du Bonnet and Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has attained a B.A. in Law from Carleton University and an LL.B. from the University of Ottawa. In 2006, she successfully completed the Bar Admission Course and articled at the Indian Claims Commission of Canada. She is a member of the Law Society of Ontario.
Melissa is currently one of CIER’s Research Associates. She is responsible for delivering projects related to CIER’s thematic areas (Water, Climate Change and Energy, Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity, Youth, Indigenous Food, and Sustainable Waste Management) and developing and maintaining collaborative initiatives and partnerships with Indigenous communities, government agencies, private sector companies, philanthropic and charitable organizations, non-profits and academic institutions.
In her free time Melissa enjoys reading biographies, photography and watching documentaries about different communities and cultures around the world. She also loves exploring the outdoors year-round with her two children and her dog.
Kate is located on the unceded territory of the Northern Secwepemc teQelmucw and Tsilhqot’in.
Kate (Kat) has 16 years of experience in the Natural Resources Management field with specific interest in Wildlife Management and Conservation Planning. Kate has 5 years working directly with First Nation communities in British Columbia and previously served the role of Co-Chair and Mentor of the First Nations – B.C. Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum. She has attained a H.B.A. in Human Geography and Social-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Toronto, and two advanced diplomas in Ecosystem Management from Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario. Kate has also achieved a variety of certifications including Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation and RISC Archaeology & CMT Inventory Training for Crew Members.
Kate began the position of Project Manager at CIER in September, 2021. She is responsible for delivering and facilitating projects related to CIER’s thematic areas of Climate Change and Energy, Traditional Knowledge, and Biodiversity as they relate to collaborative initiatives and partnerships with Indigenous communities and various stakeholders. When she is not working, Kate enjoys international and local volunteering with non-profit wildlife organizations (including ones in South Africa and The Bahamas) and loves all aspects of music, including writing songs, playing instruments, and listening to a variety of genres.
Kathy is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Treaty 1 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations, in the Lake Winnipeg Basin
Kathy is a dedicated administrator, she is proactive and strategy minded, driven to efficiently amass accurate and relevant information that enhances CIERs ability to achieve its mission. As Finance & Administration, Kathy’s focus is on supporting CIER staff to ensure their projects are on time and within budget. She is responsible for ensuring all steps of project full cycle accounting activities are complete and that expectations of all internal and external stakeholders are met. Kathy has 20+ years of experience and holds certificates in Applied Financial Management & Accounting, Accounting and Applied Management.
As Kathy has a passion for cooking, when she is not at her desk working you can likely find her in the kitchen.
Ken is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Treaty 1 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations, in the Lake Winnipeg Basin.
Ken has over 30 years of experience in the for-profit and non-profit sectors as a senior level communications professional. A creative and strategic leader with a passion for problem solving and relationship building. An imaginative, big-picture thinker who thrives on shaping unique, emotive, and strategic creative solutions. Insightful communication skills contribute to successful relationships and project outcomes. A dynamic, multitasking project manager that delivers efficiently from strategy to tactics.
Ken enjoys the serenity of being close to nature right in his own backyard on the Seine River with his spouse Deborah. Frequent visitors include deer, groundhogs, rabbits and raccoons. He enjoys travelling to see family and close friends in the United States and learning different cultures of foreign lands. Cuba is a favourite spot with frequent visits creating close and longstanding friendships with two families. He is a camera geek who enjoys street photography and capturing a moment in time. Witty and loves puns, even though others don’t.
Shianne is located in Brandon, Manitoba: Treaty 2 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations.
Shianne has 14 years of experience in the Environmental Conservation Sciences field; 13 years working directly with First Nation communities. Shianne joined CIER in September 2009. She is Ojibway and a member of the Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba. She has attained a B.Sc. in Environmental and Conservation Sciences with a major in Conservation Biology from the University of Alberta. In 2013, she received a certificate in Indigenous Women in Community Leadership from the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.
Shianne is currently one of CIER’s Senior Project Managers. She is responsible for all stages in developing and delivering projects related to CIER’s thematic areas (Water, Climate Change and Energy, Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity, Youth, Indigenous Food, and Sustainable Waste Management) and developing and maintaining collaborative initiatives and partnerships with Indigenous communities, government agencies, private sector companies, philanthropic and charitable organizations, non-profits and academic institutions.
In her free time, Shianne enjoys being outdoors with her family- hiking, camping, fishing, and having large family picnics or potlucks. She truly is at home in the kitchen or bush campfire and loves to cook and bake.
Michael is the principal of North Raven where he works collaboratively on water protection and governance, renewable energy development, building efficient government, expediting land claims and strategic planning. As MLA and Minister of numerous portfolios in the Government NWT, his roles have been diverse, reflecting his broad interest in bettering the lives of northerners. He is a co-convener of the Collaborative Leadership Initiative in Manitoba. He is a member of the Forum for Leadership on Water and now advises indigenous governments, and private, public, and NGO sector clients on environmental and Indigenous issues.
Anita is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Treaty 1 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations, in the Lake Winnipeg Basin.
Anita is a soon to be graduate of M.Sc. program in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Manitoba. Her thesis work provided her with 3 years of experience working with First Nation communities for their community drinking water and neighboring source water.
Anita joined CIER in September 2021. She is a member of the Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba with roots in Fisher River Cree Nation. She has attained a B.Sc. in General Sciences focused on Biology and Microbiology from the University of Manitoba in 2018.
Anita is currently one of CIER’s Research Associates. In her role she supports delivery on projects related to CIER’s thematic areas (Water, Climate Change and Energy, Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity, Youth, Indigenous Food, and Sustainable Waste Management) and maintaining collaborative initiatives and partnerships with Indigenous communities, government agencies, private sector companies, philanthropic and charitable organizations, non-profits and academic institutions.
Outside of work, Anita is preparing for the next powwow season as a jingle dress dancer. Her hobbies include traditional and contemporary beadwork, sewing regalia and ribbon skirts, and spending time with her family.
Merrell-Ann Phare is a lawyer, author and the founding Executive Director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, a national First Nation charitable environmental organisation. Merrell-Ann is a Commissioner of the International Joint Commission and co-convener of the Collaborative Leadership Initiative in Manitoba. She was Chief Negotiator on behalf of the Government of the NWT in their negotiation of transboundary water agreements in the Mackenzie River Basin and for the creation of Thaidene Nene, a national and territorial park in the east arm of Great Slave Lake. She is a member of Smart Prosperity, the Forum for Leadership on Water and is a recipient of the Clean 50 Award. She is legal counsel and advisor to a number of First Nation governments and regularly speaks on governance, water, and rights issues.
Wendy is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba: Treaty 1 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota, and Oji-Cree Nations, in the Lake Winnipeg Basin
Wendy is from Treaty 5 and family ties to Pimicikamak (Cross Lake), Kinosao Sipi (Norway House) and Makeso Sakahikan (Fox Lake) which are located along the Kischi Sipi (Nelson River). She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts in Native Studies examining the political history, governance & hydro development within Pimicikamak homelands. Prior to working at CIER, Wendy was the program coordinator for the NSERC CREATE H2O Program at the University of Manitoba whose focus was to train graduate students in sciences and engineering to work with First Nation communities on water projects. Wendy has also worked with Makeso Sakahikan (Fox Lake) Kitayastisuk (Elders – people who hold the wisdom of their ancestors) on Aski Keskentamowin(land and water knowledge) studies for Keeyask and Bi Pole III.
Away from her desk, Wendy enjoys spending time with her daughter and partner; listening to music; and, attending Crossfit and spin classes.
Alexia is a Woodland Cree and a member of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, Alberta. She has spent most of her years gaining Traditional Knowledge, learning more about her traditional background by harvesting and assisting her parents with passing on this knowledge to others who are willing to learn. Her certification gained in 2015 in Environmental Land Management has helped her grow in her career and this is strengthened by her traditional ecological knowledge.
Since completing her studies at Portage College in Lac La Biche Alberta, Alexia has worked for her community in their Lands department as a Consultation Assistant and Coordinator. She has experience working in the oil and gas field as an Environmental Technician/Assistant. Alexia has been in a variety of environmental roles. These roles included completing pre- and post-construction work, soil sampling, conducting wild-life sweeps, water monitoring, horizontal directional drill monitoring, and assisting with archaeological digs.
Alexia joined CIER in September, 2021 and is currently one of CIER’s Research Associates. In her role, she supports delivery on projects related to CIER’s thematic areas (Water, Climate Change and Energy, Traditional Knowledge, Biodiversity, Indigenous Food, and Sustainable Waste Management) and maintains collaborative initiatives and partnerships with Indigenous communities, government agencies, private sector companies, philanthropic and charitable organizations, non-profits and academic institutions.
Her hobbies are based on anything outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing, and harvesting. She loves spending most of her time crafting and passing on knowledge to her children and Nosim (grand baby).
Sjoerd van der Wielen
Sjoerd van der Wielen
Sjoerd is located in Kenora, Ontario, Treaty 3 Territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, in the Lake of the Wood Basin.
Sjoerd is a dedicated manager and has worked for and with Indigenous communities and organisations for the past 13 years. For the past six years he has supervised teams in Indigenous organisations that focus on land management, healthy, self-sustaining communities and capacity building, intertwining western knowledge with traditional knowledge.
Sjoerd is a Senior Project Manager at CIER. With his background in GIS, along with his experience supporting the gathering and use of traditional knowledge and implementation of community-based monitoring programs, he helps lead many of CIER’s projects to successful completion.
When Sjoerd is not at his desk, he is doing some sort of outdoor activity or playing Lego with his sons.
Join CIER as we truly make a difference by helping to create sustainable Indigenous communities and protecting our lands and waters.