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George Muswaggon

Welcome to George Muswaggon,  Knowledge Keeper at Rady Faculty of Health Sciences

June 20, 2024 — 

Rady Faculty of Health Sciences would like to offer a warm welcome to George Muswaggon, who has joined the team of Elders at Ongomiizwin – Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing.

Muswaggon, who prefers the term Knowledge Keeper, was born in the Indigenous community of Pimicikamak, Man. (Cross Lake), before electricity, telephones or even roadways had reached the area.

In summer, his community travelled by canoe throughout the many waterways. In winter, they went by dogsled. “When the machines came and they started putting in the hydro lines, we’d never seen anything like it!” he said.

It was a close knit community with strong ties between families, said Muswaggon. “When my friends and I wanted to go do something we’d been told not to do, someone would always see us going,” he said. “We wouldn’t get very far and someone would call to us, ‘Come help me make some tea.’” He’d find himself lending a hand in someone’s kitchen, then sitting and listening to stories meant to spark some thought about the choices he was about to make. “I don’t know how they did it, but they always knew,” he laughed.

Muswaggon was raised by his grandmother, on the edge of Pimicikamak. A bombardier was used to take children to the Day School and one day as it passed, it stopped. “They asked if I wanted to go along, so I got in.” It was Muswaggon’s first introduction to a new way of teaching – one that came with corporal punishment, not the gentle redirection of friends and family. “I didn’t know why it was happening,” he said. “I couldn’t begin to understand it.”

He went on to attend the Mackay Indian Residential School in Dauphin, Man., 900 km away from home. This is where Muswaggon and his peers began to protest the injustices they were facing, marking the beginning of his advocacy work.

Muswaggon went on to a variety of leadership roles, including serving as an elected councilor for four terms and later becoming the first Grand Chief for the 25 First Nations in Northern Manitoba for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO).

During his tenure as Grand Chief at MKO, Muswaggon was part of a team that established a Youth Treatment Center, nursing programs, housing projects for isolated communities and the development of Wapusk National Park.

His expertise ranges from traditional land-based knowledge to contemporary government relations, budgeting, HR management, legislative reviews and child and family services management.

Now at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Muswaggon is looking forward to offering cultural and spiritual guidance to students, faculty and staff.  

“There is a rich tradition of diverse knowledge within Indigenous communities, passed down through generations,” said Muswaggon. “It’s my mission to acknowledge and preserve the pre-contact and pre-colonial influences that have shaped Indigenous practices, underscoring the humility, strength, and resilience embodied by present-day Knowledge Keepers.”

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