Who We Are
Spirit North connects, empowers, and inspires Indigenous youth. Together with our partners, we help communities to move from introductory cross-country ski days to community-led, sustainable programs that promote lifelong well-being.
Our collaborative, play-based approach engages youth in sport and activity. Spirit North ski days are active, inclusive and focused on participation.
We recognize that the most successful programs are community led and owned. To achieve this, we can provide communities with:
- Cross-country ski coaching certification from the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP)
- Alignment of programs with the Aboriginal Long Term Participant Development Pathway (ALTPD)
- Competitive event support
- Trail development
- Program support
- And of course, skis!
Mission & Vision
Our mission is a commitment to improving the health and well-being of Indigenous youth through the transformative power of sport and play.
We believe every child deserves a chance to dream – and the confidence to pursue that dream.
Our vision is to break down the racial and socio-economic barriers facing Indigenous youth and their communities. We use sport to empower students and build skills that can enhance every part of their lives.
Spirit North was founded in 2009 to introduce Indigenous youth to cross-country skiing and the fundamental joy of movement. We began with four participating communities. Today, Spirit North works in more than 30 Indigenous communities across Alberta, British Colombia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and reaches about 6,000 youth every year.
An afternoon on skis can give youth a glimpse of their own potential. It builds skills and helps them to learn and grow. Sport provides physical, mental and social connections that can inspire meaningful, lifelong change.
Thanks to our generous sponsors, Spirit North programs are free for the communities we work in.
Meet The Team
- Angie Gagnon: Program Coordinator Witset
- Brandon Stevens: Program Leader Kisipox
- Emilie Lesage: Program Leader Kelowna
- Kevin Dunn: Program Leader Penticton
- Kiah Davidson: Program Leader Kelowna
- Naemi Fiechter: Program Leader Penticton
- Perianne Jones: Program Leader Penticton
- Rachelle VanZanten: Program Leader Burns Lake
- Sheena Briggs: Program Leader Witset
- Stefan Schulz: Program Leader Kistumkalum
- Travis Pete: Program Leader Witset
- Annika Olesen: Program Leader Fox Lake
- Erik Rust: Program Leader Maskwacis
- Hans Bjorkman: Program Leader Alberta Central
- Justin Wadsworth: Program Leader Tsuu T'ina, Morley, and Exshaw
- Karen Messenger: Program Leader Morley, Exshaw
- Lannie Houle: Program Leader 8 communities in Bonnyville and Lac La Biche region
- Leah Reid: Program Leader Enoch, Paul Band, Alexis, and Mother Earth CS
- Marc Mundell: Program Leader Sunchild, Bighorn, and O'Chiese
- Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt: Program Leader Hall Lake, Mistawasis and Montreal Lake
- Todd Ree: Program Leader Hall Lake, Mistawasis and Montreal Lake
- Nathan Nepinak: Program Leader Little Black River
- Sam Anthony: Program Leader Berens River and Hollow Water
- Tristan Schneider: Program Leader Nelson House
Board of Directors
Barbara serves as senior strategic counsel on a broad portfolio of clients and has 20 years marketing and communications experience in a range of sectors including energy, financial services, retail, pharmaceutical, loyalty, non-profit and government. Barbara holds a B.Sc. (Hons) and an MBA from Queen’s University. She has also attended Executive Business School at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University.
Kikino Elementary School Principal Laurie Thompson is a life-long resident of the Kikino Métis Settlement, and embraced the Spirit North program for her school over five years ago. She actively initiated an after-school ski club, developed a leadership component to the program, and encouraged families and community members to become involved. Students in the program now compete in events across Alberta. Laurie was recently named one of Shaw’s 50 Outstanding Canadians.
Andy is a seasoned business owner in sustainable development, clean technology, and renewable energy in small, remote communities across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. A longtime volunteer in cross-country skiing, events and trail building, Andy loves nothing more than having fun outside while learning (he even volunteered to work with us!). In the summer, he can be found biking, paddling, and attempting to catch some elusive fish.
As an experienced and passionate non-profit leader, Rob has a successful history of innovation, collaborative leadership, and relationship building with proven management, communication, political and business acumen, and fundraising abilities. He has also delivered community-based programs at the local, regional, and international level for various NGOs. Rob is a passionate naturalist, outdoor enthusiast, skier, hiker, and avid fly fisherman. He moved to the Bow Valley in order to lead the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Prior to that, he held various positions as a project lead, engaging volunteers, helping groups work together, and developing programs for youth at risk.
A pediatrician who works part-time in Yellowknife doing general pediatrics and travel clinics for a variety of communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Dr. Wong is also a part-time hospital pediatrician at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, where he does inpatient care four weeks a year. Conducting travel clinics in Saddle Lake and High Level in northern Alberta, Dr. Wong was most recently the chair of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee of the Canadian Pediatric Society.
Since 1998, Jude Daniels has worked in the oil and gas sector as a senior legal counsel and as a senior Aboriginal Relations adviser and manager. She has worked with both Canadian companies and Indigenous communities extensively on regulatory matters and the economic, social and environmental effects in Indigenous communities.
Jude is a part-time hearing commissioner with the Alberta Energy and a former part-time member of the Federal Social Security Tribunal. The focus of her private law practice is: employment law, regulatory law, socio-economic agreement negotiations, Aboriginal consultation, environmental law and traditional knowledge matters. Jude has written “Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada” published by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and co-authored “Métis Memories of Residential School”.
Jude holds degrees in Law and Social Work and has a certificate in conflict resolution. She is also a yoga instructor and mediator. She is a member of the Law Society of Alberta, the Indigenous Bar Association and the Métis Nation of Alberta. Jude lives in Canmore with her family.
Dr. Sean Lessard is from Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 territory. He is an award winning writer, international speaker and researcher in the field of indigenous education.
Sean is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Regina and Associate Professor at the University of Alberta. Sean has recently been awarded the Pat Clifford emerging researcher award by the Canadian Association for Teacher Educators as well as the Myer Horowitz Foundation outstanding dissertation award at the University of Alberta. His work focuses on indigenous youth empowerment and leadership through wellness experiences.
He is the co-founder of Growing Young Movers (www.growingyoungmovers.com) an intergenerational youth wellness program.
Larry is a tax partner with an international accounting firm, with over 25 years of tax experience in both public practice and industry. He assists multinationals with international tax and transfer pricing matters. An avid skier and cyclist, Larry has supported the cross-country ski community for a number of years, as a parent, volunteer and Board member. He has been the Treasurer of various non-profit organizations focused on community involvement, the arts and amateur sports. Larry is a Chartered Professional Accountant.