Tag Archive for: National Indigenous History Month

Learning to ‘work in good ways’ with Clayton Sandy

The road to change is a long one. There is no one action that can eliminate the inherited generational trauma and behaviours that have been experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people. Skate Canada has been proud to work hand in hand with Clayton Sandy this year as we look to ‘work in good ways’ with the Indigenous community.

Clayton Sandy is a survivor of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ a period where large numbers of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in non-indigenous foster homes. Both of his parents went to residential schools, as well as six of his siblings. Growing up, Clayton shares a story of a home life marked by violence and alcohol. He shares with us interactions with police who beat him and urinated on him. Racism, violence, and alcohol were all regular occurrences but that would not be his path forward.

Today, Clayton is the opposite of the environment he was raised.

Never wanting his children to grow up surrounded by violence, Clayton began a healing journey and went to therapy.

“Therapy really helped me to let go of a lot of issues because I was carrying issues of being physically abused, sexually abused, and that was coming out every time that I drank and getting me in trouble all the time. That really helped me deal with a lot of my issues,” shared Clayton.

Then in 1982 when he became a father, he was determined to create a home where his children and eventually grandchildren would feel safe and secure. So, he quit drinking and never allowed alcohol into his home, breaking generational ties.

Fast forward to today and Clayton Sandy is focused on sharing the history of his people and his own story to ensure people are hearing about Indigenous experiences from an Indigenous person. He is retired after 39 years of work in government but for a retired person his work towards reconciliation keeps him very busy.

Here at Skate Canada, staff were privileged to participate in an in person sharing circle with Clayton in the Fall of 2022. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about the history and suffering that Indigenous people have endured. Employees learned of residential schools, the sixties scoop, and heard the firsthand retelling of Clayton’s story and history, one that is unfortunately not rare among Indigenous people.

Clayton also shared with us his love of sport and long-time engagement and love for hockey. Unfortunately, the racism he experienced led him to quit the game he loved. Today he is a ‘hockey granddad’ with three of his grandchildren participating in hockey. Clayton works with Skate Canada to help correct some of the racism in sport that he has witnessed throughout his life, so that other kids do not suffer the way he did.

Clayton’s efforts and engagement with Skate Canada continued in April 2023 when Skate Canada sections were privileged to engage in a virtual learning session with Clayton in April of 2023. Clayton led members in a conversation about dispelling the misconceptions about Indigenous people. This is all part of Skate Canada’s effort to continue to build lasting and meaningful relationships as we work towards reconciliation.

Apart from Skate Canada, Clayton is also highly involved in the Turtle Island Project (TIP). TIP is an action-oriented exercise designed to transform society’s negative perceptions of Indigenous people and engages people in reconciliatory action. Participants taking part in this project are asked to walk in the shoes of Indigenous people that began 150 years ago and share in celebrating the lives of Indigenous people today. This can include activities like sharing circles, true life stories from residential school survivors and participating in the setup of a full-size tipi.

Clayton participates in initiatives like this regularly to help move society forward in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While it might sound counter-intuitive based on his story, Clayton elaborates that throughout his journey he has been the recipient of kindness and that his efforts today as very simply about giving back for the kindness he is so grateful to have received.

“I have connected with non-native people that really helped me out at many times. I had a mentor in government for 38 years who taught me a lot about kindness and giving back. Learning to walk together in a really respectful way and learning to forgive when somebody says something because they do not realize, it is not deliberate, and some people just do not know any better.”

He explains that we need to recognize that thing are not always straight forward.

“It’s not a one-way street. So, it must be a two-way street between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You have to be willing to accept mistakes sometimes and just keep on moving forward.”

It is almost unbelievable when you hear the details from Clayton of what he went through – consistent racism, abuse, assault, and family violence – to see where he is and the actions he is taking today. To supersede the adversity, he has experienced in his life and be able to give back is nothing short of determination and a true desire to be the best person possible.

He is a living, breathing example that change is possible and that there are always opportunities to learn and to engage in education and open conversations. Society and skating alike need to be open to listen and learn and the way forward can be a truly healing experience for all involved.


Clayton Sandy is a member of the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. He was recently awarded the 70th Queen’s Jubilee Platinum Aware for his community contributions. In June of 2023 he will also be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg.

This June as we celebrate National Indigenous History Month Skate Canada would like to thank individuals like Clayton Sandy for sharing their story with us and progressing our narrative and understanding of what has transpired so that we can move forward in a more positive and constructive manner with our Indigenous partners. Throughout the month, Skate Canada will host several initiatives dedicated to raising awareness and supporting the Indigenous Community.

For more information on upcoming events, click here.


  1. British Columbia, U. O. (n.d.). Sixties Scoop. Indigenous Foundations Arts UBC. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/



National Indigenous History Month 2023

Skate Canada is committed to working in good ways with Indigenous communities and partners. Let us celebrate National Indigenous History Month through learning, appreciating, and acknowledging the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Throughout the month, we will be sharing inspiring stories to share the voices and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and to deepen understanding of Indigenous participation in skating. This will help ensure our community stays engaged as real and lasting change must be constant with our collective effort.

We wish everyone a meaningful Indigenous History Month.

For more information: About National Indigenous History Month (rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca)


June is National Indigenous History Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the Indigenous community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in equity, diversity and inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward.

To support an inclusive environment this National Indigenous History Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of Clifford A. Mushquash, a member of Pays Plat First Nation in Ontario.


When I started out in skating, I didn’t connect very deeply with my Ojibway identity. I was raised in a bi-racial family in Sioux Lookout but I did not have the deep cultural understanding growing up as I do now. Language and traditional teachings weren’t passed along in my family.

The importance of understanding one’s identity and history wasn’t discussed in my formative years as it is now—especially in the skating community. I became a member of the Canadian Figure Skating Association in 1991, when my parents enrolled me in a Learn to Skate program offered by the Sioux Lookout Figure Skating Club. My ice show debut was as a yellow chickadee performing the Bird Dance—yes, the Bird Dance! I have the fond memories of learning to skate and participating at Ice Shows. Now, my involvement in skating is as an assessor/official.

As I grew up, I began to connect with my identity and truly understand my people’s history.  Finding my identity and learning my culture wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took many years of listening to and learning from Elders and knowledge keepers before I really understood my Indigenous self. It was through academic study and engaging in difficult conversations that I came to understand what colonization is, and how my family and I have been impacted by it.

Today, I am a proud First Nations person, but acknowledge I have more to learn in order to live mino-bimaadiziwin (live the good life). I’m a trained social worker (with a BA Sociology and Honours Bachelor of Social Work from Lakehead University) and am currently completing a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialization in Indigenous and Northern Health. I work as an administrative assistant for the Indigenous Language Instructor’s Program at the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University. This program trains and qualifies fluent Ojibway, OjiCree, and Cree speakers as Indigenous Language Instructors. This program is aimed towards language revitalization by using Indigenous teaching and learning methodologies. My work and education place me face-to-face with culture and the realities of Indigenous people in Canada. It can be emotionally tiring to do this kind of work but knowing that I am learning while I’m helping brings me fulfilment and energy to continue.

We are at a moment as a country and a sport where we are holding a mirror up to ourselves and taking a real close look at what we need to do so that our sport and society can be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive for everyone. To me, it means I can bring my learning and lived experiences to skating and have it appreciated and embraced.  It brings me joy when other officials and volunteers approach me with questions about Indigenous culture or Canada’s colonial history because they genuinely want to deepen their understanding so we can do better together. Skate Canada has a great opportunity to be a leader in how anti-racist and anti-colonial education and action can be done well. Officials and volunteers in the sport can take learnings from equity, diversity, and inclusion education in the skating community and bring it into the other areas of their lives. The organization has set a precedent for other sporting organizations and has offered collaboration, which is the beauty of this work. It makes me hopeful going forward.

Together, we can be champions of this cause.


Skate Canada thanks Clifford A. Mushquash for sharing his story and bringing awareness to the skating community. 

 Skate Canada is pleased to announce an Indigenous Stories in Figure Skating Initiative and invites you to share your story. This initiative to collect the stories of Indigenous peoples in figure skating in Canada is informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Sport and Reconciliation” Calls to Action (#87-91). We aim to create space for stories of Indigenous peoples in figure skating. Your stories will provide a better understanding of the lived experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples within the sport of figure skating in Canada. Your stories will also support efforts by Skate Canada to increase visibility of Indigenous peoples in figure skating. 

 Thank you for considering participation in this initiative. Click here to learn more.


Skate Canada Statement on National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month. This month honours the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and recognizes the strength of present-day Indigenous communities. We invite you to make time this month to learn about the histories, knowledge systems, and lived realities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. The Indigenous residential school system is part of these lived realities. As we mourn the children whose lives were taken, we commit to learn about the impacts of the residential school system, past and present. At Skate Canada, we acknowledge there is much work to be done, as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations and Findings. We encourage Skate Canada members to listen, learn, and engage as a first step to build the respectful relationships necessary to move toward healing and reconciliation.

Recommended Resources on Indigenous Residential Schools System

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – National Student Memorial Register

Indian Horse (Story of Richard Wagamese. Includes book, film, survivor Stories, education materials)

The Secret Path (multi-media project including album by Gord Downie, film, and graphic novel with Jack Lemire)

Government of Canada, Description of Visual