Swan River First Nation ” Member of the Month”

We are very pleased and proud to showcase members of the Swan River First Nation who have unique talents,  skills and specializations in various areas.
Swan River First Nation would like to introduce our 2nd profile for this page that has been dedicated to honoring and acknowledging our members that have been successful in various ways in following their dreams and achieving success in their own lives and their positive impact on others..

“Member of the Month” for October, 2018


Many know of our Elder, Esther Giroux and her contributions to the Community, but for those that don’t, Esther is the “Cree Language/Culture Literacy/Numeracy Specialist for Treaty 8” which flows through the “First Nation Student Success Program” (FNSSP) that was designed to assist the educators and address the needs of the on-reserve schools to meet and enhance our students’ learning environment and improve educational outcomes.  We have been so fortunate to have her working in her our community, more specifically, the Swan River First Nation School.

Esther Giroux

Esther’s beautiful and welcoming smile can be seen as she greets visitors and teaches the young students at the school, the importance of knowing their language and culture.

Language and Culture defines who you are as a Nehiyaw and allows us to take pride in where we come from.  Nehiyaw means, ” people from the four directions”... Esther Giroux

Esther’s strong conviction and passion for her work involves bringing back the traditions and cultural practices of our community which includes building a strong cultural base with the parents/children and community members that would bring back and follow such activities as the historical and rarely seen, “Tea Dance”.  (For more information regarding the history of the Tea Dance please click the following link: https://books.google.ca/books?id=Swr9BTI_2FEC&pg=PA1337&dq=traditional+drum+and+tea+dance&)

Esther fully supports and assists other programs that are in line with her visions and goals for the community.  She collaborates with the Nations Cultural Coordinator, Richard Woodman, in order to offer some of the same opportunities for all children, parents and community members regardless of which school they attend.  This year the school would like to sew ribbon skirts and shirts and eventually make drum bags for the drums that were made by the students last year.  Another huge success was the sewing classes offered at the school last year which gave parents Elders and community members the opportunity to create regalia for the students at the school which was then showcased in the the schools’ “Year End Celebration” held in June and in the “mini pow wow” that was held during the Swan River Cultural camp.  The children were also given some instruction in traditional dancing.  Many other parents were inspired to make regalia for their children for next year.

Esther is a strong advocator in promoting any cultural component or activity within the community that will foster an increased interest and involvement from the community members.  She knows how vital it is to bring the traditions and culture back with enough momentum to keep the next generation practicing and teaching their children and, in turn, propel those teachings for many generations to come.

Education and background

Esther is a residential school survivor and dropped out of school the year before high school.  She spent the next few years experimenting with life until she realized that she wanted a more meaningful life that helped others.  These thoughts led her to enrol in the NECHI training centre in 1978,  where she learned about cultural and traditional ways of living and wanted to share those teachings with her people.  It was through these teachings that she learned to speak out in a positive and loving way and share her thoughts and feelings in a meaningful way through the wholistic learning process.

This experience triggered a self awareness that led the way to her true purpose which was to become a teacher.  Further to that, this awareness attracted the opportunities that enabled her to follow her dream and make it a reality and even when she hesitated and had doubts, fate had her back and gently nudged her towards her dream.  A dream that continues to foster the love of learning in the school and within its students..

Once Esther completed her NECHI training, she eventually applied for and was accepted to Blue Quills school in St. Paul and obtained her BA despite having no predetermined accommodations when she first moved there.  She was further inspired and encouraged to continue on her journey towards preserving and teaching the language to the next generation, by the Cree speaking children from Daycare upward to High School in Blue Quills school.  The environment within the school was very traditional and gave her a sense of belonging and pride in her own culture.  Persistence and fate again led her to a safe and welcoming harbour that she was able to call home while pursuing her goals, which only confirmed that the road she was travelling was her calling.

She completed her 2 years in Blue Quills and continued another 2 years to acquire her teaching certificate through the University of Alberta and received her Bachelors of Education in 1983.  One thing that she took from her educational experience and her teachings from Blue Quills was that she wanted to introduce and implement a cultural component to her teaching style, which includes the 7 grandfather teachings.  Through her experience working in various positions held within Aboriginal departments which include Child Welfare, Youth and Elders Council, Community Health Representative and achieving her Masters in “Indigenous Peoples Education”, Esther brings a wealth of experience and education along with her passion to the table of knowledge and sharing for all those who wish to learn.

She is proud of her traditional family and hopes to encourage all community members to reach back into their family histories and bring the cultural teachings back into the community to share the rich traditions of the past so that all its members enjoy the benefits of living within a traditional, empowering and successful community.

Thank you Esther for your determination and commitment to Education and Culture.


Stay tuned for November’s “Member of the Month” – Dallas Hunt

Past Member Highlights:

August, 2018 – Christie Sound