The Council of Elders and Youth is an integral part of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Reconciliation journey, ensuring our work aligns with our values of integrity, collaboration and that our work is contributing to Reconciliation through meaningful actions. Their insights help the NWMO better connect with the people, communities we work with and the environment.
We are honoured to learn from such prominent Knowledge keepers. Elder Billie Schibler has been a member of the Council of Elders since 2012. She has spent her life working to protect children, youth, and the environment, with a special focus on water.
Elder Schibler, also known by her spirit name Purple Harvest Woman, is a Manitoba Métis woman who is from the Crane Clan and follows the Traditional Teaching and Knowledge from her ancestors. She has been a Sun Dancer and Knowledge Keeper for more than 30 years.
Elder Schibler has worked over 35 years in the areas of addiction and mental health, justice, family violence, child protection and healing. She was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to receive a Legislative appointment as a provincial Child and Youth Advocate. She was also Chief Executive Officer at Métis Child and Family Services Authority.
Besides her government roles, Elder Schibler is dedicating to advocating for communities out on the lands. She is one of the founding members of the Kookum Gaa Na Da Maa Waad Abinoojiak (Grandmothers Protecting Our Children) Council in Manitoba. Recently, she started working with Clan Mother’s Healing Village, a collective of Indigenous women who come together to address the ongoing systemic and multi-generational trauma in their communities.
She describes her role on the Council of Elders and Youth as working from the Spirit. She says “our traditional teachings lead us to embrace everything in Creation – the Spirit of the sun, moon, land, rocks, animals, trees, and water.”
Traditional teachings about water’s magnificence help the NWMO deepen our understanding of its important role in Creation. The protection of people and the environment, including water, underscores everything we do, and interweaving Indigenous Knowledge into that work is essential to our success.
“We benefit from water every day but most of us don’t even give it a second thought. The same thing happens with nuclear energy. This has been one of the greatest gifts when working with the NWMO, we learn about our responsibility in storing used nuclear fuel while offering our knowledge and advice to honour and respect Mother Earth in the process,” Elder Schibler said.
This is a second in the series of profile pieces on the Council of Elders and Youth. Stay tuned for more to come throughout the year.
About the NWMO
The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is a not-for-profit organization implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel inside a deep geological repository in a manner that protects people and the environment for generations to come.
Canada’s plan will only proceed in an area with informed and willing hosts, where the municipality, First Nation and Métis communities, and others in the area are working together to implement it. The NWMO plans to select a site in 2024, and two areas remain in our site selection process: the Ignace area and South Bruce, both in Ontario.