We are a husband and wife team who share what we know about teaching and healing.
Unkan Wanbdi Wakita (Grandfather)
Strong leader, gentle & kind… In a lifetime that spans seven decades, Unkan Wanbdi Wakita has had a remarkable range of experiences. From travel on foot, horse and bicycle on his home reserve of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation during a time when a pass signed by the Indian Agent was required just to leave, to cruising in motor vehicles and airplanes to far off places such as Europe, New Zealand, Hawaii, Africa and Mexico, Unkan has travelled many paths.
Unkan’s early life was infused with love and teachings from his mother and grandfather. He grew up speaking the Dakota language, learning about Ceremony and living the Dakota way of life. As a child he had many Sacred experiences that foretold of the work that would come later when he was an adult. When he would share about these experiences, his grandfather would reassure him, “Takoja, Ija hna wakanpi. They are holy too. Do not be afraid.”
This was in sharp contrast to the harsh treatment and abuse that he experienced for eight years in Indian Residential School. When he was old enough, he ran away and joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Peacekeeper where he served for six years. Upon his return home, and after years of healing the wounds that those experiences caused, Unkan surrendered into the role that was always waiting for him, that of a Wicasa Wakan or Holy Man.
For over thirty years, Unkan conducted Ceremonies and provided counseling support to incarcerated men. His reputation for integrity allowed him to intervene during critical incidents and prevent loss of life. Unkan has acted in the role of advisor to the Federal Aboriginal Justice Directorate, the Correctional Service of Canada – Gangs and Conflict Resolution Initiative, the Law Society of Canada to make revisions to the Young Offenders Act in 1999, and the Government of the Northwest Territories to build new young offender and adult correctional facilities.
Unkan Wanbdi Wakita has received many honours over the years. He has been recognized for his work by the Aboriginal Justice Services of Winnipeg for having demonstrated excellence and dedication to his work in corrections. He also received the Manitoba Premier’s Award of Excellence for his work with the Paraplegic Society and an “Honouring Our Elders Award” from the Aboriginal Circle of Educators. In July 2016, he was invested into the Order of Manitoba for his lifelong efforts to support individual healing and unity between all nations.
Unkan has attended Sundances, both in the United States and Canada, for over fifty years. He is a Sundance chief, spiritual leader and strong voice to preserve Dakota language and culture. Wanbdi is described as, “gentle and soft spoken, a man of profound wisdom.” He possesses a rare breadth of traditional and culture knowledge, which he combines with a message of love.
These days he is Grandfather in Residence to the University of Manitoba Access Program. He continues to contribute to the community by sharing knowledge, advice and wisdom whenever he is asked.
You can read stories about Wanbdi’s life at IMarriedaHolyMan.com
Unkan Wanbdi Wakita provides support to the following organizations:
- Survivors Circle – National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation
- Grandparents Council – Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy
- Master of Social Work – Indigenous Knowledge, University of Manitoba
- Grandparents Council – Louis Riel School Division
- Advisory Committee – Traditional Healer Program, MKO
- Elders Council – Sacred Fire Foundation
- Indigenous Advisory Committee – Canadian Mental Health Association
- President- Indigenous Veterans and Serving Members of Manitoba
Kunsi Pahan Pte San Win (Grandmother)
Loving, strong, gentle … From Leader of the Sundance of Women to Kunsi/Grandmother of children in Winnipeg schools, Pahan Pte San Win wears many hats. Her father, Tapwe Chretien, whose curiosity and deep reverence for the natural world, taught her the joy of Creation.
Kunsi Pahan’s roots reach out to Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan where her grandmother was born and the Northwest Territories where her father is buried. She is Lakota, Cree and Metis. She says, “The first time I had a vision, I was eight years old. Years later as an adult, I had another that taught me my life has a plan, even when I don’t know what it is. The more I surrender to it and follow where it leads, the more meaningful life becomes.’
‘I have been rejected, abandoned, hurt, which left wounds that I have spent a lifetime healing. I cannot let others define me. I recognize that the way I look allows me privilege and protects me from the racism and discrimination that my father, family and Indigenous relatives experience. It has also, at times, made me a target for lateral violence from my own people. Today I choose to embrace all those who love, respect and accept me and to love, from a distance, those who don’t. I know whatever situation I find myself in, I can choose to respond with hate or with love. These days, I choose love.”
With formal training in Social Work from MacEwan University, where she graduated with honours, and the University of Calgary, Kunsi Pahan’s work with people has led to the roles of Indigenous Spiritual Caregiver at the Manitoba Youth Centre, an Elder for the Correctional Service of Canada at Stony Mountain Institution, a counsellor for organizations such as the Blue Cross Employee Assistance Centre and Health Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivor Support Program. Since 2002 she has been a business owner for BearPawTipi.ca where she provides consulting, workshop facilitation and presentations. In 2016 she received a vision to have a Sundance of Women that honours the spirits of missing and murdered women. In 2017, that vision was realized and continues until 2020.
Kunsi Pahan is a published author most recently contributing to the anthology, “Keetsahnak / Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters by editors Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell and Christi Belcourt (2018). She is also a storyteller sharing remarkable accounts on the blog, “IMarriedaHolyMan.com”. In 2007, the Good Medicine Radio Show, which aired on CKLB Radio, Yellowknife, NWT, and that she produced and co-hosted with her husband, Wanbdi Wakita, won an award at the imagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival for Best Radio Documentary – Current Affairs. In 2016, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kunsi Pahan was presented with the 10th Annual Aboriginal Circle of Educators Award in the category of Honouring Our Elders.
These days Kunsi Pahan enjoys her work with children and adults. You may have heard her deliver the keynote address at the Sacred Fire Foundation – Voices of Wisdom in Asheville, N.C., 2018 & 2019, at the Manitoba College of Social Workers annual learning day in Winnipeg, MB, 2018 or at the NWT Wellness Conference in Yellowknife, NT in 2015.
Perhaps you attended one of the many conferences where she presented such as the:
- National Mental Health Conference, Winnipeg, MB 2019
- Vision Quest Conference & Trade Show, Winnipeg, MB 2017, 2018, 2019
- Yasodhara Ashram – Kootenay Bay, B.C. 2017, 2018, 2019
Kunsi Pahan says,
You are absolutely loveable and there is nothing you could ever do to change that.
Kunsi Pahan Pte San Win provides support to the following organizations.
Wanbdiska Oyate Inc. – Director/ Co- Founder
Full Circle for Indigenous Education Board – Grandmother
Louis Riel School Division – Grandparents Council
Sacred Fire Foundation – Elders Council
Canadian Mental Health Association – Indigenous Advisory Committee
Social Work Association of Northern Canada, NT, Past President