Meet the Team

Meet with a member of Cplul'kw'ten Team

  • Vernie Clement

    Vernie Clement, Dakelh


    Vernie belongs to the Lhoosk’uz Dene and is Dakelh. He was raised by his grandmother first in Tl’esqox (a Tŝilhqot'in community), and then moved to the isolated community of Lheyidli (Kluskus IR#14). After moving to Kamloops, he graduated from Norkam Secondary and continued on to University College of the Cariboo (now TRU).

    Vernie is Supervisor of Indigenous Student Development, which serves First Nations (status/non-status), Inuit and Metis students. Vernie works with the team in Cplul’kw’ten and supports student retention activities. The supervisor oversees projects, maintains service levels, advocates, initiates programs, and acts as a liaison between on-campus and community partners with the goal of facilitating the personal, social and intellectual development of Indigenous students. Vernie also oversees practicum and work study students, and the Elder in the House program.

    Note to students:
    Dahooja! (Hello) I am honoured to live and work here on Secwepemcw ulcw and to be working with the Indigenous community here at TRU. I have been involved with TRU/UCC for a number of years both as a student (BBA) and as president for three years of the First Nations Student Association (vice-president for two years). I hope students will feel welcomed and have a positive experience with their educational journeys, and that the work we do will help in that way.

    Please feel free come visit us at Cplul’kw’ten.
    ‘Aw’et Zeh

  • Jason Blair

    Jason Blair, Nlaka'pamux
    Learning Strategist - Indigenous Transitions


    Born in Vancouver and raised in various urban centres across BC, Jason is Nlaka’pamux from the Lower Nicola Indian Band located in Merritt, BC. His Grandparents are Mary and Jacob Anderson/Amy Mike and Albert Dunstan.

    Jason attended the Native Education Centre, in Vancouver, with an education in Criminology and Film making. Mr. Blair possesses a diverse resume having worked in numerous job markets ranging from hospitality, trades, and human service work to business owner.

    Jason works at Cplul’kw’ten as part a dynamic team to support student’s journey through the post-secondary landscape which is not only academic. By connecting students with various community and off campus resources as well as finding housing. Locating and securing funding when students are not funded by their Band, Metis Society, Or Inuit organization. Identifying and sharing current scholarships, grants and bursaries with students. In addition; he will assist students through the application process.

    Jason is a voracious consumer of cinematic adventure and music. He enjoys playing guitar and hockey as well as photography and film making. In addition; he finds inspiration in the stylings of Edgar Allen Poe, George Orwell, Joseph Conrad, and Hunter S Thompson.

  • Shawna Walker

    Shawna Walker, Peguis
    Learning Strategist - Indigenous Connections


    Shawna works alongside the amazing team at Cplul’kw’ten to support students by developing life skills programming, connecting students with community and off-campus resources, and coaching Indigenous students through their academic journey.

    She has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria and has been in the field since 2007. She has worked in a broad array of areas from School District #73 to Child and Family Services in Merritt, Lytton and Kamloops. Shawna’s community connections, human services experience and cultural pride will serve her well.

    Born and raised in Kamloops, Shawna is from the Peguis Band in Manitoba. Her kind, calm and caring nature; welcoming and warm smile; and professional demeanor has made her a hit with students in Cplul’kw’ten.

    Shawna enjoys literature, cinema and theatre; she leads an active lifestyle and likes to hike, run, kayak, snowshoe, and enjoys playing hockey.

  • Denise Dunstan

    Denise Dunstan, Nlaka'pamux
    Learning Strategist - Indigenous Transitions


    From the Nlakapamux nation, Denise received her social work degree from TRU in 2010.

    She has worked with youth programming for the past twenty-five years. Twelve years were spent working with Aboriginal students through the Kamloops School District. Denise was a First Nations worker for School District 83 for over three years. This is her first position at TRU.

    Her hobbies include hot yoga and hiking, and Denise also enjoys watching television.

  • Mathilda Chillihitzia

    Mathilda Chillihitzia, Sylix
    Indigenous Mentor and Communications Coordinator


    Mathilda is from the Upper Nicola Band, Douglas Lake, in the Sylix (Okanagan) territory. Mathilda, also known as Matty, loves learning and meeting new people. Her outgoing nature means she’s easy to get along with.

    Mathilda graduated from TRU in October 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Major in Geography and a Minor in History. She plans on continuing her academic career by applying for her masters or possibly working toward a PhD.

    As the Indigenous Mentor and Community Coordinator, Mathilda will work closely with Vernie and the Learning Strategists in Cplul’kw’ten to coordinate the Indigenous Mentor Program, and engage in community and on-campus events. She will oversee the recruitment, training, day-to-day tasks, and reporting of several mentors who are matched up with mentees. Mathilda will also build community connections and support on-campus Indigenous events.

    Mathilda knows the Indigenous Mentor Program first-hand as she started as a mentee and then moved to being a mentor for several years. She also went to Australia on to study abroad and upon her return, became a Study Abroad Ambassador. Mathilda has worked extensively with youth in her home community as a Youth Coordinator, Teacher Assistant, and with the Youth Worker Experience Program.


  • Doreen Kenoras

    Doreen Kenoras
    Kamloops Campus (Adams Lake Indian Band)


    Skilled in beading, knitting and birch-bark basket making, Elder Doreen enjoys meeting new students and watching them graduate and go on to successful careers.

  • Mike Arnouse

    Mike Arnouse
    Kamloops Campus (Adams Lake Indian Band)


    Elder Mike speaks softly but has lots to teach about the history of Indigenous people and ancestral teachings.

  • Sandy Hendry

    Sandy Hendry
    Kamloops Campus


    Sandi is eager to share her knowledge and experience as a Métis person and be an example of a strong, resilient Métis.

  • Joanne Brown

    Joanne Brown, BA
    Kamloops Campus


    Joanne Brown is a member of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, L’silu clan, born and raised in her home territory near Burns Lake, British Columbia. She moved to Secwépemc’ulucw from Prince George in 1996. Joanne’s previous work with Employment and Immigration Canada, as well as her studies in geography and anthropology (TRU) made a natural fit with an occupation in Indigenous post-secondary education. She is grateful for her amazing community, especially working with neighbours and friends.

    Joanne strives to make sure that everyone is welcomed and ensures they feel special in a way that is unique and unforgettable. In her free time Joanne kayaks, gardens, cooks, and loves spending time with her precious friends and family.

  • Leonna (Doe) Thomas

    Leonna (Doe) Thomas
    Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc)
    Kamloops Campus


    Leona (Doe) Thomas is a member of the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc (TteS) band.

    She is a mother and grandmother. She has been retired for several years working with Alberta First Nations with developing, implementing and reporting on health programs.

    She is currently an elder with the Kamloops First Nations court and generally enjoying retirement.

  • Diena Jules

    Diena Jules
    Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc)
    Kamloops Campus



    I am Diena Jules and am a member of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. The traditional names that I have been given over my lifetime are: Sundance Pipe Woman, Yellow Flower Woman, and Black Wolf Woman. I am proud to say that I have two daughters and five grandchildren.

    Late Clarence Jules (former Chief and Band Councilor for many decades), Canadian Governor General award, 2009-Cowboy Hall of Fame Mary Delores Jules, nee Casimir, founder Kamloopa Pow-Wow, Silver Jubilee Award Recipient Siblings: Manny, Jeanette, Felicity, Freda and Raymond Jules. Deceased: John, Cindy and Geraldine Jules.

    Paternal grandparents:
    Late Joe Jules (1885-1962), former KIB band councillor for many decades, fluent in several FN languages, farmer, horse logger, storyteller, hunter, fisher Late Agnes Jules, nee Duncan, (1900-1967), herbalist, fluent in several FN languages, basket maker, horticulturalist.

    Maternal grandparents:
    Late Thomas Casimir (1907-1968), former KIB band councilor, spoke Secwepemcstin, farmer, horse logger, trapper, hunter, fisher Late Sadie (Felicity) Casimir (1907-1959), nee Leonard, farmer, spoke Secwepemcstin, hunter, trapper, taught traditional Secwepemc songs and dances.

    I was raised up in the mountains while my dad was a horse logger. We later moved onto the reserve and I attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School as a day scholar until I was in Grade 6. All Indigenous children were integrated into the public school system in 1967. In 1971, I lived at the KIRS for one year. I consider these years as the dark ages of my life.

    As a teenager, I was a member of the Paul Creek Tribal Dancers and we performed our traditional songs and dances across BC and Alberta and, in 1975, we went as far as Quebec. I was a traditional dancer at pow wows primarily in BC.

    In my younger years, most of my employment was with my band as a labourer, lifeguard, librarian, welfare financial officer and welfare department coordinator, home school coordinator and cultural and educational researcher. With my determination to improve the quality of life for my daughter and I, I decided to enroll in the NITEP at UBC where I graduated with my BEd and went on to to compete my MA at UBC. My thesis was: Traditional Ways Shuswap People Identified and Nurtured Gifted and Talented Girls.

    While completing my graduate degree at UBC, I worked as a librarian, educational researcher and did a contract as a Native Indian Teacher Education Program instructor. After I returned to Kamloops I worked as at Sk’elep Elementary School teacher as a primary school teacher, then from 2004 until 2017 I was the Education Department Manager.

    After I retired, I moved to northern Ontario and, after 18 months, I returned to my home community and family and began a term position in the natural resource department and worked part time in the cultural heritage study and genealogy research project. In July in began to work as the administrator of the SMHP.

    I try to be a good role model in healthy living, I bike, ride and walk daily, I pray to the Creator for the health, safety and protection of our land, water, animals and ice, I live my values of showing respect and caring to all living things, but most of all, I take time to show my loved ones, especially my grandchildren, how much I love and value them. It is everyone's responsibility to be the change we wish to make in the world.

  • Jo-anne Gottfriedson

    Jo-anne Gottfriedson
    Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc)
    Kamloops Campus


    Weytk ren skwest es Kiye’y7e Qwisp Nu’xwenxw ell

    I am extremely proud to be Tk’emlu’psemc. I am a proud mother of two daughters, and a grandmother of five grandsons and a beautiful granddaughter; I also have many adopted children, grandchildren from various nations across the country and U.S. I am married to Reverend James Isbister from the Cree Nation, Ahtahakakoop Sandy Lake, Saskatchewan.

    Formally educated at Simon Fraser University (BGS and Post Baccalaureate Programs graduate), Certified Provincial Adult Instructor/Teacher- I am a member in good standing with the BC College of Teachers-BC Adult Instructor Certified, Language Proficiency Diploma SFU.

    I credit my ‘traditional’ education to the persistence and commitment of my parents, grandparents and various other elders/teachers that I have met along my journey. My accomplishment and work are testimony to my belief that formal education compliments ‘traditional’ education, and that the traditions, beliefs, teaching and language of our ancestors is just as, or more important than any other education First nations can achieve.

    I believe in the traditional approach to teaching, which is holistic, and combines both traditional and modern approaches to passing on the language and culture. My commitment and respect for my culture and traditions is of the utmost importance in all aspects of my life, and I am proud of my family support and commitment to maintaining this along with me; as I not only teach it, but live it with my family, community and nation.

    I am a retired Teacher and I instructed the Secwepemc language and culture at the Sk’elep School of Excellence for five years, where I taught over 300 students as well as a staff of 22. In addition, I also was a part time faculty member at the Nicola Valley Technology Institute in Merritt British Columbia; I was also a contract Instructor for Aboriginal Tourism BC. I was enrolled in the (SFU) Masters Program, as I recognize the need to continually build upon and enhance my skills and knowledge that will assist me in my mission and dream, to continually pass on the language, culture and wellness of my people. In addition, I feel strongly that we must ensure that all future generations have access to the knowledge, healing, traditions and language of our ancestors. I believe that language and culture is not stagnant, that we need to continue to learn, adapt and evolve in our approaches to teaching, and learning, so that we will keep our culture and language alive; this is my calling and passion!

    For the past 11 years I was the Day Scholar Coordinator of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and I was the Executive Chair of the Day Scholar Certified Class Action for Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc, Sechelt First Nation and James Cree. Over the past 10 years- I have been fully responsible for the overall organization, budgets, planning, negotiations, administration and delivery of our day scholar file and coordination of Day Scholar Certified Class Action. My role is to manage and coordinate the goals and objectives of our Litigation Process and Executive. I am a advocate and a firm believer of my cultural ways and to ensure that our Indigenous people obtain the justice and wellness that we so deserve.

  • Cecilia DeRose

    Cecilia DeRose
    Alkali Lake


    An expert in Secwépemctsin language and culture, and in traditional and medicinal plants, Elder Cecilia is also known for her handiwork with hides, birch-bark baskets and beads and for sharing that knowledge with others.

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