Research Associates

Michael Heine

Michael Heine teaches sport sociology and social theory in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario. His applied research focuses on the documentation of physical activity practices and traditional games of Arctic and sub-Arctic Aboriginal cultures. Over the past almost 15 years, he has collaborated in several cultural-historical research projects undertaken by the GSCI. Michael holds degrees from Ruhr-Universitą̀t Bochum (Germany), and the Universities of Western Ontario and Alberta.

Kristi Benson

Kristi Benson worked with the GSCI from 2004 - 2006 as the TK Coordinator/Researcher for the Mackenzie Gas Project Traditional Knowledge Study. Since then, Kristi has continued her affiliation with GSCI under contract working on a variety of oral history, archaeology, traditional knowledge, and other heritage projects in the Gwich’in Settlement Area. She is also responsible for maintaining and providing staff with information from the GSCI GIS, and assisting with the review of land use permit and research licence applications. Kristi has worked as an archaeologist in British Columbia, Alberta and Tabasco, Mexico. She has conducted ethnographic research in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Mexico, and has taught Anthropology and First Nations Studies classes at Malaspina University-College and Aurora College. She has also worked integrating traditional knowledge into the environmental impact assessment process and various land and marine-use planning projects in the NWT, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and BC. Kristi received her BA and MA in archaeology from the University of Calgary and has technical training in Geographical Information Systems from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.  She is also a professional dog trainer and runs a sled dog rescue. 

Bertha Francis

Bertha Francis is the daughter of John Charlie and Bella (Robert) Charlie and was born in the Yukon above Eagle Plains in 1940. Bertha was one of the founding board members of the GSCI and served on the board until 2001. From 1997-2005, Bertha worked as an Interpreter/Translator for the Gwich’in Language Centre when it was originally run by the GNWT and in later years by GSCI. Her responsibilities included translating and transcribing audio-cassettes, developing education materials for the schools and language materials for adults (her Gwich’in can be heard on many cassettes, CDs and on our website), and translating at meetings. She also assisted with many of our heritage research projects, participated in meetings on the preservation and standardization of the Gwich’in language, and provided input into the content of the Gwich’in Dictionary from its' inception. Bertha always made herself available and provided strong support and advice to GSCI staff when needed. Bertha’s career as an Interpreter/Translator however started earlier in 1990 where she played an important role in interpreting and translating for the Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) during the negotiations of the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Her work during this time, helped many people, particularly elders, understand the issues and provided them with a voice to provide advice to the younger people negotiating on their behalf. Once the Claim was signed, Bertha continued to provide information to the Gwich’in in our Gwich'in language through interpreting at meetings, providing information over CBQM and CBC radios, and talking to individuals. Bertha also provided interpreting and translating services to government departments and industry. She always did her best to accommodate anyone who asked for her assistance in translating or interpreting. Whenever there is a voice needed to be heard regarding any aspect of language or culture for the Gwich'in, you are sure to hear from Bertha. Even though Bertha retired in 2005, we are fortunate to be able to call upon her to work with us when needed.

Walter Alexie

Walter Alexie is the son of Abraham and Bella (Martin) Alexie and was born in the Yukon in the upper Blackstone River area in 1931. In his earlier years, Walter lived on the land in the Trail River area where he still maintains a camp today, returning to hunt, trap and enjoy bush life throughout the year. In 1960, Walter and his family moved to Fort McPherson so his children could get an education. He worked for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation for 31 years, initially looking after the power plant and then as plant superintendent. Walter and his wife Enna had seven children. Walter was one of our earliest and longest serving GSCI board members (1997-2007). Due to his encyclopedic knowledge of the land and culture, Walter has been an integral part of many GSCI oral history and ethno-archaeology projects. We have learned a tremendous amount from Walter over the years and always know we are in good hands when travelling with him on the land. Walter says keeping his culture and language alive is important as is hunting and living on the land. He feels that it is important for young people to be well educated, both academically and culturally. We call upon Walter’s knowledge and expertise often, and feel fortunate that he is always willing to share his knowledge about the land, Gwich’in culture and history. We look forward to working with Walter for many years.

Eleanor Mitchell-Firth

Eleanor Mitchell-Firth is a member of the Teetł’it Gwich’in. As a youth she lived a traditional lifestyle on the land with her family, and she and her siblings were taught the Teetł’it Gwich’in language by their mother and father, Eunice and Simon Mitchell. Ms. Mitchell-Firth went to elementary school in Fort McPherson, and completed a certificate program in Early Childhood Education at Aurora College in Inuvik. From 2006 to 2013, she worked in an administrative capacity with the Fort McPherson Housing Association in Fort McPherson while still working in the language field on a part-time basis. From 1992 to 1996, she worked with the Gwich’in Language Centre in the capacity of Material Development Coordinator. During this time she was responsible for the administration of financial matters, staffing, program management and requirements outlined in contribution agreements as well as developing and implementing various language programs and material development. Today she lives in Fort McPherson and works through her language consulting business E. Firth Business Services.