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Ima Johnson: Elder-in-Residence

Ima is of the Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. For over 25 years, Ima Johnson was a Mohawk Language teacher. She developed a curriculum for the Mohawk immersion program at Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Private School and began the tasks of teaching the children the language. In 1998 she received her Ontario Teachers' Certificate through Brock University. Her understanding and patience also prompted her to teach Adult Mohawk Language classes at Six Nations Polytechnic. Ima's passion to teach the Mohawk language to whoever wants to learn has led many to reclaim their language. Her devotion to the immersion program continues today in her capacity as Translator at the Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Language Preservation Project.


In addition to her teaching career, Ima is a mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

She is a Head Faithkeeper at the Lower Cayuga Longhouse, was named a Six Nations Community Treasure in 2004 and as a Six Nations Indigenous Knowledge Guardian in 2008. In 2009, she was awarded the title of Professor of Indigenous Language. Rich in the knowledge of Haudenosaunee traditions and culture, Ima has shared her knowledge with women in the Six Nations and Hamilton communities through various prenatal clinics and teaching women's wellness and parenting. Through her gift as a storyteller, many of her teachings continue to be shared with others. Ima has many great stories to tell, so come and listen when you can!

Ima is also a member of the Board of Directors for Six Nations Polytechnic, Six Nations Birthing Centre and a member of the Grandparents of the Birthing Centre.

Renee Thomas-Hill: Elder-in-Residence

Renee is of the Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. As an Haudenosaunee Woman, she is responsible to carry on the teachings of "Our" Way of Life. She is to carry on the message of Peace Power and Righteousness (Sacredness).

She shares this in the following ways:

as an Indigenous Women, Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother; Educator, Historian, Artisan F.N. Doll Maker; Carrying on the Stories of Our Ancestors; Holder of Names (Genealogy Researcher), Storyteller; Traditional/Golden Age Smoke Dancer; Traditional Counsellor/Healer (Addiction Treatment Centre); Traditional knowledge of our plants/foods/medicine; An agriculturist – the continuation of our seeds; Grieving Support and most of all a “Spiritual Being”.

Renee is also a grandmother and auntie to many. "My walk in life, is to share awareness and the uplifting of the spirit through the teachings of Our Mother, the Earth and the Understanding of the Good Mind."

Renee has much to share so come out and listen.

Bertha Skye: Elder-in-Residence - Retired (Visiting Elder)

In keeping with time honoured traditions, we believe that our Elders can play an important role in supporting students during their time at McMaster. Bertha Skye has worked with the ISP and ASHS Offices for several years, and has played an integral role in enhancing the student experience for many. Bertha is a warm and welcoming presence in the Indigenous Studies Program Office and the Aboriginal Students Health Sciences (ASHS) office. Bertha is more than willing to provide support, guidance, laughter, friendship and a healthy meal.


photo of Bertha Skye

Bertha Skye

Visiting Elder

Bertha grew up in the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation in Saskatchewan (and according to Bertha, this is the coldest place on earth!).

She was formerly a cook at four different residential schools before she met her husband, Hubert Skye, and moved to Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. In 1992 Bertha competed on a team comprised of other Native chefs from across Canada at the World Culinary Olympics. Her team competed against 14,000 other chefs from around the world, and took home the Grand Gold as well as winning the most medals of any of the other teams.

Bertha has lived in Six Nations for 53 years, and is the mother of three daughters and two sons. She also is the proud grandmother of six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In addition to being an Elder at McMaster University, she also works as an Elder at Mohawk College. She also volunteers her time as a board member at the Six Nations Health Foundation. Come out and meet this incredible lady!