Speaker Profiles

Ruby Thompson

Ruby Thompson is an Anishinaabe kwe emerging, mixed-media and jewelry artist born in Toronto, ON., residing on Mnidoo-Mnising Manitoulin Island with her family. A graduate from Laurentian University’s Indigenous Studies program, she is knowledgeable in Indigenous ways of being incorporating art and culture as a healing modality. Her skills range from traditional, visual, and literary works in response to her art. Ruby’s art expressions are on display locally and anonymously online through art collectives.

Inspired by nature and all its beauty, Ruby is reaffirming her artistic talents and sharing them with others. She enjoys art journaling, drawing, Indigenous crafts (beadwork and leather work), painting (acrylic & watercolor), paper crafts (Scrapbooking, stamping, & mixed media), and sewing. Writing poetry and short stories often accompany her art journals.

Ruby also makes hand crafted gifts and cards for family and friends, part of sharing her talents with others. Hand-crafted items include making native and contemporary jewellery, sometimes combining essential oil with gemstones for their healing properties. Cricut projects of personalized art and making traditional ribbon skirts or shirts for family keeps her connected to family and community.

She has spent the last 25 years in health and education and is currently pursuing a career in art therapy. Ruby is attending Toronto Art Therapy Institute’s distance learning program to become a registered Art Therapist. Using art in her own life for healing, she is working towards helping others realize the same for their wellness and hopefully bring art therapy to Northern Ontario.

Natalie Goring


Aanii, My name is Natalie Goring, and I am the Healthy Baby Healthy Children worker for Wahnapitae First Nation. I am a mother, a wife and an outdoor enthusiast. I have worked as a grade 2 teacher, science communicator and RECE for a licensed childcare for 7 years before taking this position. I have been for the past 2 years trying to create a land base program for the Wahnapitae First Nation. I would love to share how and where we are going.

Dr. Rhonda Hopkins

Dr. Rhonda Hopkins is a fluent first-language speaker of Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language). Rhonda has worked in the language field for 40+ years in various capacities. As an executive director, she established an Early Learning Immersion School in the United States, acted as a consultant to the Ministry of Education, and is involved in multiple advisory boards. She has taught all grade levels from pre-school, elementary, high school, college, and university levels to working with our Elders. Dr. Hopkins is Kenjgewin Teg’s Teaching and Learning Professor and the first full-time Faculty member at Kenjgewin Teg. Dr. Hopkins’ recent developments include the creation of the Kenjgewin Teg’s Early Childhood Education – Anishinaabemowin, a two-year diploma program in that promotes a strong foundation on Anishinaabe language and culture. On both a national and local level, Dr. Hopkins has designed a language assessment tool that supports a land-based approach. Dr. Hopkins continuously and passionately believes that our language is sacred and competently demonstrates the relationship between the language and our culture.

Denise Debassige


Ning’giigaasin Niibiish miinwa Mshkozii Mgizi Kwe, Ajijaak Ndoodem, M’Chjigeeng Doojibaa. Debbie Debassige was born and raised on M’Chigeeng First Nation and is dedicating her life to increasing her Ojibwe language fluency. Debbie fondly cherishes the knowledge and experience that she has gained after serving 35 years in First Nations Education. As an elementary teacher, Debbie aimed to provide culturally responsive learning opportunities for her students and the school environment. Although teaching was her passion, she dedicated nine years of her career to working with 11 K-12 First Nation schools, and is now serving in the role as Dean of Post-Secondary Education and Training at Kenjgewin Teg, one of the Indigenous Institutes in Ontario.