Akiing Onji Founders & Founding Board Members
Eva & EJ Fontaine
E. J. Fontaine is a member of the Sagkeeng First Nation and is the President & CEO of AMIK Inc. since 2003. He has over 30 years of experience working with Indigenous communities and organizations in various capacities and projects including employment and training, economic development, evaluating programs, conducting labor market research studies and data analysis, developing business plans and marketing plans. He possesses valuable experience in Indigenous engagement and in the management of projects at the local, regional and national levels. EJ is recognized as a national leader in the area of recruitment and retention strategies involving the Indigenous workforce.
Growing up in Manitoba’s First Nation communities, EJ is intimately familiar with the systemic barriers that Indigenous people continue to face. With exceptional business acumen and the courage to challenge the status quo, he has successfully blazed new trails upon which others now follow.
Eva Wilson-Fontaine is a member of the Peguis First Nation and is a co-founder of AMIK™ Inc. Her professional career has been working with Indigenous communities in the social services, training and employment, employee retention and is currently the Team Leader with ANISH Corporation. Her work with AMIK involves delivering cultural awareness sessions, workshop facilitation, presentations on the Effects and Impact of Indian Residential School. She is a certified Master Facilitator in the Smart Work Ethics ~ Workforce Employability Skills Curriculum.
She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member (representing MB Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program) with the Manitoba First Nation Wellness Advisory Committee. She has also served as a Trustee of the Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation, Co-Chair for the Women as Career Mentor Gala Dinner Event, and a Board Member of Ikwe Widdjiitiwin Women’s Shelter.
In October 2011, Eva and her husband and business partner, E.J. Fontaine received the Aboriginal Business Leadership Award from Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba.
Sherman Kong has been closely involved with the Indigenous community for nearly two decades. He holds a degree in Economics & Business from the University of Manitoba and has worked at many large Canadian corporations such as RBC, First Nations Bank, The Business Development Bank of Canada, as well as private for-profit and non-profit organizations. In all his roles, Sherman has always had a connection with the Indigenous community in a variety of capacities including as a board member and consultant.
As an entrepreneur, Sherman has worked with businesses stretching from Japan, China, Scotland, and the United States. After working with Polar Bears in Churchill, Sherman founded Maple Leaf Survival™ - Manitoba’s Leader in Survival Training - where he teaches mostly private industry on Wilderness and Extreme Cold Weather Survival Tactics. His clients have included Manitoba Hydro, Stantec Consulting, First Nation communities, arctic research teams, and military service members from the U.S. Airforce to name a few.
Sherman is currently the Chief Executive Officer for AMIK Inc. assisting companies such as CN Rail, Air Canada, Payworks, Canada Life, Assiniboine Credit Union, PCL Construction, Rio Tinto, and others with strategic Indigenous Engagement Solutions.
Mike Schwartz retired from Great-West Life Assurance Company (recently rebranded Canada Life) at the end of 2018 after a long, successful career. Mike began in financial roles, having achieved his Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant designations. In 1998 he shifted course to lead customer service operations. As Senior Vice-President Group Benefits, Mike led life, disability and health claims and contact centre operations, comprising over 2,700 staff in offices across Canada. In 2015 Mike again changed course, joining a new team as Senior Vice-President Transformation and Operational Excellence, where he led a number of transformational change initiatives. Over his diverse career, Mike gained deep experience in many areas, including technology and other projects, and strategic, financial, staff and service leadership.
Mike also contributed in a broader context. Mike led formation of Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, a public service initiative of Canada Life providing free resources towards improving workplace mental health, serving as Executive Director from its launch in 2007 until 2015. Mike noted indigenous people were underrepresented in his service organization, and reached out to AMIK, which provides indigenous engagement services. With AMIK’s support, Canada Life has increased its recruiting from the indigenous community. On retirement, Mike was honoured with a spirit name, Nibing Noodin (Summer Wind), in recognition of his support. Mike continues an interest in indigenous recruiting and reconciliation in his post-retirement life.
Robert Maytwayashing is Anishinaabe who was raised in the ways of his people on the Lake Manitoba First Nation, located in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. A member of the Turtle Lodge National Council of Elders and Knowledge Keepers, Robert is a husband of 39 years, a father of three adult children and a grandfather to ten grandchildren. Robert continues to hunt, fish, gather and on occasion trap as was taught to him by his family. Robert considers himself fortunate that he has had the privilege of working and learning from many Elders over the years. Robert is fluent in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway). Robert is a pipe carrier, sweat lodge keeper and attends the annual ceremony of Sundance, amongst other ceremonies. Robert has also hosted Warrior lodges and Eagle dances to name a few.
Over the years, Robert has served his community of the Lake Manitoba First Nation as both a Council member and Chief. Robert has also worked as a Health Director in two First Nation communities as well as the Senior Health Policy Analyst for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Robert was also one member on a team of three Elders that worked to build a healing lodge in Manitoba. All of this experience has given Robert the ability to share on the Canadian/First Nations relationship from a First Nations experience and perspective. Robert is currently employed by the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority as the Indigenous Human Resources Development Officer, where part of his function is to provide Cultural Awareness training for the RHA’s 3200 staff. Robert believes that only through the relearning and sharing of our traditions, ceremonies and cultural contributions can we truly heal our spirits and prosper as a People, Community, Nation and Country.
“None of us are going anywhere, in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation the sooner we understand each other, the quicker we can start the healing journey together.“
Rebecca Sinclair (Merasty) is a nêhiyaw-iskwêw, wife and mother of three, she is originally from Barren Lands First Nation (Treaty 5) and a member of Little Saskatchewan First Nation. She moved to Winnipeg, a guest on Treaty One territory, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Native Studies from the University of Manitoba. Rebecca works in the role of Research and Policy Analyst for Indigenous Climate Action and Program Coordinator at Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective. Rebecca passions are in land defense, cultural revitalization, research, and is a part of multiple boards. Actively reclaiming her native language, Rebecca pursues higher learning that comes from the land and through learning alongside knowledge keepers and Elders. Her childhood spent on the land in northern Manitoba, has shaped her understanding and guided her efforts to protect and preserve the great gifts of our sacred Earth.