Michele-Elise Burnett, a proud Métis with Algonquin roots from Kitigan Zibi Bear Clan, is President of Kakekalanicks (family name meaning Forever Always), an Indigenous arts and consultancy company which helps promote Indigenous art and artists to a broad audience. The company was developed to embrace and honour the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples within Canada through the medium of the arts. Ms. Burnett also serves as Vice President of Ignite the Spirit of Education Foundation, Inc. This initiative helps support the awareness, appreciation, and use of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit books in public libraries, on-reserve libraries, and Friendship Centres, and, through a variety of programs, works to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners.
Ms. Burnett recently served as Co-director of Advancement for Landscape of Nations: The Six Nations and Native Allies commemorative Memorial unveiled in Queenston Heights Park on October 2, 2016. Her efforts were instrumental in helping raise $1.4 million toward the design and construction of this living memorial dedicated to the contributions and sacrifices made by Six Nations and Native Allies during the War of 1812. As a compelling destination for visitors from Canada and around the world, the memorial inspires citizens to learn and acknowledge the crucial role Native peoples played in the defense and defining of Canada. Ms. Burnett also served on the Landscape of Nations Inaugural Committee where she provided leadership in the development of meaningful, educational, and entertaining opening ceremonies.
Michele-Elise was raised with an ambition and passion for broadcasting. After graduating from Ryerson University’s esteemed School of Radio and Television Arts, she became a third generation business owner in a Canadian industry pioneered by her father and grandfather. Later, partnering with her mother, she owned and operated the most powerful signal in the Niagara Region, Spirit 91.7 FM Radio, serving Southern Ontario and Western New York. The accomplished mother and daughter team were the first Aboriginal women to be granted a private broadcasting license in Canada.
With 25 years in civic leadership, business development and fundraising, Michele-Elise fuses her business acumen with a personal allegiance to higher education through her Aboriginal network within Canada and the U.S. At her alma mater, Ridley College, she served as a member of the Board of Governors for more than a decade, is a previous Vice President of the Ridley College Fund USA, and created the Women of Ridley Network. In the U.S., Michele-Elise is the previous Chairwoman of Kaleida Health’s Josephine Goodyear Committee, the founder of the “Kick For Life” initiative, and a past Coordinator of Kaleida Health’s “Beautiful Women” Program, all of which raised significant funds for Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. At Brock University, she currently serves on the Boards of Trustees, is the Aboriginal Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Educational Council, and is on the Board of Directors for Weengusk Film Institute. Ms. Burnett stewards the Suzanne Rochon Burnett C.M., Ont. Scholarship that gifts coveted education opportunities to Aboriginal students at Brock University.
Fiercely proud of her heritage, Ms. Burnett has shown that an individual who is inspired can wake up every day and follow and achieve their dreams. A strong proponent of Indigenous aspirations, she fosters a dream to unite, share, and respect each other’s Nations and to build a stronger Indigenous future filled with pride, dignity, and honour that will carry on for seven generations.