Danika Billie Littlechild, a spearheading First Nations member from a spearheading family, has been appointed the vice-president of the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO, the first ever Aboriginal individual to occupy the position.
Niece of Wilton Littlechild, Canada’s first ever MP from Alberta with a First Nations background, Danika Littlechild has been working with the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO for almost two decades.
UNESCO, which stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is one of the earliest umbrella institutions created under the aegis of the UN with a view to promoting harmony and interaction among peoples through the process of learning and understanding the traditions and ways of life of people of various ethnic and cultural origins. Since its inception, individual countries have been working with the UNESCO through their “national commissions” which function under the organizational jurisdiction of different units in various countries. In Canada, the National Commission for UNESCO is under Canada Council for the Arts.
With a degree in law from the University of Toronto and a degree in political science from Carleton University, Danika Littlechild has been practicing law since 2004 and working for the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO in various roles since 1995. She has been a legal advisor to the Assembly of First Nations and the Confederation of Treaty 6 Nations.
Speaking in an interview, Littlechild remembered her first involvement with the Canadian National Commission as being a member of a taskforce for creation of the first Aboriginal youth website when Internet was in its infancy back in 1995.
Since then she said she had worked as an individual member of the commission focusing on youth participation in the work of the commission.
“We now have about 300 youth members, up from five when we first started and there is now a youth program officer under the commission,” Littlechild said.
Following that assignment, Littlechild became first the vice-chair and then the chair of the sectoral commission for cultural communication and information within the national commission and remained in that position for six years until 2012.
“By that time I had exhausted all of the forms of membership I could possibly have with the Canadian National Commission and so we parted ways,” she said.
This year, Littlechild was invited as the keynote speaker to the annual general meeting of the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO in BC in June, which was organized thematically around First Nations issues and it was there that she was appointed to the position of vice-president of the national commission.
Littlechild believes that she has a strong institutional memory and international experience to bring to the post, allowing the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO to be even more influential on the global stage than it has been so far.
On the importance of that influence, she reminds that the first ever world conference on arts education was convened with the Canadian commission playing a leading role in 2006.
Littlechild says, now that UNESCO has initiated a process of creating a policy towards indigenous peoples and made it a priority to work with them, Canadian national commission has still more room to contribute to the work of the UNESCO on a global scale.