Meet the Team

Derek Thunder - Manager, Aboriginal Services

Derek Thunder, Manager

Derek Thunder is from Bigstone Cree Nation in Northern Alberta and is the Manager of the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre. He has been at NAIT since 2009 bringing a wealth of experience working with First Nation, Métis and Inuit students and their communities.

In 2023, Thunder received NAIT’s most esteemed employee award, the Ernest Manning Leadership Medallion, for his unwavering advocacy and dedication to Indigenous student success. He also a received NAIT's Shine Award for Superb Customer Service in 2017 and, along with the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre team, the award for Excellence in Extraordinary Times in 2021.

Derek Thunder envisions a future where Indigenous students thrive academically, culturally and personally.  His dedication to education, coupled with his commitment to preserving and celebrating Indigenous cultures, has inspired Derek Thunder to advocate for positive change through his work at NAIT.

Camille Louis - Aboriginal Liaison Specialist

Camille Louis, Aboriginal Liaison Specialist

Camille Louis is from Montana First Nation in Maskwacîs. After graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design, she worked in various roles with Indigenous people, as well as supervised intercultural youth programs overseas. Camille enjoys staying connected to her Cree culture and practicing Nehiyawewin (the Cree language).

Camille has received 2 Shine Awards at NAIT: the Excellence in Extraordinary Times award in 2021 for her work with the Nîsôhkamâtotân team during the height of the pandemic, and the Shine Award for Team Collaboration in 2023 for her work with NAIT’s Building Intercultural Competence course.

Since joining the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre in 2014, Camille’s role has expanded to include the development and facilitation of courses and workshops that focus on Aboriginal awareness. Camille is also a trained facilitator for KAIROS Canada’s Blanket Exercise.

Sharyn Cree

Sharyn Cree, Aboriginal Liaison Specialist

Sharyn Cree is from Fort McMurray #468 First Nation. Sharyn's academic journey led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, graduating with distinction from MacEwan University.

Sharyn understands the importance of maintaining a strong cultural identity.  Since she joined NAIT in 2022, the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre has provided her with the opportunity to not only stay connected with her roots but help others do the same. This role has allowed her to channel her lived experience into meaningful guidance for students seeking post-secondary education.

A photo of Indigenous Elder and cultural advisor Verna Orr.

Verna Orr, Elder and Cultural Advisor

As a child, Verna spent her summers outside, camping and hunting with her parents. It was those summers in Bigstone Cree Nation, Alberta, a place she still calls home, where she learned the traditional practice of tanning hides. Under the guidance of her mother and grandmother – who could start and finish a moose hide in one day – Verna mastered the skill in four days. Now a grandmother herself, Verna is passing on the same teachings to her grandchildren. But it’s not only relatives who benefit from Verna’s wisdom because she also shares her knowledge in instructional videos filmed in Wabasca, Alberta.

Verna has served as an Elder and Cultural Advisor at NAIT since September 2016. In her role, she’s dedicated to sharing her cultural knowledge with students, leading women’s circles and providing lessons on beading and cutting patterns for moccasins. Verna’s pride for her culture and its traditions is something she hopes will inspire students and lead to stronger connections within NAIT’s Aboriginal community.

An image of Lonny Potts, NAIT's cultural advisor

Lonny Potts, Cultural Advisor

Lonny Potts brings a breadth of lived and cultural knowledge to help guide students as they learn and navigate through their post-secondary experiences. Lonny  is a drummer and singer from Paul First Nation in Wabamun, Alberta. For decades, he’s worked with Elders to learn Indigenous ways of knowing and doing, becoming an Elder’s helper traditional ceremonies. He studied Native Studies at the University of Alberta and worked for several years as a liaison officer in Edmonton’s Remand Centre. Previously, he worked as Indigenous Cultural Helper supporting mental health at the Rotary House, and Knowledge Keeper at Alberta Health Services.

Lonny joined NAIT as cultural advisor in September 2023. In his role, he leads men’s circles, sharing Indigenous protocol and tradition. He is also available to connect NAIT students and share his cultural knowledge to provide them with guidance and mentorship.

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