Lorraine Whitman (“Grandmother White Sea Turtle”) is one of 14 siblings (seven brothers, six sisters) of the late Chief Joseph Peters and Elder Doris (Brooks) Peters and granddaughter of the late Chief Louis Peters of Bear River, member of Glooscap First Nation in Nova Scotia.
Since graduating with honours from the University of Alberta’s Grant McEwan College Rehabilitation Practitioner program, Lorraine’s career has focused on health care and healing. Early in her career she developed, implemented and evaluated personal and educational programs in Edmonton-based schools, workplaces and social environments for individuals with physical needs and challenges. Upon returning to Nova Scotia in 1987, she worked for 23 years as a social development officer for Glooscap First Nation. In 2009 Lorraine attended Yellowquill Community College, specializing in the Aboriginal Diabetes program, chosen as valedictorian of her class. In 2010, Lorraine was employed as the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative Coordinator for Glooscap First Nation.
Lorraine served Glooscap First Nation as an elected councillor from 1997–2012, sat on the Board of Directors of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq for more than 15 years, served as a health committee member for the Tripartite Forum for more than 10 years and was the Mi’kmaq representative on the Annapolis Valley School Board from 2000–2003. She also developed The Fair Trade Seven Sacred Teachings Coffee roast blend for Just Us! Coffee, with a portion of the proceeds directed toward select Indigenous programs.
In 2017, Lorraine was elected President of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association and became an Elder for Acadia University as well as a Board Member of the Nova Indigenous Tourism Enterprise Network. She was a Mi’kmaq Language Advisory representative (2020) and has received the Nova Scotia Volunteer Award (2019). Lorraine was elected President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) in September 2019. NWAC engages in national and international advocacy aimed at legislative and policy reforms that promote equality for Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit 2SLGTBQQIA people. Through advocacy, policy, and legislative analysis, NWAC works to preserve Indigenous culture and advance the well-being of all Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people, as well as their families and communities.
Lorraine was recognized in 2020, October 1st Treaty Day with the Grand Chief Marshall Elders Sr. Award and currently sits as a member of the Mi’kmawey Debert Elders Advisory Council. In 2020 Lorraine was an Elder involved in the international project together with Omar Gandhi Architect team with the winning design for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which pays homage to Mi’kmaq culture.
Over the years, Lorraine has volunteered at the Windsor Exhibition, informing others about the Mi’kmaw culture, heritage and ceremonies in her territory. She has participated with her younger sister Darlene in the Commemoration of our Sisters in Spirit over the past 11 years and has lead various Mi’kmaw cultural events, including porcupine quill demonstrations, talks, singing and drumming.
Lorraine is married to her husband Thomas of 40 years and has raised their daughter according to Mi’kmaw culture and traditions. Outside of attending to her duties as NWAC’s President, Lorraine is an artisan and volunteers at her local church. She splits her time between her career, speaking, raising awareness of Mikmaq culture and heritage to the general public, volunteering at local elementary, middle, high and secondary schools mentoring youth and girls, empowering them to reach their full potential while facing barriers and challenges in their lives.