DRFN member Garry Oker completed Visual Performing Arts and Fashion Design at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario in 1985. He worked in Montreal as a fashion designer for many years and returned home to create and direct the Aboriginal Design and Cultural Study Program for School District #59 from 1990 to 1998. In 2005, he attained a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia.
Garry is presently serving as a DRFN Councilor, and previously served as Chief from 2001-2005 as well as DRFN Program Director from 1999-2001. As Councilor, Garry is focused on leading the community cultural plan through Kema Experiences. The platform allows individuals, or groups of people to participate in and learn about traditional Dane-zaa ways using all the senses – sight, smell, taste and sound as well as through actions, such as art, drumming or shooting with a bow and arrow. He has created partnerships with BC Parks, local northeast BC businesses and the City of Fort St. John to share these experiences with the public.
Additionally, Garry is a DRFN Elder and member of the Doig River Drummers. He continues to organize cultural and educational events and conduct opening ceremonies with the Doig River Drummers.
Garry’s vision emphasizes retaining Beaver language and developing a dreamers’ philosophies museum. He endeavors to promote cultural pride and is involved initiating an array of Beaver/Dene cultural education materials using a variety of formats and mediums.
Garry is a multi-talented individual with a range of artistic experiences that he often combines with leadership including:
- Founded Symbols Design Corporation – First Nations fashion design and production
- Produces and delivers cross-cultural training
- Creates world class cultural education initiatives
- Participates in on-going development of a world class heritage centre and museum in Charlie Lake, BC
- Combines art, culture and business to create employment opportunities for community members
- Creates and delivers cultural workplace safety training
- Promotes community entrepreneurship
- Produces films and music
- Produces artwork utilizing a variety of mediums
- Creates and delivers multi-sensory education on traditional Dane-zaa values
- Creates and delivers digital literacy and media production training
- Protects and produces cultural artifacts
- Member of Doig River Drummers
- Director of Doig River First Nation Museum and Culture Centre
- Leader of Exhibitions for Dane Wajich Virtual Museum
Garry has participated in sharing his culture and knowledge through participating and presenting at events throughout the world such as:
- Directing and producing the documentaries “They Dream about Everything” (2005) and “Contact the People” (2002)
- Directing the Virtual Museum project “Dane Wajich-Dane-zaa Stories and Songs: Dreamers and the Land” (2005)
- Directing and performing at the multi-media Aboriginal Pavilion Musical Performance at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver
- Designing the Dream Drum Coke bottle for Coca-Cola in 2010
- Exhibiting at numerous festivals and galleries including Power of the Land, Spirit Dreamers
- Co-directing and producing the opening and closing ceremonies for the Arctic Winter Games in 2010
- Creating music CDs including:
- “Dane-zaa Dreamers Drummer Collection” (1996-2001)
- “Dane-zaa Wajhe Language and Dreamers Songs” (2000)
- “Spirit Dreamers” (2010)
- “Ride” (2010)
- “Dreamland” (2015)
- Presenting “Digital Mythology Abstract” at World Indigenous Education Conference Peru (2011)
- Presenting at First Nation Technology Council Conference in Vancouver (2012)
- Undertaking leadership roles including:
- hosting the Beaver/Dene gatherings with Treaty 8 communities
- Speaking engagement at the international “Think Indigenous” education conference in Edmonton, AB, 2019
- Establishing and managing a Winter Bush Camp experience at High on Ice Winter Festival and during the BC Winter Games, both in Fort St. John, BC (2020)
Another one of Garry’s recent design projects includes a visionary 3 year project with Treaty 8 Tribal Association. A “Cultural Employment Strategy” is transforming workplace practice to create jobs for traditional knowledge keepers in the communities. Key projects deliverable include cross sector business cultural workshops.