Building a bridge of hope to the communities of the Mushkegowuk Council through education, awareness, and celebration of cultural heritage.
The Flying Free Foundation’s focus is on the Aboriginal reserves in the James Bay area. Our immediate efforts will be directed towards the supporting the youth of the Attawapiskat First Nation, but the scope of the foundation will include all eight communities represented by the Mushkegowuk Council.
James Alexander McMillan (1964-1998)
The Flying Free Foundation’s name honours the memory of James Alexander McMillan. James was very much at one with nature, spending his free time camping, canoeing, and cycling. Following his untimely passing, the song “Flying Free” by Don Besig became closely associated with James. The song was sung at his funeral and symbolizes his spirit to the entire McMillan family.
After his death, James’ parents donated his prized rowing scull to the Toronto Argonauts Rowing club of which he was a member. The club posthumously named the boat Flying Free.
James also believed strongly in the importance of education. He left a trust fund to his nieces and nephews, allowing each of them to pursue post-secondary educations without financial burden. The fund is currently supporting his nieces’ schooling, the youngest of which James did not have the chance to meet.
Through the Flying Free Foundation, James’ passion for education lives on.
Flying Free - Don Besig
Katie was inspired to pursue teaching after her experience working with Elephant Thoughts, an organization which provides various First Nations programs. Prior to her current teaching position, she taught in Eastmain, Quebec. Throughout her education Katie was, and still is, strongly involved with the education of Indigenous youth.
Katie now teaches Grade 1 in Attawapiskat at Kattawapiskak Elementary School. We became aware of the incredible Aboriginal children in the James Bay area through Katie, which ultimately led to the creation of the Flying Free Foundation.
Everyone deserves an education and a safe, inviting place to pursue their passions. The Flying Free foundation will help ensure the Aboriginal children of northern Ontario get that chance.
Shannen Koostachin (1994-2010)
Shannen Koostachin was raised in Attawapiskat, the third of six children of Andrew Koostachin and Jenny Nakogee. Shannen loved school from a young age, but was forced to receive her education in makeshift portables since the local elementary school was condemned due to a decades-old fuel leak.
Shannen and her friends tirelessly campaigned the federal government to have a new school built in Attawapiskat, launching the Students Helping Students initiative. Shannen became the face of the movement, speaking on Parliament Hill and being nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize.
Eager to continue her education, Shannen moved to New Liskeard to attend high school. Tragically, her life was cut short on June 1, 2010, when she passed away as a result of a car accident. She was never able to celebrate the new elementary school that she fought so hard for, which opened in Attawapiskat in 2014.
Flying Free is proud to honour Shannen through Shannen’s Corner, a new art initiative being undertaken with the youth of Attawapiskat.