George Lépine (Wapiwinkeeheehowsik)
Chief Instructor – Okimahkan Kiskeno Huma Kew
Chief Instructor Lépine developed and established Okichitaw in Canada. He is Plains-Cree from Manitoba and grew up learning traditional hunting, tracking, weapon and throwing practices from a very young age. His Cree name is Wapiwinkeeheehowsik which means “Eagle eyesight from a distance.” He started martial arts at the age of 13 and continued to secure extensive knowledge in various martial art disciplines over a 35+ year period. Teachers, Masters and Elders encouraged him to embrace the traditions of native combat and to find ways to preserve and perpetuate this knowledge.
Based on Canadian Plains Cree combat principles and methods – both from his own teachings and through extensive historical research – Okimahkan Lépine combined this knowledge of native combat with his Aboriginal culture and values and his extensive martial arts experience to create Okichitaw. He has continued to distill this knowledge, codifying and systematizing it into a modern martial arts system.
Okichitaw is a renewed expression of traditional warrior knowledge, bringing these techniques and tactics and values into the present and carrying them well into the future. His family’s Aboriginal ancestry and contributions are well documented throughout Canada. His Grandfather (Ambroise Lepine) was the Adjutant-General for the Métis Provisional Government during their struggles in the late 1870’s and 1880’s. In charge of any military action, Ambroise facilitated every movement of the tribal community. George and his relations continue their Aboriginal empowerment by participating in Aboriginal awareness, politics, justice, arts and culture.
Since 1997, Master George Jason Lépine has been providing instruction in the martial arts in Toronto, Canada at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. Master Lépine has over 35 years of martial arts experience and he is the originator of Okichitaw.
His 35 years of martial arts experience includes a 6th degree black belt in Taekwondo (with Grand Master K. S. Cho), a 6th degree black belt in Hapkido (with Grand Master Inn Suk Pak), a black belt in Taekeukdo, and a brown belt in Judo (with Master Oye). As well, he was on the Canadian Men’s Olympic Taekwondo team for the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Elder Vern Harper (Asin)
Traditional War Council Chief
Vern Harper is a Plains-Cree spiritual Elder and Medicine Man who currently works daily as a spiritual mentor and counselor throughout Canada. He is a highly recognized and respected Military Veteran (Korean War). His Cree name, Asin, means “Stone.” The “Urban Elder” as he has been called, is a 5th generation grandson of Mistawasis, “Big Child” – a hereditary Chief – and the 6th generation grandson of Big Bear, who fought the last battle between the Cree and the Canadian government in 1885. Among his many diverse roles, Vern Harper has worked with Correctional Services Canada, conducting Native spiritual services at federal prisons, helping inmates to rehabilitate themselves through teachings, counseling and traditional ceremonies. He also counsels Native young offenders and their families on behalf of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.
Vern Harper served in the United States military with the 187 Airborne Division during the Korean War. After returning from active service in Korea, he also became a successful boxer and eventually secured the Light Heavyweight Boxing Championship in Saskatchewan. His life is an interesting blend of the traditional and the modern. He is a strong leader and remains deeply connected to Okichitaw Martial Arts and the spiritual beliefs and traditions of Native culture.