Honorary Degree Recipients
Walter Currie - 1983
Walter Currie received his bachelor's degree in 1952, his teaching degree in 1953, and his graduate degree in 1979. During his teaching career, he developed a reputation as the architect of secondary and university education for Canada's Indigenous peoples. He was an elementary school teacher in North York, ON, a superintendent with Ontario's Ministry of Education, advisor to at least twelve special committees on native affairs in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and was instrumental in founding the first academic department of Native Studies in Canada.
Charles Paul - 1984
Charles Paul left home at 18 to join the Canadian army and fight in the Second World War. When he returned, he immediately became involved in band politics and was elected a band councillor five consecutive times before being elected Chief of Tobique First Nation. As Chief, he spearheaded programs to improve housing, health, and community services. He also wrote briefs and petitioned the government on behalf of his people. Charles served in executive capacities in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous veteran organizations, is a past president of the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, and was a Eucharistic minister at St. Theresa's Parish Church.
Mildred Milliea - 1990
Mildred Milliea completed her grade eight education—the most formal education that was offered on the Big Cove Reserve—in 1946. After starting a family, she became aware of the need to preserve the Mi'kmaq language and began developing a language program for young children. This program grew until Mildred became the Mi'kmaq language instructor at the Big Cove Federal School for young students in Kindergarten to grade six. She became a cultural advisor and Mi'kmaq language consultant for the proposed Heritage Centre project, developed her own curriculum, and helped to develop a Mi'kmaq calendar. For her efforts in community work, cultural development, lanaguage instruction, and educational achievement, Mildred was named the Native Woman of the Year in 1975.
Marlene Castellano - 1992
Marlene Castellano earned a Bachelor of Arts from Queen's and a Bachelor of Social Work and master's of Social Work from the University of Toronto. She began her career as a caseworker in the Children's Aid Society, but eventually turned her attention to adult education with a special concern for the needs of First Nations peoples. In 1973 she was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Native Studies at Trent University, and in 1981 completed a PhD in education theory in the University of Toronto. She was actively involved in curriculum development in the field of Native Studies at Canadian universities and taught courses on Law and Native Peoples, Indian Metaphysics, and Social Services and Identity Development among Native Peoples. She was also appointed co-director of Research for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Jeanette Armstrong - 2000
Jeanette Armstrong is a poet, writer, and teacher from the Okanagen Nation. She is best known in Canada for her novels Slash and Whispering in Shadows, but also worked tirelessly to provide a literary voice to her people through her work at the EN'OWKIN Centre. She dedicated herself to ensuring the language and culture of her people endured, and was appointed an International Witness by the Continental Commission of Indigenous Peoples to investigate Indigenous rights violations in Chiapas. She was also appointed one of seven Indigenous judges to the First Nations International Court of Justice and to the British Columbia Legal Services Board of Directors by the Native Community Law Offices.
Rita Joe - 2001
Rita Joe, the "poet laureate" of the Mi'Kmaq, began writing in her thirties to contest the conceptions and explain the actualities of Aboriginal people to her children. Her first work, titled Poems of Rita Joe, was published in 1978 and her titles since have earned accplain across Canada while providing honest and positive definitions of Aboriginal people. In 1990, Rita received the Order of Canada and the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards recognized her in 1997 in the Arts and Culture category.
Honourable Sandra Lovelace Nicholas - 2006
Sandra Lovelace Nicholas was born on the Tobique Reserve as a member of the Wolastokwiyik in 1948. Years later, she married a non-Indigenous man, moved to the United States and started a family. When her marriage ended, she returned home to find out her identity as an Indigenous woman had been taken away from her under section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act, which depried Indigenous women of their identity when they married non-Indigenous men. There was no similar provision for men, and Sandra dedicated herself to protesting this discrimination. After much struggle—including a 100 mile walk from the Oka Reserve to Ottawa to raise awareness for their protest for equality—the Parliament of Canada repealed this section of the Indian Act in 1985. Sandra was given the Robert S. Litvack Memorial Award for Human Rights, was named to the Order of Canada, and received the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the People's Case. In 2005, she was appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Lee Maracle - 2009
Lee Maracle is an author, poet, scholar, and activit for Indigenous cultural survival. Her autobiography Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel is a blunt and moving portrayal of her life and that of First Nations women across Canada. Lee earned degrees in Sociology, English, Anthropology, Women's Studies, and Creative Writing from Simon Fraser University, and published nine more books—some of which have been translated into German, Arabic, and French. She has served as Writer in Residence at the En' owkin Centre, Distinguished Guest Professor in Women's Studies and the University of Toronto, the Stanley Knowles Guest Professor at the University of Waterloo, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Aboriginal Studies and English and the University of Toronto.
Marie Wilson - 2012
Marie Wilson is one of three commissioners for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada which is probing the history and impacts of forced residential schooling on Aboriginal children. She has lived, studied and worked in cross-cultural environments in Europe, Africa and Canada, and has had a distinguished career in journalism, as well as a record of achievement with Aboriginal, religious and political organizations. She has also been a university lecturer, high school teacher and an executive with federal and territorial Crown Corporations.
Honourable Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond - 2017
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is a lawyer, judge, and children's right activist, and was the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the Provincial Court in Saskatchewan. She was a criminal law judge in youth and adult courts and worked to develop partnerships to better serve the needs of young people in the justice system, particularly those who had been sexually exploited or had disabilities such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was appointed British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth Officer in 2006, a position she held until 2016. As an independent officer of the Legislature, she supported children, youth, and families who required assistance when dealing with the child welfare system.
Alanis Obomsawin - 2019
Alanis Obomsawin is an activist, filmmaker, and singer of Abenaki descent whose work focuses on First Nations and how government policies and everyday actions of others impact Indigenous people. Her most celebrated work, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, explored the Oka crisis of 1990 and won several awards worldwide, including the Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Obomsawin is also an accomplished singer. Her 1988 album, Bush Lady, which features traditional songs of the Abenaki people and original compositions, has been re-mastered and re-released. Obomsawin has been active with organizations that support Indigenous communities and Indigenous women and has served on boards and committees for the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal, the Canada Council (First Peoples Advisory Board), Studio 1 (National Film Board of Canada’s Aboriginal Studio), the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and National Geographic International. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, and has received the Humanitarian Award of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Hall of Fame.
Maggie Paul - 2022
Maggie Paul is a Passamaquoddy elder, teacher, and song carrier. She is known for her beautiful singing voice, her work preserving traditional songs, and using music to inspire and guide Indigenous youth. For more than 40 years, she has been preserving and resurrecting Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey songs that were once banned by the Government of Canada. Along with Wolastoqyik singer Rok Wiseman, she spent one year listening to recorded songs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that were preserved on wax cylinders in the Canadian Museum of History. As the songs were only accessible in the archives, Paul recorded two albums of these traditional songs and thus returned them to her people. In 2014, she was awarded an Indspire Award in the category of culture, heritage, and art. Paul also uses music to help young Indigenous people find their voices. Most notably, she mentored Indigenous musician Jeremy Dutcher. She has dedicated her life to unearthing and reviving these forgotten melodies to bring them back to her community so that it can feel whole again.
Read the full citation here.