ca-wpellitier1The presence of Indigenous Elders and distinguished members of the Indigenous community on campus provides support and inspiration for Indigenous students, faculty and professional services staff. Such individuals also play an important part in introducing the entire university community to the rich traditions and knowledge in the Indigenous community.

Elders on Campus

In the Fall of 1993, Wilfred Peltier became Carleton’s first Elder-In-Residence. An Odawa and graduate of the University’s Masters program in Canadian Studies (1990), Peltier served in this capacity until 1996. Guardian of Anishnaabe traditions, renowned story-teller, and author of No Foreign Land and A Wiseman Speaks, Pelletier guest-lectured over the years in a number of departments, including English and Psychology. As Elder-in-Residence, he had a loyal following of faculty and students who regularly dropped in to chat and hear his words of wisdom. Indeed, “Wilf”, as he was affectionately known, became a cultural icon so much so that, in 1999 when he returned to Carleton to give a lecture on the oral tradition and its effect on Native education, the Today@Carleton notice read simply: “Wilf is back.”

After a brief hiatus the Elder-In-Residence program began again in 2002 and in that year Elder Mali-hat-kwa was available to the Indigenous community on campus. Mali-hat-kwa is a Sun Dancer, Pipe Carrier, Healer and Counselor from British Columbia. Her heritage is from the Coast Salish and Shuswap Nations.

In 2003 an Indigenous work-study student and active member of the Indigenous Students’ Council, hired by the Department of Equity Services, brought in Elders to meet with Indigenous students on campus. Between October and February, Elders made a total of six visits to Carleton University. This included two visits from Walter Bonaise, a Cree Elder, two visits by Theresa Dion, a Metis Elder and a single visit by John Mayo and Louise Wawatie. A seventh visit was organized as part of the opening of a weekly Indigenous regalia-making night beginning February 2004 sponsored by the Department of Equity Services. Students prepared and brought traditional foods to enhance these events.

Given the success of these visits, the Department of Equity Services plans to continue making knowledge keepers, traditional teachers, spiritual advisors and Elders available to Indigenous students, faculty and professional services staff on an ongoing basis. Watch for announcements of these visits in the events section of our website.

Distinguished Indigenous Visitors to Carleton University:

There have been many distinguished Indigenous visitors to Carleton University. In the late 1980s the university arranged to have an Indigenous colleague from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs join its faculty ranks on an annual basis through the Canada Interchange Program. The Distinguished First Nations Visitors series was created in 1991 to honour eminent Indigenous peoples and to encourage dialogue with the Indigenous communities in Canada. In April of that year Carleton hosted Distinguished First Nations Visitor, Alanis Obomsawin, one of Canada’s foremost documentary film-makers.

In 1994 renowned architect, Douglas Cardinal visited the university to receive an honorary degree from Carleton University and in November of 1994 Alanis Obomsawin returned to the University to receive an honorary degree. Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation.

In 1996 several distinguished leaders of the Indigenous community participated in a Conference on Indigenous People and the Canadian Union. Participants included the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ovide Mercredi; Elijah Harper, member of Parliament; Mary Sillett, President of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada; and Amartha Flaherty, President of the Inuit Women’s Association of Canada. Also in 1996, Nellie J. Cornoyea, former Government Leader of the Northwest Territories and advocate for the Inuit, visited the university to receive an honorary degree.

In November of 1997 Chief Billy Diamond visited the university as an honorary degree recipient. While here he delivered a lecture, ” A Vision for the Future”, sponsored by the Carleton First Nations Club.

In November of 1999 Odawa Elder and author Wilfred Peltier returned to the university to deliver a talk on the oral tradition and its influence on Native education, sponsored by the Department of Equity Services.

In January of 2001 Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, former president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and long-time manager of CBC Radio North visited the university to speak on “Inuit Culture in a Fast Changing World”. Carleton University’s Inuktitut students and faculty members participated in an open question and answer dialogue on the subject. Throat singing and drumming demonstration was also part of this event.

Around the same time Peter Irniq, the Commissioner for Nunavut, a position on par with a provincial lieutenant governor, was on campus to talk about the present and future of Nunavut, Canada’s newest northern territory. Irniq, described as a tireless and passionate crusader for Inuit rights, spoke informally about the making of Nunavut and the new territory’s initiatives to maintain and protect the traditional Inuit ways.

Also in January of 2001 Dr. Taiaike Alfred, Director of the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria; Candace Metalic, National Fisheries Coordinator for the Assembly of First Nations; and Karen Somerville, Burnt Church Representative; Steven Augustine, Historical Researcher for the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and Mi’kmaq Hereditary Chief, visited the university to participate in a panel on Burnt Church and an open forum.

In March of 2001 award winning Native writers, Marilyn Dumont, winner of the Archibald Lampman Award for poetry; and Eden Robinson, Giller Prize nominee for Fiction, came to Carleton to give readings.

In October 2002, Douglas Cardinal returned to the university to deliver the address on the occasion of the official opening of the Azrieli Pavilion and Theatre and the inauguration of the David J. Azrieli Institute for Graduate Studies in Architecture. Mr. Cardinal also addressed the graduating students of the School of Architecture at their “Final Thesis Show and Reception”.

In March of 2002, Olive Patricia Dickason, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Ottawa, member of the Order of Canada and recipient of the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award, visited Carleton to be the keynote speaker at a symposium entitled, “The Metis, Canada’s Forgotten People: The Years of Achievement?”

In 2003 several celebrated Indigenous artists visited Carleton University to speak at the New Sun Symposium. Among them were: David McLeod, writer/radio producer, Native Communications Inc., Winnipeg, member of The Indigenous Writers Collective and Jennifer Podemski, actress/writer/film maker, co-founder of Big Soul Productions.

In November of 2003 Alanis Obomsawin returned to the University to speak about “Our Life Under Religious Control” when she delivered the 2003 Sun Life Financial Public Lecture. Her film, Is the Crown at War with Us (2002), is a powerful and painstakingly researched look at the conflict over fishing rights between the Mi’kmaq people in New Brunswick and their non-Indigenous neighbours.

In January of 2004 the fourth annual Rheal Brant-Hall Memorial Lecture was presented by Cindy Blackstock. A member of the Gitksan Nation, Cindy Blackstock participated in numerous provincial and national research projects, including appointments to the Assembly of First Nations, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development National Policy Review Committee as well as the First Nations Summit Action Committee for First Nations Children and Families.

In January of 2004, award-winning Native American writer, Simon Ortiz, visited Carleton University to give a poetry reading and meet with Indigenous students on campus.

In March 2004, the Department of Equity Services hosted a half-day welcome for mature students from the Inuit Art Foundation interested in learning more about post-secondary education at Carleton University. Representatives from programs with Indigenous content, those providing support to Indigenous peoples on campus, and an Indigenous graduate student (who provided information about studying at Carleton) were invited as speakers. A buffet lunch was provided and invitations were sent to Indigenous students and faculty to welcome this group of potential Carleton students.

Marlene Brant Castellano received an honorary degree in the summer of 2004.

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