Beloved professor, scholar and head of Native studies Dr. Renate Eigenbrod has died
Beloved professor, scholar and head of the department of Native studies Dr. Renate Eigenbrod passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.
Eigenbrod taught Canadian Aboriginal Literatures, with research interests in theories of decolonization in relation to Aboriginal literatures in Canada and Indigenous literatures globally. She was presently working on the role of Aboriginal literatures within the larger societal discourses of genocide on the one hand and of reconciliation and redress on the other.
She edited a collection called Aboriginal Oral Traditions: Theory, Practice, Ethics (Fernwood, 2008) with scholar Renee Hulan and was also co-editor of Creating Community: A Roundtable on Canadian Aboriginal Literatures and the author of Travelling Knowledges: Positioning the Im/migrant Reader of Aboriginal Literatures in Canada. In 2004 and 2009, Dr. Eigenbrod was the recipient of the Arts Celebrating Arts Award for outstanding achievement. She also won a special award from the Curriculum Foundation for her work (in collaboration with Georgina Kakegamic and Josias Fiddler), Aboriginal Literatures in Canada: A Teacher’s Resource Guide.
In addition to the published literature created by a new generation of Aboriginal writers, Eigenbroad was also interested in lesser known, community-based literary activities. She was a member of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice and Equality Coalition.
She recently headed a SSHRC funded project tracking the “8th Generation” of Aboriginal Canadians.
The five year SSHRC Insight Grant on emergent Indigenous writers was titled “e-kiskakweyahk/we wear it”: postmemory and new memories in literature by Aboriginal authors of the Eighth Generation.
Her work in Indigenous scholarship and activism clearly thrilled her. In February 2014, UM Today interviewed Eigenbrod about that five-year project and a day-long workshop in creative writing in April 2013, called “Writing for Change,” facilitated by the Indigenous Writers Collective of Manitoba. The workshop resulted in a book by the same name, which featured the writing of the workshop participants and facilitators.
Eigenbrod explained the emphasis in her research and scholarship on writing and story as powerful tools in social change: story is both “non-threatening [for the audience] and empowering” for the aspiring writer, for other Aboriginal youth — and beyond. It allows the writer “to make sense of things in their own way,” she said.
“Because the voices have been silenced — one of the worst aspects of Colonialism — this has done a lot of damage.”
Everyone who had the opportunity to meet her knew that Eigenbrod worked tirelessly to make those voices heard.
Eigenbrod worked tirelessly to make those voices heard.
As her colleague Dr. Emma LaRocque, professor and former head of Native studies, said, “She was … an enthusiastic supporter of Aboriginal peoples and cultures, and an advocate of historic justice and human dignity.
“Dr. Eigenbrod was widely known and loved, and our community will remember her for all those wonderful staff/student parties she hosted. Most of all, we will remember her for commitments, her vibrant, energetic and generous spirit.”
To our Native Studies community,
It is with some shock, very heavy hearts and profound sadness that we inform you of the sudden passing of Dr. Renate Eigenbrod. Dr Eigenbrod joined our department in 2002 and became department head in 2010. Prior to joining us she had taught at Lakehead University, Thunderbay, Ontario, where she and her family resided for many years. Dr Eigenbrod was originally from Germany. She was a highly accomplished scholar well known nationally and internationally for her research and love for Aboriginal Literatures and Trauma Studies. She was also an enthusiastic supporter of Aboriginal peoples and cultures, and an advocate of historic justice and human dignity.
Dr Eigenbrod was a much loved department head, and she was to many of us, a very dear friend and colleague. Dr Eigenbrod was widely known and loved, and our community will remember her for all those wonderful staff/student parties she hosted. Most of all, we will remember her for commitments, her vibrant, energetic and generous spirit.
Words cannot say how much we will miss her.
On behalf of the Native Studies Department at the University of Manitoba,
Dr. Emma LaRocque
I am writing with deep sadness and profound sorrow to inform you that Dr. Renate Eigenbrod, our dear colleague, passed away on Thursday 8 May 2014. Dr. Eigenbrod joined the University of Manitoba in 2002 and was, at the time of her passing, Professor of Aboriginal Literatures and Head of the Department of Native Studies in the Faculty of Arts. She was a productive researcher in the areas of decolonization and the role of Aboriginal literatures in the broader discourses of genocide, reconciliation, and redress. She was also a wonderful and engaging teacher as well as a diplomatic and conscientious administrator. Dr. Eigenbrod will be sorely missed by her students and by colleagues across the university and in the broader national and international scholarly communities of which she was a part.
Details regarding celebrations of Dr. Eigenbrod’s life will be communicated as they become available.
Dr. Jeffery Taylor
Dean of Arts
Professor of History
310 Fletcher Argue Building
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 5V5
Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair:
Renate Eigenbrod was not only a valued and trusted colleague, department chair, and co-writer/editor to me but a demanding mentor, loving friend, and an auntie. She believed in my work, fought for me when I needed it, and kept me humble. She had such confidence in me she even offered to co-edit a collection of essays while I was a grad student in 2009 – an experience that set the groundwork for my later work. I was so lucky to have such a formidable and giving scholar to work with and one that made both myself and many others better thinkers and people. I knew her for just over ten years it felt for much longer.
On Monday, in her last conversation with me, she gifted the words she always gave me; telling me how much she cared for my success, exploring with me her vision for where my work can go, and reminding me how important values like generosity, loyalty, and dedication are in the work we do. She also did what she regularly did afterwards: sending me a short email telling me she “forgot” to tell me something (there was always never enough time) while explaining how much she appreciated our conversations, our laughs, our friendship. Reflecting back now I am blown away by how she was so incredibly kind, considerate, and generous all at the same time. She led this way and all of us in the #UMNATV department are better for it.
During this past term – after I lost a student I cared a great deal about – Renate supported me in ways I will never forget. She shared stories about her teaching pedagogy and her love for Indigenous art, aesthetics, and literature while trying to keep a very wounded and defeated spirit afloat. She checked in regularly, even offering to help teach while I was recovering and – in large part due to her gifts of time and words – I was able to come back to work almost immediately. I won’t forget this ever.
There is so much else I want to say but I can just hear her telling me to go outside, enjoy the day, and stop sitting in front of this computer. I just know she has a hand in today being so beautiful and warm and welcoming just for this reason. My only feeling of retribution is a smile knowing how much she hated social media and so of course all of us turned to it to post the most beautiful tributes about her via status updates, tweets, and other online platforms. I know she is laughing at this – she loved irony too.
So I’ll go for walk… and wonder how tomorrow will look without someone who filled our lives so much.
I will miss you, auntie. Walk well.
xo — with Renate Eigenbrod.