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Beloved professor, scholar and head of Native studies Dr. Renate Eigenbrod has died

May 12, 2014 — 

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.

Renate Eigenbrod.

Renate Eigenbrod.

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.

WritingChangebookHer 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.”

Native studies page on Facebook.



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
Acting Provost,
University College
Professor of History
310 Fletcher Argue Building
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 5V5


Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair:
May 10
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.

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18 comments on “Beloved professor, scholar and head of Native studies Dr. Renate Eigenbrod has died

  1. robert falcon ouellette

    This is the most terrible news to the U of M community and individual who was committed to her students and committed to her life’s work of Aboriginal peoples. A friend who will be missed.

  2. Sherry Farrell Racette

    I first met Renate when a mutual friend brought her along to my post-defense celebration. Later she sent me the advertisement for a joint position with the Department. I applied, was offered the position and moved back to Winnipeg, but not before doing a residency in New Mexico. Renate came and stayed with me for a few days before we went to the Native American Literature conference in Albuquerque. She had her heart set on buying a Navajo rug until I had to bring her down to earth with the prices. She was wide-eyed when she saw me head off to the slot machines at the conference hotel. We found we had many mutual friends. We laughed and visited. Those few days were the foundation of a pretty unique relationship in the academic world. Renate has been my constant since I’ve come to the U of M. Our office has had a bit of a revolving door. Administrative assistants have changed. Faculty have moved in and out, but Renate and I were office mates for four years. When the office was quiet at the end of the day, I often plunked in her visitor’s chair to vent, commiserate or dream. We had both been extremely busy this last term, and hadn’t gotten together as often as we usually did. During our last conversation, I remarked that it had been a really tough year for me, and that my students, particularly this last term, had been a gift. By that I meant, a gift from the Creator. A gift that motivated and inspired. She knew what I meant. “Yes,” she nodded vigorously, “That is how I feel. My students this term were a gift.” So to those of you who were in her class this term, know that you were a gift. You brought her joy and inspiration. I have been working out of the province for the last two weeks. I dread going back to the office because I have lost my anchor, my co-conspirator, my port-in-a-storm, but most of all an irreplaceable friend.

  3. Leah Mckay-Scott

    R.I.P Renate Eigenbrod…2002 native studies professor…I enjoyed her classes. ..learned a lot from her

  4. Kimberley Wilde

    This is one of the ways I will remember Renate Eigenbrod. Eyes sparkling, smile dancing across her face, laughter spilling into the room. She helped so many people strengthen their voice, take a few more steps down their path, find their own light. I worked with Renate for many years, most lately when she was Head of the Department of Native Studies and I an administrative assistant. I left the department feeling like I was leaving one good job to go to anohter good job, largely due to Renate’s leadership and support. In the years that we worked together, she never failed to be a woman who was strong in herself, and delighted in the strength and gifts of others. Among many other qualities, she had an amazing memory. And in her passing, that is her legacy to all of us – many, many amazing memories.

  5. Marlene Atleo

    She came into the Graduation Powwow breathless, complaining that she was having a hard time breathing and on her way to the doctor but wanted to see the graduates. That was Renate.Always there for students and as Niigaan has said so eloquently, she was there supporting vision and voice of students and aspirants. I used to tease Renate about us both been “Renate”…she the willowy elegant one and I the short and stubby one….we could go back and forth in German and English and were of the same generation which brought us close in a particular way with the dogs of history barking at our heels. We were planning lunch on Wed but she still was not feeling well…We shared our Greifswald experience….and the German Canadian Studies conference fellowship….I look up at my book shelves and see her books…her enthusiastic support of Indigenous literature….my sincere condolences to her son Felix and her daughter Judith….she was treasured, and my oh, my….she will be missed…..mare Möge sie in Frieden ruhen.

  6. John Butler

    I was very sad to hear of the death of Professor Eigenbrod. I have known Renate for a number of years, and after I left the Department of English at U of M we kept in touch. She was an excellent keynote speaker at a conference here at the University College of the North, and I knew her as a wise and warm-hearted colleague. I am sure she will be missed.

  7. Edward Valandra

    I was truly shocked to hear of Renate’s journey to The Ancestors. Though I have known Renate since August 2013, I truly experienced her energy and I was honored that she went out of her way to welcome me to the Native Studies Department and to Winnipeg. She is what everyone has posted about her. Renate’s way is reminiscent of other Native Studies scholars whom I have been privileged to study under such as Vine Deloria, Jr. and John Mohawk. Like them, Renate, engaged you as a human being and she could enjoy and appreciate the paradoxes that confound Native Peoples and our discipline. I once wrote that Vine Deloria, Jr. made me fully understand that revitalizing Native Country depends on nurturing relationships, and that doing so brings us closer to the kind of freedom our ancestors experienced. To my bereaved friends, take heart that Renate has also moved us closer to that kind of freedom.

    In closing, “Tunkasila nicinca wana ku welo” (Grandfather one of your children is returning)

    Edward Valandra (Wambli Wapaha Hoksila/Eagle Bonnet Boy)

  8. Peter Rasevych

    I have known Renate since September 1997, first as an undergraduate student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. I was new to the campus and taking her ‘Literature of Canada’s First Nations’ course. She was pleased that I registered for it not as a requirement for my H.B.A. degree, but simply because it is a topic area that interested me immensely because I am a First Nations person and told her that I never had the opportunity to take a course like that at McGill University — her class was so unique. Renate became an excellent mentor, as anyone who knows her is aware of how engaging she can be, accepting of so many viewpoints and how open she is when discussing the importance of Aboriginal literature and accompanying discourses. Of course, I was adamant that Renate sign on as my MA thesis supervisor. I will never forget her determination and tireless commitment to assist me with getting it done by 2001. Renate could always be counted upon as an advisor, and she was always interested in political and social activism, justice for First Nations treaty rights, and also of course traditional Aboriginal culture and spirituality. She always welcomed all students to express their views and interests in her classrooms. Her classes were lively and thought-provoking as a result, with a lot of humour at times. Renate enjoyed strong community contacts not only within the local urban First Nations population within the City of Thunder Bay, but also among Anishnawbe people in the dozens and dozens of surrounding First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario whom she made contact with over the course of her years and years teaching here. I imagine that she extended all of this with her when she left for Winnipeg in 2002. As a student of hers, I can say that she always was there for all of us and we are lucky to have had her as an instructor and friend. Unfortunately, I had not been able to visit her since 2010 while visiting in Winnipeg at that time. I have been planning on emailing or phoning her in the past two weeks, as I have a trip planned to be in Winnipeg in the coming month and I have been hoping to be able to visit her. So this news certainly comes as a shock. However, it is great to know that Renate did accomplish all that she was determined to do, and she did this in Winnipeg. Congratulations to her, and thanks to her for a life well-lived. Miikwech Renate.

  9. Christopher J. Fries

    It was with genuine sadness that I learned of Dr. Eigenbrod’s passing. My experience of her was mostly as a member of Faculty promotion committees. I remain impressed with how supportive she was of her newer colleagues as Department Head. Without any of the jealously, resentment, or insecurity that can be displayed by Department Heads, Renate took a genuine interest and stake in the advancement of her junior colleagues, for whom she advocated. Renate Eigenbrod was a caring and gifted administrator whose model will be missed at the University of Manitoba.

  10. Taina Maki Chahal

    Renate’s vibrant personality, unwavering commitment, intense concern for ethics and justice, and many contributions to community and the academy will be deeply missed. As a former student of hers in the English Department at Lakehead University, I can attest to her groundbreaking contributions to the university and to bringing the study of Native Literature into the center. She introduced many Aboriginal writers and concepts to the study of English literature, voices and texts that had previously been marginalized and missing. She created the first Native Literature class for the English Department at LU in 1986. She was a role model in getting students engaged in the classroom, getting them to think, getting them to love literature in its many forms. I had so many interesting conversations with her. She was not afraid of questions or having her methods scrutinized–in fact, she loved having the chance to re-think her ideas and work. Her reflexivity and openness stood out in the academy. She took the concept of ‘travelling knowledges’ to heart. She embodied decolonizing before the word existed. My deepest condolences to her family, her colleagues, her students, and all who have been touched by her warm spirit. Thank you, Renate, for sharing your gifts with us.

  11. Tricia Logan

    Like so many others, I am on the path I am on because of Renate’s encouragement and her faith in my abilities. The faith she had in me and in each of us was such a gift. She was the most inspiring kind of teacher in academia and in life, she could see what I was capable of when I couldn’t see it at all. I had my best ideas when she was around; whether it was on her porch, her office or in quick emails. I really resisted literature when we first met, I thought I was a boring writer banished to the archives. She proved me wrong and I look up at all my books and I wonder where all these stories and poems came from all of a sudden. It is a great comfort to read these notes online, as I am away in London working on my PhD, on a topic that Renate helped me create. She made up reading courses during my MA, for me when the topics I studied just did not exist. A tall woman like me, she knew my home, Thunder Bay so well and she always laughed all my terrible jokes. She gave me a hard time for always showing up late and handing things in late. It is hard to be away from home at a time like this, but these notes are a comfort to read. So many stories and so many kind words in the world exist because she taught us how all to use them.

  12. Carl W. Stone

    Renate was at every gathering I was at giving her support. I saw her as a friend and one who walked with us. She stood behind me as I spoke. Renate invited me to speak to the classes she taught. I was asked to speak about the return of the Brohenhead Drum and she complemented every word I spoke. She was indeed a true friend of the people and worked with grass roots people like Althea Guiboche, the Bannock Lady.
    Dr.Renate Eigenbrod will be remembered with Love and Compassion of which she gave. Chi-miigwetch my Relative, Rest with Great Peace.

  13. Oliver Botar

    What a loss. I met Renate the first time the University of Manitoba/University of Szeged (Hungary) conference was held in Winnipeg, and then again when it was first held in Szeged. What fun we had! She was such a loving, generous spirit. We served on an M.A. committee together, and what I remember most is her uncompromising support for her students, her courtesy towards her colleagues, her committed action to help redress the unfairness towards the First nations of this country, her belief in the future of indigenous literature and culture in general. I remember her walking her big, beautiful dog through the neighbourhood, meeting at the Neighbourhood Cafe here in Wollesley. Farewell, Renate, Mach’s gut!

  14. J Crate

    I am still in shock. I will truly miss our lunch get-togethers. Our last one was on April 26, 2014 and I will cherish that one forever….

  15. Debashree Dattaray

    I had the honour of meeting Renate in faraway Jadavpur University, Calcutta in 2004 and had been in touch with her since. My journey in Indigenous Studies was made possible through her patience, support, and ‘travelling knowledges’. Her immense generosity when I was at Manitoba and through all these years ushered in many life changing moments for me – I am very grateful to have known her and her lessons in humility and learning would always be a source of endurance and sustenance.

  16. Georgina Kakegamic

    Renate was a very close friend…I visited her at her home in Wpg. She was a very remarkable lady who was so interested in our Native culture and traditions and just our way of life. I first met her taking her English courses at Lakehead when I was working on my BA and BEd. She was invited to teach English and Native Studies/Literature at my home community of Sandy Lake First Nations. She would come on weekends to do the courses and she had a full class. She always had a room prepared for her at my house while in Sandy Lake. It was a joy to have her company. I took her to my parents place for some good old storytelling by my late dad and of course my mom. She thoroughly enjoyed these visits. I enjoyed assisting her in compiling Teachers Resource Guide of Aborginals Writers. She would often come to Sandy just to visit me after she moved to Wpg. Her last visit in 2011..she was on her way to Sioux Lookout for a meeting and she spend two nights with me…little did I realize that would be our last time together..we talked into the wee hours of the night..She called to see how I was doing and how I was doing being a widow and taking care of my children/grandchildren…that was just the kind of friend…be missing you Renate..

  17. Mahesh Kumar Dey

    This is a shocking news for me even after six long years. Renate was my academic contact when I was in her campus as a recipient of SICI FRP Award 2007. I spent 4 weeks at the department of Native Studies of the University of Manitoba and worked on my project under her supervision. She even assisted me to visit Saskatchewan for an international conference on Native literature. May her soul rest in peace.

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