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Deborah Myran

Deborah Myran (middle) / Photo: Robert Dearden

Two celebrations highlight Indigenous alumnae and Native Studies

September 16, 2014 — 

Tomorrow, as part of Homecoming, the University of Manitoba will celebrate Indigenous Achievement and the 40th anniversary of the Native Studies department during two events on campus.

The first celebration will feature guest speakers and Native Studies alumnae Nahanni Fontaine, special advisor on Aboriginal women’s issues for the Government of Manitoba, and Deborah Myran, a community leader graduating this fall with an MA in Native Studies.

Nahanni Fontaine

Nahanni Fontaine

“The ability to participate in the collective growth and achievement of Aboriginal peoples who have gone through various U of M programs is extremely powerful and inspiring,” says Fontaine. “It was only a couple of generations ago where our people weren’t necessarily reflected among the U of M (or any other university across the country) population; this is no longer the case. Particularly within the U of M space where we reclaim space with Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge, highlighting our right to be in academic space.”

A luncheon will follow the celebration, which observes the success of female Indigenous alumnae, as well as Native Studies’ anniversary.

When asked how the two go hand in hand, Fontaine, whose vocation is particularly focused on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, explains:

“‘Women as leaders’ is predicated upon the knowledge women and girls receive on our roles and responsibilities as Aboriginal women and girls. This includes understanding the role Aboriginal women and girls played within the nation, family, and in shaping the very fabric of Canada. While this knowledge is more and more being taught to women and girls in community agencies and ceremony, the historical and contemporary contexts provided by Native Studies offer students that greater sense of accomplishment and pride in fully understanding how strong and resilient Aboriginal women were/are. All these parts together inform and impart on Aboriginal women and girls just how sacred, powerful, resilient, cherished and loved they really are – again deconstructing those racist and sexist narratives of the Aboriginal women and girls.”

Native Studies will also host an anniversary celebration later in the day in memory of past department chairs Dr. Raoul McKay and Dr. Renate Eigenbrod.

The department prides itself in being one of the oldest Native Studies departments in North America.

“We have gone from a small, volunteer-run program to a full-time, six-faculty-member department and one of the jewels of this university,” says Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, associate professor, Department of Native Studies. “We are one of the best programs in the country at what we do, which is deliver culturally fluent, critically aware, and dynamic Indigenous studies programs in North America.”

Alumna Deborah Myran, who will also be speaking at the Indigenous Homecoming celebration, says, “The program has shaped my life in research, archives, history, cultural values, spiritual responsibilities, language, importance of friends and family, community relations, support, traditional knowledge, and shared understandings to name a few.”

The 40th-anniversary celebration will reflect upon the history of Native Studies and highlight the department’s future aspirations. Entertainment will include Ray CoCo Stevenson and Walking Wolf Singers and Dancers, Nikki Komaksiutiksak and Metis singers and dancers.

Everyone is welcome at both celebrations.

“The university brings washtay cante, good hearts back together again, and this is what I look forward to most for homecoming,” says Myran.


DATE: Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

TIME: 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge

40 Years 1974-2014 Department of Native Studies

DATE: Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

TIME: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

LOCATION: Tent in front of Tier Building

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