University of Winnipeg’s Fall Convocation to Pay Special Tribute to Indigenous Education, Achievement and Leadership

Sep 27, 2011 | Corporate Member News

Students graduating in The University of Winnipeg’s Fall Convocation will participate in a special tribute to Indigenous life, achievement and leadership on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am at the Duckworth Centre. 

As part of the ceremony, three Manitobans known for their spirit, courage and tenacity will be recognized for their contributions to making Canada more inclusive while giving a strong voice to Indigenous perspectives. They include the first elected First Nation member in the Manitoba Legislature, Elijah Harper, Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge, Justice Murray Sinclair, and compelling role model, teacher and Elder, Tobasonakwut Kinew who will all receive honorary degrees. 

Lloyd Axworthy, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg

“These individuals are leaders who have the vision and commitment to create a better Canada that ensures the inclusion of Aboriginal voices, making Canada a more just society more inclusive of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples,” said UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy.  “They are truly role models not only for the students who are graduating this Fall, but also to those who are following in their footsteps in the years to come.” 

This special ceremony underscores UWinnipeg’s commitment to Indigenous peoples, embracing Indigenous traditions, culture and education as part of its core mission.  From unique programs in Indigenous Studies and Development Practice, to student supports in the Aboriginal Student Services Centre and the Opportunity Fund, and the creation of an Indigenous Advisory Circle, UWinnipeg is breaking down the barriers to post-secondary education and working in respectful partnership with Indigenous peoples.  This Fall alone the University experienced a 24% increase in enrolments amongst self-identified Indigenous students, bringing the total UWinnipeg Indigenous student population to approximately 12%. 

Harper, Sinclair and Kinew join a number of other Indigenous leaders who have been recognized by UWinnipeg with honorary degrees over the years including Georges Erasmus, LL.D ’92; Tomson Highway, LL.D ’93; Tom Jackson, LL.D ’98; Sheila Watt-Cloutier, LL.D ’05; Phil Fontaine, LL.D ’08; Alejandro Toledo, LL.D ’09; Josie Hill, LL.D ’10 and Leslie Spillett, LL.D ’11. 

(Honourees listed in alphabetical order)

Elijah Harper – Honorary Doctor of Laws A Cree Canadian leader, Harper is a former Parliamentarian, constitutional activist and residential school survivor. At the age of 29, Harper became the chief of the Red Sucker Lake Indian Band (now Red Sucker Lake First Nation) and three years later, was elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Rupertsland constituency making him the first member of a First Nation to serve in the Manitoba Legislature as an MLA. In 1990 he made Canadian history when he blocked the Canadian constitutional amendment known as the Meech Lake Accord in 1990 due to insufficient participation, inclusiveness and recognition of Aboriginal people in the proposed constitutional amendment. He continues to fight for the rights of Indigenous peoples and the betterment of the human condition around the world. 

Tobasonakwut Kinew – Honorary Doctor of Laws Kinew is an esteemed member of UWinnipeg’s community in his multiple roles as Elder and Faculty in the Indigenous Studies department and Master’s in Development Practice program.  Described as a man who can walk in both worlds and who lives his life sharing the Anishinaabe teachings with others for the betterment of all peoples, he is a compelling role-model. Kinew challenges his students’ assumptions and world views while enriching them with a deep and complex understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing. By decolonizing the mind, students are open to imagining and, later, implementing strategies that are embedded in Indigenous teachings in any field they choose to work in. 

Justice Murray Sinclair – Honorary Doctor of Laws A member of Peguis First Nation, Justice Sinclair’s Ojibway name Mizanay Gheezhik, means “the One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky.”

Justice Sinclair has spent his life creating a new image of justice for Aboriginal peoples.  He attended UWinnipeg studying sociology with a history minor, and then successfully applied to law school and graduated with a law degree from the University of Manitoba. Justice Sinclair was Manitoba’s first Aboriginal judge, appointed Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba, who now chairs the critically important Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Commission’s mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools and document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the Indian Residential Schools experience. 

UWinnipeg is consistently ranked in the Top-10 in the country on an annual basis by both Maclean’s Magazine and The Globe & Mail newspaper. The University of Winnipeg is a leader in academic excellence, Indigenous education, environmental studies, business, and theatre & the arts. Find out more by visiting Follow us on Twitter: and on Facebook: 


Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7130, E: [email protected].

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