Elder Stella Blackbird, LL.D., May 28, 2015
Elder Stella Blackbird

Never sit back and wait for your vision to materialize. You alone are responsible for making your dreams come alive. You need to talk about it. You need to fight for it.

This is what challengers do. This is what visionaries do. This is what Elder Stella Blackbird does.

Known as Red Eagle Woman of the Turtle Clan, Elder Blackbird is a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who raised six children with her husband, Dan Blackbird. She was born in Saskatchewan and grew up at Beardy’s and Okemasis Willow Cree First Nation near Duck Lake. She attended St. Michael’s Residential School, but left at fifteen to join her sister’s family at Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba, which has remained her home.

Elder Blackbird transforms lives and communities throughout our country by serving others as an Elder, Medicine Teacher and Traditional Healer. For nearly half a century she has been on a healing journey. As a Residential School Survivor, Elder Blackbird has a clear dream: Never again will a First Nation, Métis or Inuit child have to feel the shame that she and others experienced in the Residential School System. Instead, children will freely and proudly embrace their cultures and identities.

Through ceremony, teachings and counseling, Elder Blackbird promotes positive change and cultural connection. She works to empower all people, cultivating their personal pride so they discover their potential and define their own futures. She supports her noble vision with bold, creative and immediate action.

Elder Blackbird saw the need for a childcare program grounded in traditional Aboriginal values. And so she started the Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre in Winnipeg’s North End. Her vision and action turned an old department store into a vibrant, culturally-rich building where generations of families come together to meet, play and learn.

As a Traditional Healer and Medicine Teacher, Elder Blackbird freely shares her vast knowledge with people of all nations from around the world. To this end, she co-founded the Medicine Eagle Healing and Retreat Place for youth, adults and families, on the sacred ceremonial grounds of the ancestors near Riding Mountain National Park. And her work with Parks Canada in reclaiming land and the right to harvest the traditional plants growing in parks, has set the standard for negotiations between the Government of Canada, Parks Canada and all First Nations within Canada.

Elder Blackbird has received numerous awards including the Caring Canadian Award from the Governor General, which recognizes her philanthropy and her never-ending efforts to cultivate understanding, acceptance, respect and love in Winnipeg and throughout our country.

Elder Blackbird, like the wind, touches upon everyone at the same time. Elder Blackbird is strengthening this nation by bringing its peoples together, empowering all of us to build collaboration, trust and understanding. She exemplifies what can be achieved when we share our gifts freely.

The University of Manitoba is honoured to celebrate Elder Stella Blackbird with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Stella Blackbird

Elder Stella Blackbird