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Honouring Inuit Elders

Honorary doctorates to be awarded at special convocation in Labrador

Campus and Community

By Memorial University

Memorial University conferred honorary degrees upon Inuit Elder and respected healer, artist and educator G. Jean Crane and upon Inuit Elder and renowned artist, author and educator Nellie May Winters in a special convocation held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m. AST/1:30 p.m. NST.

The webcast is viewable on Memorial’s YouTube channel.

Biographies of the honorary degree recipients follow below.

Dr. Susan Dyer Knight, chancellor, and Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor, will preside over the ceremony.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after careful examination of the grounds for their nomination. The honorary doctorate is designed to recognize extraordinary contributions to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

The awarding of honorary doctorates typically takes place during a convocation ceremony. Memorial did not hold in-person convocation ceremonies in 2020 due to COVID-19-related restrictions. When public health requirements permit larger gatherings, graduates from 2020 will be invited to participate in a future convocation event. More details will be shared when they are available.

Biography of G. Jean Crane

Jean Crane
Photo: Submitted

Jean Crane is a renowned and respected Elder who grew up in North West River and Sheshatshiu at the intersection of Innu and Inuit culture.

The daughter of trapper Gilbert Blake, and great-granddaughter of Lydia Campbell, Elder Crane was the only one of her family of 13 to attend high school.

She has been connected to education ever since.

She combines her deep ancestral ways of knowing and living from the land with an insatiable curiosity and passion for learning.

An accomplished artist known for representing Labrador’s animals and landscapes in a variety of media, as well as a healer who blends her training as a nursing assistant with her traditional knowledge of the healing capacities of the land, Elder Crane has shared her wisdom both locally and nationally.

She is a powerful advocate for the cultures, lands, waters and spiritualties of Labrador and for the accessibility of Indigenous education in the North, by the North.

In addition to being a member of Memorial’s Board of Regents for several years, she has been involved in several initiatives at the university, notably as an Elder, mentor and teacher for the Inuit bachelor of social work degree and the Inuit bachelor of education degree programs. She also served as a member of the Labrador Institute’s Strategic Task Force.

For embodying the principles of leadership, community commitment and wisdom in all facets of her life and work as an Elder, and for carrying with her the histories and cultures of Labrador, G. Jean Crane is receiving the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Biography of Nellie May Winters

Nellie Winters
Photo: Submitted

Nellie May Winters is a renowned educator and master artist in a variety of mediums.

She is a garment designer and seamstress and is recognized for her exceptional embroidery, caribou tufting, wall-hangings, illustrations and doll-making.

Elder Winters was born in Okak Bay on the North Coast of Labrador in what is today the self-governing Inuit region of Nunatsiavut.

There she developed many of her skills, including sewing and carving, by learning and working alongside her parents Hans and Jane Andersen.

Elder Winters and her family were forcibly relocated to Makkovik in 1956, where she has lived and worked ever since.

With a portfolio spanning seven decades, Elder Winters stands out as a generational talent for her technical mastery of traditional Inuit art forms and for her prolific artistic innovation.

Her work has been commissioned and exhibited by galleries, museums and private collections both in Canada and internationally; she was also invited to show her work at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Elder Winters continues to instruct, mentor and inspire young Inuit artists and to enrich cultural life in Nunatsiavut as a knowledge holder, interpreter and author. She published a book in 2020, Reflections from Them Days: A Residential School Memoir from Nunatsiavut, which contains her personal memoirs and stories, as well as her own illustrations.

For her extraordinary contributions to Inuit art and cultural life, Elder Nellie Winters is receiving the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa.

Anyone can nominate or be nominated for an honorary doctorate, Memorial’s highest honour. If you know of someone worthy of this distinction, you are invited to nominate the individual using this nomination form.

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