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REF NO.: 20

SUBJECT: Honouring Inuit Elders at special convocation in Labrador

DATE: Dec. 23

Memorial University will confer 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 to be held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday, Jan. 21.

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.

Due to public health restrictions, the event will be held in hybrid format, with a limited number of people invited to be on site. Other guests and the general public will be invited to watch event via webcast. More details on how to participate will be shared in early January. 

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
G. 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, and 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 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 starting in 1979, she has been involved in several initiatives at the university, notably as an Elder, mentor and teacher for the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work and the Inuit Bachelor of Education 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 Doctor of Laws honoris causa

Biography of Nellie May Winters
Nellie May Winters is a renowned educator and master artist in a variety of mediums: she is a garment designer and seamstress, a moose-hair tufter, a grassworker and a doll maker who using sealskin bones and beads.

She was born in Okak Bay on the North Coast of Labrador in what is today the Inuit region of Nunatsiavut. Her family was forcibly relocated to Makkovik in 1956, where she has lived and worked ever since. She got her start as an artist while attending boarding school in Nain where she began embroidering and crafting traditional inukuluk figures.

With a portfolio spanning seven decades, it is through her balance of tradition and innovation that Elder Winters has led the path for younger artists, inspiring them to experiment with regional methods and materials. Elder Winters was invited to show her work at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and she was the subject of the first-ever touring exhibition of Inuit art from Nunatsiavut.

She continues to inspire Inuit artists throughout Nunatsiavut and the North with her talents, guidance and encouragement. She published a book in 2020, Reflections from Them Days: A Residential School Memories from Nunatsiavut, which contains her personal memoirs and stories, as well as her own illustrations.

For her unique contributions to Inuit art, and for mobilizing the cultural heritage of the Inuit people, Elder Nellie Winters is receiving the degree 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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