Dolores Wawia

Dolores Wawia receiving an Alumni Honour Award from Lakehead University in 2013

Dolores Wawia (Muk Ke Queh)

  • Date of Birth: April 22, 1944, Gull Bay First Nation or Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek, Ontario
  • Accomplishments related to: Native education
  • Major affiliations: Native Education Committee, Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, Lakehead University, McMaster University, Native Teacher Education Program, Lakehead District School Board
  • Honours & awards: Lakehead Alumni Honour Award, Order of Ontario, Lifetime Achievement Award, Ontario Public School Boards’ Associate Award of Excellence

When Dolores Wawia began her studies at Lakehead University, there were a total of three First Nations students, and Native Education was nothing more than a concept. Today, there are over one thousand First Nations students at the university, and, thanks to Dolores, there has been a continuously developing Native Teacher Education Program since 1975, the first of its kind in Ontario.[i] Dolores has spent a lifetime developing and promoting Aboriginal education, with numerous achievements in the area.

In 1975, Dolores, Harold Linklater, and Walter Linklator created the Native Education Committee, which worked to improve educational opportunities for First Nation students and voluntarily taught workshops for educators. It also lead to the formation of the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee (AEAC) in 2004. In 1984, Dolores implemented the first Native studies course called Contemporary Issues in Native Education, and, from 1994 to 1996, she helped McMaster University implement an Indigenous Studies Program.[ii]  On a personal level, Wawia is the first Aboriginal woman to earn her Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Education in northwestern Ontario, which inspired her siblings to do the same: “There are six of us with fifteen degrees, and they’re all gainfully employed. That’s because I did it. I was the first one, and one brother said if she can do it, so can I.”[iii] She has been awarded the Order of Ontario and the Lakehead Alumni Honour Award for her work as a pioneer in Native education.

“Dolores has received many awards and accolades as a result of her volunteer work. She is the first female Indigenous Emerita in North America.  She is an inspiration in her dedication to making things better for Indigenous children, youth, and community. Dolores is a mentor, guide, advocate and ground breaker in the area in Indigenous education. The relationships she has built in our community are foundational to Truth and Reconciliation. Her selfless, life-long work has made enriched our community and has facilitated the healing between Indigenous and non-indigenous people that make our city, our region and our country a better place for all Canadians.” – Sherri-Lynne Pharand

[i] Garrick, Rick. 2013. "Honoured Alumna ‘Walking History Book’". Anishinabeknews.Ca.

[ii] Pharand, Sherri-Lynne, email to City of Thunder Bay Archives. July 9, 2019.

[iii] Garrick, “Honoured Alumna.”

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