(Calgary) – At an outdoor drive-in style Convocation ceremony tomorrow (Tuesday, June 8) at 10 a.m. with graduates from the child studies, education, health and physical education and social work majors in attendance, Mount Royal University will bestow an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder Miiksika’am.
Miiksika’am, whose name means “Red Crane,” has a well-earned reputation as an MRU elder and spiritual advisor. Miiksika’am was sent to Old Sun Residential School outside Gleichen, AB, at the age of six-and-a-half, speaking broken English and having his name anglicized to Clarence Wolfleg. It was a scarring and corrosive experience, Miiksika’am says, improved only by the fact that his mother gave some older boys “a few dollars” to protect him from some of the priests and other students.
He says he never refers to the residential school by name, only calling it “that place.” But it was at “that place” where Miiksika’am, one summer evening in 1956 with the sun still high in the sky and the boys already ordered to bed, whispered in Blackfoot to his friends.
“I said, ‘You know what I’m going to be when I get out of this place? I’m going to be a soldier like my father (who served Canada in the Second World War, fighting in the Battle of Ortona), and when I come back, I’m going to be a leader of my people.’ When I was at ‘that place,’ I believe my destiny was set.”
MRU President Tim Rahilly stated: “We recognize the 215 children,” referring to the remains of 215 Indigenous children discovered in an unmarked grave near the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“Our hearts break for them, their families and communities, residential school survivors and Indigenous People,” continued Rahilly. “The truth of these children and others must be sought and acknowledged.
“This tragedy impacts everyone, but graduates of Child Studies, Education and Social Work working with Indigenous People is especially important in your careers. Mount Royal is committed to indigenization and decolonization. I hope you continue to be committed to this work too. As MRU AVP, Indigenization and Decolonization Dr. Linda ManyGuns, who will also attend today’s Convocation ceremony said in her statement last week, we need a kinder future and a better Canada. That depends upon all of us doing our part.”