Education activist Sanderson latest inductee in Women’s Hall of Fame

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Jason Kerr
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She's been honour provincially and nationally, and now on March 16 Carole Sanderson will be honoured posthumously here in Prince Albert.

Carole Sanderson, C.M., S.O.M., will be posthumously inducted into the Prince Albert Women's Hall of Fame on March 16.

The nationally renowned mentor and educator received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1994 and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1998, and now she’s being inducted into the Prince Albert Women’s Hall of Fame.

“She was given numerous accolades, provincially as well as federally,” nominating committee chairperson Chrissy Halliday says.  “The biggest thing was that we wanted her to finally be recognized within our city.”

Sanderson died last August at 73 years of age.   During her life she was a key member in the establishment of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, the First Nations University of Canada and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies.

She was also one of the first indigenous post-secondary graduates in the province, getting her education degree in 1960.  After spending time teaching on-reserve she decided the First Nations education system needed an overhaul.  Now, more than 50 years later, she’s being recognized in Prince Albert for her role as an education activist.

“We were sitting around and thought, she’s passed recently  and what a great honour to make sure her face is still around and people understand what she’s put forth and what she’s brought,” Sanderson’s eldest daughter, Dawn Robins says.  “It’s certainly too bad that she couldn’t celebrate with us.”

Robins and her sister were responsible for nominating their mother for the award.  She says it wasn’t just important to honour her mother.  It was important to honour the causes she was committed to.

“She accepted (awards) on behalf of that group of people that worked so hard back then to develop the schools and the institutions,” Robins says.  “She probably would have declined it at first and then accepted on behalf of all the people that worked with her.”

Robins says her mother was a humble and private person, but a fierce negotiator.  She recalls her mother leaving negotiations with the government without accepting anything because she didn’t get the right deal she wanted.

“She was hard-nosed,” Robins remembers.  “She would have to leave, thinking she was leaving Ottawa with nothing because she declined the offer.  “When she went she made sure she got what was needed and not what they were just willing to give out.”

She wasn’t just remembered for her toughness.  She also knew her issues.

“Her voice was definitely heard at the table because she was keen and knowledgeable on all the issues that were coming to the table,” FSIN vice chief Bobby Cameron told the Daily Herald in August.  “She was a lady who did the research, who did the reading before she went into a meeting.”

It’s this focus and determination that attracted the Prince Albert Women’s Hall of Fame, and ultimately led to Sanderson’s inclusion.

“I think the biggest thing that stood out, I know for myself and some of the other people on the committee, was how long she’s actually been fighting for women’s education for First Nations as well as non-First Nations,” Halliday says.  “The main thing was women’s education.  She started doing this in the late ’50s early ’60s, so this has been years that she’s been fighting for women’s education.”

Sanderson will be the 12th woman to go into the hall, following last year’s inductee Rhonda Meakin.  The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 16 at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.  Robins says she plans to share some of her more humorous stories at the ceremony, like the time her mother turned down the Order of Canada, much to the shock of the prime minister’s office.

“They phoned back and they were trying to talk her into it,” Robins says with a chuckle.

Robins says she will always view her as her mom first, and educator second, but acknowledges that she’s more than that.  Sanderson earned a reputation as a “grandmother of education” during their life, Robins says it’s important to emphasize that.

Sanderson’s mission can be summed up with a quote from a speech she gave at a teacher’s conference in 1999.

“We urgently need an educated work force,” she said.  “You are the warriors of tomorrow, and the degree you attain will be your greatest weapon.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, First Nations, Saskatchewan Order First Nations University of Canada Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies Daily Herald

Geographic location: Canada, Saskatchewan, Ottawa

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  • Shari daughton
    March 02, 2014 - 17:37

    That's wonderful!!!!!!