|Honorary Degree recipient, E. Mike, 1995 (University Secretary fonds)|
Convocation date: May 25, 1995
Discipline / contribution: human rights ; Indigenous culture; public service
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of the Council and Senate, I present to you Ernest Mike.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Ernest Mike, who many of us know as "Senator" Mike because of his role in the Senate of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, has worked tirelessly to improve the political, social, and economic conditions of First Nations People in Saskatchewan, and to promote cultural awareness and tolerance among both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
Ernest Mike was born on July 18, 1924, and is a member of the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation. He stayed in school until 16, and then assisted his father in a fanning operation. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces in Korea. Ernest Mike is married to Flora, and they have eleven children, forty-three grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren. His wife, Flora, is also greatly respected for her commitment to the traditional Cree spiritual path, as she volunteers her time and energy to AIDS awareness, and health and community development.
For over forty years, Emest Mike has occupied leadership roles in the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation. He served for two terms as Chief (1965-67, 1975-77), and for over twenty years as Band Councillor.
In these roles, Ernest Mike was deeply committed to leading his people to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and away from the dependency of a trustee people under the Indian Act. He has been involved in virtually all dimensions of his people's life: health, education, agriculture, and self-government.
With a profound knowledge and understanding about the spirit and intent of treaty matters, and having experience with years of impasse in negotiating treaty issues, Ernest Mike recommended the creation of the office of Treaty Commissioner as a means of rediscovering the actual intention of the partners who signed the original Treaty. He was a critical First Nation's figure both nationally and provincially, and was intimately connected with developing the process for resolving treaty matters. As a result of his efforts, and those of several other distinguished First Nations leaders, the Federal and Provincial Governments signed a historical agreement in September, 1992, which committed both levels of government to provide approximately $500,000,000 to Saskatchewan bands in recognition of treaty settlement.
Deeply respected as a Chief, Ernest Mike pioneered, with people like Provincial Chief Walter Deiter and the late Hilliard McNab, the development of the Indian Health Commission, as well as the Saskatchewan Indian Agriculture Program, which was formed to address, govern, and represent First Nations agriculture. Again, with Chief Walter Deiter and Hilliard McNab, Ernest Mike was instrumental in uniting the Chiefs of Saskatchewan into the Union of Chiefs, which is now known as the Federation of
Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Ernest Mike currently serves as Chair of the Senate of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, whose members are appointed by the Chiefs, and who advise the Provincial Chief, the Vice-Chiefs, and the Chiefs of Saskatchewan on all matters of substance. The Senate is an essential component of the highly structured and defined First Nations government process in Saskatchewan.
Committed to the vitality and validity of aboriginal culture, Ernest Mike was a major force in the creation of Wanuskewin Heritage Park, and he diligently worked to gain the support, financial and otherwise, of First Nations partners for the development of the Park. He currently chairs the First Nations Partner Corporation, Wanuskewin Indian Heritage Inc., and he sits on the Park Corporation Board of Directors as one of two WIHI representatives.
Having served in the Armed Forces in Korea, Ernest Mike has been active in the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans' Association, and he is a champion of rights for First Nations' Veterans.
While Ernest Mike's contributions in his various official capacities have been immensely important to First Nations people in Saskatchewan, his contributions as an Elder are perhaps the best measure of his contribution to his people. As an Elder, Ernest Mike is repeatedly called upon to advise young and old alike; in doing so, he carries with him a message distilled from a lifetime of dedication, hard work, and leadership. Anyone who listens to Ernest Mike is inspired by his self-determination and self-reliance, by his strength, but perhaps most of all, by his remarkable vision for his own people that is based on understanding leading to acceptance and harmony.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishments of Ernest Mike are those that are not easily documented. He embodies a spirit and a vision that draws from his distinctive aboriginal heritage, and in this regard he is a crucial figure in maintaining aboriginal values and transmitting them to aboriginal youth. Ernest Mike represents a generation of Indian leaders who have worked selflessly for the improvement of their people, but whose efforts have gone unheralded by the non-aboriginal community. His close ties and connections to family and community are witnessed during times of community gatherings, death, and celebration. His words, so often called upon, provide all listeners with a historical and accurate account of First Nation lifestyles and development. Throughout his life, Ernest Mike has lived the concept of "manahcihtowin," respect for individuals and respect for life. He transmits this in his own daily spiritual walk as an advocate for all First Nations People, and as an example of the understanding so essential between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
Eminent Chancellor, I am pleased and honoured to present to you Ernest Mike, and ask that you confer on him the degree Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).
Degree presented by: David Atkinson, Dean of Arts and Science
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