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Elder Shirley Ida Eliza Mary Immaculata Williams (Pheasant) “Migizi ow-kwe” meaning “that Eagle Woman”

Elder Shirley WilliamsDoctor of Laws, honoris causa

Faculty of Social Science and Humanities

For her outstanding achievement in post‑secondary education pedagogy, her advocacy of Indigenous language teaching and her ongoing inspirational community leadership, the university is proud to confer upon Elder Shirley Williams the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Elder Williams is Midewiwin and a member of the Bird Clan from the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. She credits her parents and Elders for teaching her the language and knowledge of her people, motivating her to teach the language and giving her the framework upon which to do so. A survivor of Canada’s residential school system, Elder Williams vowed to always make learning inspirational and fun for her students.

Identified by former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as a Role Model for Survivors, Elder Williams is Professor Emerita at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, where she has taught and researched the Anishinaabe language since 1986. She is the only Indigenous person in Canada to achieve the rank of full Professor as a Dual Traditional Scholar, recognizing her traditional Indigenous knowledge, as well as her outstanding research and publication record.

Elder Williams is a Student Cultural Advisor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and at Durham College. She also contributes as an Elder at Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College’s campuses in Peterborough and Lindsay. She continues to design and deliver language and cultural knowledge courses.

Elder Williams has published important Anishinaabemowin-language teaching resources on topics ranging from animals to hockey to treaties through her own publishing firm, Neganigwane Co. She contributes simultaneous translation services for various organizations including the Ontario Ministry of Education, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Heritage Canada and the Union of Ontario Indians. She advises the Chiefs of Ontario and Aboriginal Physicians of Canada on health programming.

Her work has resulted in significant service delivery changes in major regional health-care centres in Sudbury and most recently, Toronto General Hospital.

As an early advocate of computer technology as a teaching tool, one of Elder Williams’ first significant publications was a language CD-ROM using hockey as a platform to engage Elders and youth in learning the Ojibwe language and sharing intergenerational knowledge.

In 2016, she received the Canadian Union of Public Employees Award for Excellence in Teaching, confirming the integral role Elders play in the learning environment of universities.

A lifelong learner, she is currently working towards her second-level Midewiwin degree. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University, a Native Language Instructors diploma from Lakehead University, a Certificate in Curriculum Development from the University of Oklahoma and a Master in Environmental Studies degree from York University.

Gchi miigwech, Elder Shirley Williams, for all you do for your community.