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Claudette Commanda named Chancellor of the University of Ottawa

“It means honor, pride and happiness to me, but it also means providing validation and recognition that the Algonquins have so much to contribute, and we continue to contribute.”

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Claudette Commanda, an Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, has been named Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.

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The first Indigenous and only the third woman to hold the position in the school’s 174-year history, she will succeed Calin Rovinescu at the end of her second term this fall.

“It means honor, pride and happiness to me, but it also means providing validation and recognition that the Algonquin people have so much to contribute, and we continue to contribute,” Commanda said Thursday. “I am very humbled, very honored and very happy.”

Commanda, 66, said she pledged a long time ago to give back to the university because she had always been supportive.

“I know that the University of Ottawa is committed to reconciliation. He is committed to answering the calls to action and building the right relationship with and supporting Indigenous peoples, and I will use this position to continue the work I have done in raising awareness.

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Commanda cited a sentiment she had long heard from elders, including her grandfather William Commanda: Education got us into this mess, and education is going to get us out of this mess. Likewise, she invoked the spirit of Chief Dan George, who, in his critical speech Lament for Confederation in 1967, said, “I will seize the instruments of the white man’s success — his education, his skills, and with these new tools, I will build my race. in the proudest segment of your society.

“So let’s build that foundation of respect and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and students,” Commanda said.

Commanda’s relationship with the University of Ottawa dates back 35 years, when she began her studies in 1987.

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She founded an association of First Nations students to help improve their representation in school and established an Indigenous Resource Center, now known as the Mashkawazìwogamig Indigenous Resource Center.

Commanda holds a degree in history and religious studies from the school, as well as a law degree. In 2009, she was inducted into the Common Law Honor Society.

She then taught at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Women’s Studies, its Faculty of Law and its Faculty of Education. With the Native Studies program, she has taught courses on First Nations women, Native education, First Nations peoples and history, and Native traditions and decolonization.

Five years ago, she became the first-ever Elder-in-Residence appointed to the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She also served as Special Advisor on Reconciliation to the Dean of Law School. She is the first member of First Nations heritage to be appointed to the University’s Board of Governors.

Executive Director of the Confederation of First Nations Cultural Centers, she also received the 2020 Indspire Award for Culture, Heritage and Spirituality.

“She will continue to bring her leadership, passion and wisdom on behalf of Indigenous peoples to the entire university,” said University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont.

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