Indigenous Excellence

Celebrating Indigenous Excellence at McGill

McGill is proud of the extraordinary accomplishments of its Indigenous students, faculty, and staff.

Explore the different types of awards in the tabs below. 

Honorary DoctoratesRead the biographies and watch the convocation addresses of McGill's Indigenous honorary doctorates

Alanis Obomsawin, Doctor of Letters

Alanis Obomsawin is an Abenaki singer, artist, storyteller, educator, and film-maker who grew up on the Odenak reserve, and who is particularly renowned for her documentaries. In 2017, she received an honorary Doctor of Letters from McGill University. Her films examine subjects such as First Nations activism, the Oka crisis, and homelessness in Montreal. Dr. Obomsawin's distinctions include the Order of Canada, and the award for Best Documentary Film for Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance at the 1993 Festival of Festivals.

Watch Alanis Obomsawin's convocation address:

Douglas Cardinal, Doctor of Science

In 2017, Douglas Cardinal received an honorary Doctor of Science from McGill University. Dr. Cardinal is a Blackfoot architect, designer, planner, activist, philosopher, and artist. His work emphasizes working in harmony with the environment and with communities. His accomplishments include the Order of Canada and numerous honorary doctorates and architecture awards.

Watch Douglas Cardinal's convocation address:

Roberta Jamieson, Doctor of Laws

In 2011, Roberta Jamieson received an honorary LLD (Doctor of Laws) from McGill. Dr. Jamieson is a Kanienʼkehá꞉ka lawyer, activist, and businesswoman from Six Nations of the Grand River. Her many accomplishments include being the first Indigenous woman in Canada to receive a law degree, the first female Six Nations chief, the first non-Parliamentarian appointed to a House of Commons committee, and the first female ombudsman in Ontario. She is currently the president of Indspire, an organization which provides support and financial aid to Indigenous students.

Watch Roberta Jamieson's convocation address:


Learn about McGill's Indigenous Valedictorians

André Moreau

André Moreau was the Spring 2019 valedictorian for McGill's Faculty of Law. André is Métis and grew up in Penetanguishene, Ontario. He graduated from McGill with a combined B.C.L./LL.B. and went on to become an articling student at the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa, an organization which works on judicial education and reform. During his time at McGill, André's activities included a human rights internship in Kampala, Uganda; the Anishinaabe Law Camp at Neyaashiinigmiing (Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation); an inter-cultural law course in Shantou University Law School in China; and an exchange program to the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Read an interview with André

Tomas Jirousek

Tomas Jirousek was the 2020 valedictorian for the Faculty of Arts, and the first recorded Indigenous student to hold this distinction. Tomas is a member of Kainai First Nation in Alberta. He graduated from McGill with Honours in Political Science, and he will be starting law school at University of Toronto in September. During his time at McGill, Tomas' work and accomplishments included leading the successful campaign to change the name of the men's varsity sports teams, which previously had racist connotations. In addition to competing on the men's rowing team, Tomas also served as McGill's Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, where he advocated for the concerns and interests of Indigenous students.

Read an interview with Tomas

Graduate and Faculty AwardsRead about the exciting distinctions awarded to Indigenous scholars at McGill

Aaron Mills, Canada Research Chair

In 2019, Aaron Mills from the Faculty of Law was named Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Indigenous Constitutionalism and Philosophy. Dr. Mills is an Anishinaabe jurist from Couchiching First Nation. The Canada Research Chair recognizes his exceptional work in the field of Indigenous constitutionalism and Indigenous law revitalization. His other distinctions include an SSHRC Talent Award, and he has been a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, a Vanier Canada Scholar, and a Fulbright Canada Scholar.

Dr. Mills' Faculty page describes his research:

Aaron Mills (Anishinaabe) works to understand how indigenous systems of law function and how they might assist in identifying and in changing violent dynamics of indigenous-settler relationships and of human-earth relationships on Turtle Island today. His core political project is indigenous constitutional revitalization, which places earth at the centre of law.

Mills works with indigenous elders, communities, advocacy and service organizations, and governments to support their goals in this area. He also frequently supports Canadian governmental bodies, civil society groups, and educational institutions wanting to educate themselves about indigenous law and/or colonialism. He has sat on the board of directors of the Indigenous Bar Association and of Aboriginal Legal Services, and served as editor-in-chief of the Indigenous Law Journal, during which tenure he created the ‘Community Voices’ feature.

Ben Geboe, Rathlyn Doctoral Fellowship (Social Work)

Ben Geboe recently completed his PhD (c.) thesis, which involved interviewing Canadian Indigenous nurses and physicians working with Indigenous community members. Findings will inform health care education programs about challenges and experiences of Indigenous health care professionals. Ben is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and grew up on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and has distant relatives in the Dakota in Manitoba. He is a social worker with many years of experience working with substance using and mentally ill homeless people and Native people in New York City. He recently graduated from McGill University School of Social work and splits his time between NYC and Montreal. During his time at McGill, he worked as the Native Student Coordinator of the Indigenous Access McGill (IAM) program to promote Indigenous social work student admissions. He is descended from the Wakakdiduta family (Red Lightning) and is also part Miami and Cheyenne Arapahoe on his father’s side. His mother is of Norwegian descent. Ben is very active in Two Spirit community events and social justice advocacy for Indigenous sovereignty.

Cindy Blackstock, Order of Canada

In 2018 and 2019, Cindy Blackstock was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Dr. Blackstock is a member of the Gitksan First Nation who teaches in McGill's School of Social Work. In addition to her extensive experience in social work, she is renowned for her advocacy for the rights of First Nations children. Dr. Blackstock has worked with United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Her numerous awards include a 2019 National Public Health Hero Award from the Canadian Public Health Association, a 2018 Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize from the Mahatma Gandhi Assoc. of Canada, a 2017 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International, and a 2017 Award for Outstanding Service to Humanity from the Canadian Labour Congress. She is also the recipient of over 15 honorary doctorates. Read more about Dr. Blackstock's research and accomplishments here.

Janine Metallic, McGill Equity and Community Building Award

Janine Elizabeth Metallic is the recipient of a 2019 McGill Equity and Community Building Award. The award recognizes students, faculty, and staff who "foster links with the local community and who nurture an environment of equity at the University". 

Dr. Metallic is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrated Education (DISE), whose work focuses on Indigenous educational studies and language revitalization. She has also worked as a Mi'gmaw language consultant in McGill's Department of Linguistics, and was part of the Provost's Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Education. Dr. Metallic is currently interested in building Indigenous research capacity by supporting and training Indigenous graduate students and developing research projects related to community-based education and language research. She has created a community of Indigenous graduate students known as Research and Indigenous Scholarship in Education (RISE). Together with RISE, Dr. Metallic co-organized an Indigenous-led, SSHRC-funded symposium on building Indigenous research capacity, which engaged Indigenous community members across Quebec as well as McGill students and faculty. The McGill Reporter writes: "Dr. Metallic's work promises to significantly impact the culture of teaching and learning for Indigenous students at McGill by raising awareness about issues related to decolonization, equity and inclusion for Indigenous peoples". 

Joel Grant, Rathlyn Fellowship (Engineering)

Joel Grant is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and has recently graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Engineering at McGill University. While at McGill, he has been an active student research assistant and the president of the Materials Engineering Undergraduate Society. Joel is the 2018/2019 academic year Vice President of the McGill Chapter of the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society (CaISES). He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering. His research is focused on the study of Canada, namely, investigating the environmental effects of micro- and nanoplastic accumulation in Canadian climates.

Meghan Eaker, Rathlyn Fellowship (Nursing)

Meghan Eaker is a nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) of mixed Cree and European ancestry. She is a member of the Woodland Cree First Nation and grew up in amiskwachiy waskahikhan (Edmonton, AB). She worked as a child psychiatric Nurse at the Montreal Children’s Hospital after completing her Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BScN) at McGill in 2016 and recently graduated from the Masters of Nursing program. In her Nursing career she is passionate about improving health care for Indigenous people. Her research focuses on developing the capacity of Indigenous nursing, specifically supporting the education of Inuit Nurses.

Treena Delormier, Canada Research Chair

Treena Delormier, Kanien’kehá:ka, has recently been named a Canada Research Chair Tier II in Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Food Sovereignty. Professor Delormier is Associate Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE), as well as an associate professor in the School of Human Nutrition. She is also a member of the Task Force on Traditional, Indigenous and Cultural Food and Nutrition, International Union of Nutrition Sciences (IUNS) and a member of the Research Team of the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project.

Professor Delormier's Faculty page describes her research:

Dr. Delormier's research focuses on the food, nutrition and the of Indigenous peoples. She is involved in health promotion interventions that address the social determinants of health underlying the health inequities Indigenous Populations experience, particularly in a historical context of colonialism. Dr Delormier's research approaches employ qualitative methodologies, and privilege Indigenous and community based methodologies. She is dedicated to building capacity in Indigenous health research through mentoring and training students and community researchers.

Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, Vanier Scholar

Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean is the recipient of a Vanier scholarship, one of the most prestigious graduate awards in Canada. Ms. Whitebean's research is in the field of Integrated Studies in Education, and her thesis is titled "Multi-generational stories of Indian Day Schooling in Kahnawà:ke: Assessing impacts on Indigenous language and cultural identity transmission". She describes her work:

"Indigenous voices have been largely omitted from Canadian history. Canada has a long colonial legacy with much of the efforts to assimilate Indigenous peoples into dominant Euro-Canadian society focused on Indigenous children, primarily through institutions such as Residential Schools and Indian Day Schools. These practices resulted in pain and trauma that continues to affect Indigenous families and communities today. As a Kanien’kehá:ka woman from Kahnawà:ke and Indigenous researcher, I am undertaking this study to ensure that our voices are heard. This research examines Indian Day Schools as sites of Indigenous acculturation. The objective is to understand impacts of Indian Day Schools from the perspective of former students and to contextualize prevailing attitudes and obstacles to present-day Indigenous language and culture revitalization. My research centralizes Kanien’kehá:ka life stories about navigating historic and multigenerational trauma while demonstrating identity reclamation, healing, and resilience."

Find the full list of 2020 Vanier scholars here

Undergraduate Awards

Learn about the accomplishments of McGill's Indigenous students

André Moreau, Gretta Chambers Student Leadership Award

In addition to being the Faculty of Law's Spring 2019 valedictorian, André Moreau is a recipient of the Gretta Chambers Student Leadership Award, which recognizes demonstrated leadership and contribution to the advancement of the McGill community.  

Read a feature from the University of Waterloo about André's achievements and community involvement here.

Carlee Kawinehta Loft, Indigenous Community Engagement Award

Carlee Kawinehta Loft is the receipient of an Indigenous Community Engagement Award, which recognizes a dedicated and passionate undergraduate Indigenous student at McGill University who has shown distinguished leadership and involvement in an Indigenous community, organization, and/or community based-initiative.

Read Carlee's statement:

My name is Carlee Kawinehta Loft. I am a motivated and community-minded, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) woman. My father’s family comes from Kahnawake and Akwesasne. I completed a BA in Psychology with minors in Behavioural Science and Indigenous Studies. During my four years at McGill I had the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful community of Indigenous students and staff, for which I am forever grateful. In my own way I was able to give back to said community, through volunteer work with the First Peoples’ House, as well as positions such as Indigenous Student Alliance Co-President and the Indigenous Affairs Commissioner. I would like to thank the many Indigenous students who have inspired me and made my work possible, each of which deserved this award just as much – much of my work wouldn’t have been possible without them.

I am thankful to be receiving the Indigenous Community Engagement Award; I am thankful because it is incredibly important that other students see this kind of community work being recognized, because it is not easy to do, and seeing this kind of support can go a long way.


Carsyn Meloche, Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award

Carsyn Meloche is a recipient of the Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award. Carsyn is a student in the Desautels Faculty of Management completing a Bachelor of Commerce, with a major in Strategic Management.

Dallas Karonhianoron Canady, Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award

Dallas Karonhianoron Canady is a recipient of the Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award. Dallas is completing a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Anthropology.

Denzel Sutherland-Wilson, Outstanding Paper in Indigenous Studies

Denzel Sutherland-Wilson is a recipient of the award for Outstanding Paper in Indigenous Studies, which recognizes excellent academic work in McGill's Indigenous Studies Program.

Read Denzel's statement:

My name is Denzel Sutherland-Wilson, I am from the Gitxsan nation in Northern British Columbia. I have just completed my Bachelor degree in Anthropology and returned home to my home in Anspayawx. I am a member of the fireweed clan and hope to use my skills I have gained at McGill to strengthen my house of Tsibasa while being conscious to keep knowledge where it belongs.

Wilp Sim' Maay: House of the Huckleberry
Paper Abstract: My paper is a project proposal for a program which would take Gitxsan youth huckleberry picking to teach them about traditional food as well as governance and environmental stewardship. In order to do this properly, research was conducted on the nature of huckleberry patch management by burning, which was prohibited by the BC government and has resulted in a generational gap. This also aims to show and strengthen the intimate and finely tuned relationship Gitxsan have with their food sources. This paper was prepared for the course Indigenous food sovereignty with Gabrielle Doreen, which helped me a generate a plan which could be implemented in my own community to improve food sovereignty.

Jadyn Normore, Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award

Jadyn Normore is a recipient of the Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award. Jadyn is student in the Biomedical and Life Sciences Honours program, completing a Bachelor of Science in Honours Physiology.

Jonas Henderson, Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award

Jonas Henderson is a recipient of the Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award. Jonas is completing a Bachelor of Engineering degree with a major in Civil Engineering.

Molly Swain, Sheila Finestone Award

Molly Swain received the Sheila Finestone Award for 2012-2013 from the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Molly graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Honours Women's Studies, with a Minor Concentration in World Religions.

Sativa Kawakami, Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award

Sativa Kawakami is a recipient of the Provost's Indigenous Achievement Award. Sativa is completing a Bachelor of Science in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, with a major in Environmental Biology.

Tomas Jirousek, Moral Courage in Reconciliation Award

In addition to being the 2020 valedictorian for the Faculty of Arts, Tomas Jirousek is the inaugural recipient of the Moral Courage in Reconciliation Award from Indigenous Access McGill. The award recognizes his remarkable leadership in the Change the Name campaign, and his work in educating and engaging the student community at McGill. 


Visit the Financial Aid and Scholarships page here to learn about scholarships and awards for Indigenous students. 

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