Elder Theresa C. Wildcat, Recipient of the 2010 Augustana Alumni Association Citation Award
The Alumni Association Citation Award is presented for outstanding contributions to the development of Augustana Campus by a member of the community. At this year’s Spring Soirée on April 27, we are proud to recognize Elder Theresa (Minde) Wildcat of the Ermineskin Cree Nation. Theresa has devoted her entire life to the importance of education and the preservation of the history of the Plains Cree People. For the past 50 years, she has set an example of service in her community and her province as an educator, inspirational speaker and volunteer, teaching both young and old.
Elder Theresa Wildcat was born in Hobbema, Alberta, in 1927. She was the first member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation to graduate from high school in 1951 and received a teaching diploma from the University of Alberta in 1953. After working as the first Aboriginal teacher in Cardston and Gleichen, Theresa returned to Hobbema as their first local teacher. She married Sam Wildcat and devoted her time and energy to raising her five children, three of whom would go on to attend Augustana.
Theresa was elected the first woman Councillor of the Ermineskin Band. She helped establish Hobbema’s first newspaper, the Bear Hills Native Voice, the Native Student Centre at the University of Calgary, and was a founding member of the Alberta Native Teachers’ Society. Theresa sat on the University of Alberta’s Senate, helped found the Ermineskin Education Trust Fund and draft the Ermineskin Cree Nation’s constitution.
Theresa also helped to establish Hobbema’s Maskwachees Cultural College (MCC). Rooted in the traditional values, wisdom, teachings and beliefs of Cree culture, MCC continues to serve as a centre for Cree language development and teaching, providing post-secondary opportunities to members of the four nearby First Nations. Theresa is currently a member of the Hobbema Indian Health Board and is writing a book about her family and its history.
“Education is the key to the survival of the Indian people,” says Theresa. “We have to be educated to survive and to understand ourselves, our culture and language, as well as to promote these things. As parents, we must encourage our children to keep going to school and teach them our Cree language. We must realize the importance of education for today’s youth. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.”
Theresa was the first Elder we contacted when we established Augustana’s Aboriginal Students Office in 2007. A long-time advocate of Augustana, she has also been instrumental in helping us establish connections with the four First Nations in Hobbema.
“Theresa Wildcat has been a wonderful guide and supporter as we have established an office for Aboriginal students,” says Dr. Roger Epp, Dean of Augustana Campus. “She and her family have had a long association with our campus. She is an impressive, visionary bridge-builder and an advocate both for education and for her community.”
Elder Theresa Wildcat has dedicated her life to creating and advancing educational opportunities for Aboriginal people. She is a kind, warm hearted and loving kokum of ten (two of whom have spent time at Augustana), a great-kokum of five, and has seen three generations of her family attend the University of Alberta. Teaching us to love our community and each other, Elder Wildcat is a role model – not only for everyone at Augustana, but for everyone whose life has been touched by this extraordinary woman.
Accolades for Elder Theresa Wildcat:
- 1978 Maskwachees Cultural College, Outstanding Educator Award
- 1986 Ermineskin Education Trust Fund, Chief Robert Smallboy Award
- 2002 Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal
- 2002 Tribal Chiefs Institute, Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2004 Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, Esquao Award for Lifetime Achievement
- 2005 Alberta Centennial Medal
- 2006 Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum, Women of Aspenland Tribute