Posted on May 15, 2013 by Tia Lalani

Augustana’s Class of 2013 watched Sharon Butala receive an honorary doctor of letters degree during Convocation.

Image by Duane Prentice

On Sunday, June 2, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus graduating Class of 2013 will watch Sharon Butala receive an honorary doctor of letters degree during their Convocation.

Her Convocation Address can be found here.

For nearly 30 years, award-winning novelist and Saskatchewan rancher Sharon Butala has shared her environmentalist and feminist insights into life on the Canadian prairies. She emphasizes the value and glory of rural life in lyrical and accessible writing which reveals the lives of ordinary people in Western Canada. Despite beginning her literary career in her 40s, Butala has published 16 books, dozens of articles and essays, and five produced plays.

Butala earned her Bachelors of Arts and Education from the University of Saskatchewan five decades ago. After nearly 20 years as an educator, she married and moved out to a ranch to begin her writing career. She has won several literary and a few conservation awards and been shortlisted for Canada’s most important national literary awards. Since the early 1990s, dozens of masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations have been written on her work, at universities across North America.

“I find Ms Butala’s respect for the Indigenous people of the plains particularly compelling,” says Augustana English professor Roxanne Harde, who nominated Butala for the honorary degree. “She believes that First Nation cultures support values that are essential to preserving humankind’s proper relationship with the land and therefore to preserving the land itself. Her conjoined examinations of nature, human creativity, identity, and spirituality – and her writing’s location on the Canadian prairies – make her contributions to Canadian arts and letters original, important, and enduring.”

When she won the 1998 Marian Engel award for a woman writer in mid-career, the jury noted, “what will be remembered about Sharon Butala is her clear-eyed recognition of the valour involved in simply going about one’s daily life in this time and place.” The Globe and Mail describes Butala as “very much on the inside of Western Canadian rural culture” and Books in Canada suggests that she understands the soul of the prairie. Butala was named an officer in the Order of Canada in 2002.

In seeking to understand the soul of the prairies, Butala has also given back. The First Nations and environmental emphasis in her work is a reflection of her own commitments to supporting and preserving important elements in her community.

“She and her late husband, Peter Butala, donated a portion of their ranch to the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 1996,” says Augustana English professor and Associate Dean Harry Prest. “She helped preserve forever one of the few remaining pieces of natural prairie grassland, untouched by the plough. Now called the Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, their former ranch has become a preserve where several threatened species of wildlife, including the burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, long-billed curlew, and swift fox, can now flourish once more. It seems most fitting that, having shared her vision of this inspiring landscape with her readers for so many years, she and Peter found a way to share the landscape itself with all of us forever.”

“As someone who writes to understand everyday life on the prairies,” continues Roxanne Harde, “Sharon Butala has given her readers a provocative body of work. She engages with prairie history and landscape, with the mosaic of peoples and cultures that form the prairie community, and with a thoughtful examination of lived and felt experience.”

Sharon Butala will receive her honorary doctor of letters degree on June 2 at 2:30 p.m. at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus. Click here for information about the Convocation Ceremony.

 

Books:

  • Country of the Heart (1984) Shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award
  • Queen of the Headaches (1985) Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, Fiction
  • The Gates of the Sun (1986)
  • Fever (1990) Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (Canada-Caribbean section). Won the Canadian Authors Award for Fiction. In 1992 won the First for Paperback Fiction from the foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters.
  • The Fourth Archangel (1992) Won National Magazine Silver Award for Fiction
  • Harvest (1992)
  • Luna (1994)
  • The Perfection of the Morning (1994) Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, Non-fiction. Winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Non-fiction and the Spirit of Saskatchewan Award.
  • Coyote’s Morning Cry (1995) National Bestseller
  • Upstream (1996)
  • The Garden of Eden (1998) Shortlisted for the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Saskatchewan Best Novel Award.
  • Wild Stone Heart (2000) National Bestseller
  • Real Life: Short Stories (2002)
  • Old Man on His Back (2002)
  • Lilac Moon: Dreaming of the Real West (2005) National Post #1 Bestseller; Globe and Mail Top Book of 2005; Winner of the 2005 Saskatchewan Book Award for Nonfiction.
  • The Girl in Saskatoon (2008) Shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Crimewriting.
  • Blue Dome of Sky (forthcoming 2013)

 

Plays:

  • Sweet Time (1984) Eastend
  • Natural Disasters (1985) Regina, Saskatoon, Medicine Hat (Winner of the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild Major Drama Award)
  • A Killing Frost (1988) Regina, Vancouver, Victoria, White Rock
  • The Element of Fire (1989) Vancouver, Saskatoon Hat (Winner of the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild Major Drama Award)
  • Billy Bock: An Entertainment (1993) Eastend
  • Rodeo Life (1993) Saskatoon

 

Previous awards or recognition:

  • 1991    Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Member’s Achievement Award
  • 1992    Canada 125 Commemorative Medal
  • 1992    Saskatchewan Gold Award, Western Magazine Awards
  • 1993    Saskatchewan Gold Award, Western Magazine Awards
  • 1996    Saskatchewan Gold Award, Western Magazine Awards
  • 1998    Marian Engel Award for a Woman Writer in Mid-career.
  • 2000    Doctor of Law (Honorary) University of Regina
  • 2002    Officer of the Order of Canada
  • 2002    Queen’s Jubilee Medal
  • 2004    Doctor of Letters (Honorary) University of Saskatchewan
  • 2009    Saskatchewan Order of Merit
  • 2013    Doctor of Letters (Honorary) University of Alberta

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