At this year’s Spring Soiree, the University of Alberta’s Dean of Augustana Campus, Dr. Allen Berger, will present the Lois Aspenes Award to friend and supporter Bruce Cutknife (BA History ’97). The Lois Aspenes Award honours an alumnus or alumna in recognition of significant contributions to the Alumni Association or to the life of Augustana.
Bruce Cutknife is a member of the Samson Cree First Nation. Bruce was born and raised on the Bear Hills Maskwacis community with Cree as his first language. He attended the Ermineskin Residential School up until grade 9, moved to Edmonton, and completed high school in 1974. Bruce went back to school at the newly established Maskwacis Cultural College in 1976 and worked in the Living History Program. His duties included audio and video recording of Elders talking about local history. This involved working with Elders to collect and archive the Cree language, working with Cree Syllabics and using them in the collection and archiving of local history.
Bruce went back to school, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in History and Native Studies from Augustana University College in 1997. After graduation, Bruce worked in local radio and television, and taught some Cree Language and Cree Studies courses at Maskwacis Cultural College. Bruce was also the Director of Education for the Samson Cree nation and is now the Indigenous Education Coordinator for the Nipisihkopahk Education Authority.
“Bruce has been a longtime friend of the Aboriginal Students’ Office and of the Augustana Campus,” says Jérôme Melançon, Chair of Augustana’s Aboriginal Engagement Committee. “On the basis of his knowledge and research, he has been able to advise and inform the Aboriginal Students Office as well as the Aboriginal Engagement Committee in an informal role over the years, notably in the creation of the Statement of Acknowledgement of the Traditional Territory specific to the Augustana Campus.”
“He has been an invaluable resource in helping us better understand Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) culture,” Jérôme continues. “He ensures that we do not misrepresent it in our efforts to include some aspects of our neighbours’ culture in Maskwacis and of the First Nation on whose territory we live and learn today.”
Bruce has also visited our campus a number of times in various roles:
- Represented Maskwacis and offered words of welcome as well as an opening prayer at the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities Taking the Next Steps Conference in October 2010.
- Presented on the Interconnections Between Cree Language and Culture in Dr. Paula Marentette’s Psychology of Language class in November 2011.
- Set up his tipi on campus in July 2012 as part of a First Nations cultural day that Augustana hosted for visiting Chinese students.
- Gave a half day lecture on the History of Aboriginal People in Canada to a group of visiting Chinese Instructors in August 2013. He also invited them to meet with him in his tipi that weekend at the Samson Cree Nation’s 2013 Pow Wow.
- Spoke as one of four presenters at the Land On Which We Stand Gathering which the Aboriginal Engagement Committee hosted in January 2014.
- Assisted Augustana student Samantha Matters with a directed study/research project involving the history of Aboriginal peoples within the Beaver Hills area of Alberta.
More recently, alongside campus administrators, staff, and students, Bruce served as a member of the Aboriginal Student Commons Steering Committee. He helped oversee the creation, design and building of the Wahkohtowin Lodge.
Bruce worked with architects and planners at every step of the process to help us all create this space the right way, make sure that the community was heard and that the Nehiyaw culture was accurately and respectfully represented. Along with others, he also helped us ensure that the information we are giving about the concept of wahkohtowin is accurate. He created the Cree text used in the brochure and on the wall above the space.
Augustana is deeply grateful for the ongoing role that Bruce has served within our community. The award is well deserved. Congratulations, Bruce.