Elder Theresa (Minde) Wildcat of the Ermineskin Cree Nation will receive this year’s Alumni Association Citation Award for outstanding contributions to the development of the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose by a member of the community.
The award will be presented at the Spring Soirée April 27.
Wildcat has devoted her 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.
“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.”
Wildcat was born in Hobbema in 1927. In 1951 she was the first member of the Ermineskin Cree Nation to graduate from high school and received a teaching diploma from the University of Alberta in 1953. After working as the first Aboriginal teacher in Cardston and Gleichen, she 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.
Wildcat 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 she was a founding member of the Alberta Native Teachers’ Society. She sat on the University of Alberta’s Senate, helped found the Ermineskin Education Trust Fund and draft the Ermineskin Cree Nation’s constitution.
Wildcat 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 First Nations at Hobbema. She 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,” Wildcat says. “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.”
Wildcat has dedicated her life to creating and advancing educational opportunities for Aboriginal people. She is a kind, warm hearted and loving kokum of 10 (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.