Ellen White receives Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Malaspina

June 5, 2006 - 5:00pm

Ellen White, described as a “figure of legendary proportion” proudly received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree at Malaspina University-College’s Spring Convocation ceremony at the Port Theatre Tuesday.

“Convocation is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the achievements of our graduates, but also the contributions by community members,” said Malaspina President Rich Johnston. “Ellen White, one of Malaspina’s elders-in residence in the First Nations Studies program, is a deserving recipient of this recognition for her outstanding contribution to Malaspina, her commitment to students and her exemplary record of community service of over 60 years.”

Known affectionately as “Auntie Ellen” at Malaspina, White has a record of outstanding distinction and achievement, particularly in the area of Coast Salish language, history and cross-cultural relations. She received formal training both within her culture and within a post-secondary setting.

Now in her 80s, White is widely known in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities for her dedication to the traditional ways, as well as her dedication to education as an important element in social change and community-building.

“Ellen White is deeply learned in the ways of the Coast Salish people of this coastal region,” Johnston said. “Everything from language, stories, dance, herbal medicine to midwifery and beyond, Ellen has learned the traditional ways. Perhaps more importantly, she has worked tirelessly to pass along the teachings to others, including students in Malaspina’s First Nations program.”

White was an early leader in cross-cultural contributions, working to bridge the gaps between the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the City of Nanaimo. She was a social activist, working to establish schools closer to the reserve, and substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.

White has worked for years in the local school system to bring cultural education to non-native students through dance, stories, foods, and lectures. She has also published books of Coast Salish stories, in English, providing an accessible medium of connection between cultures.

“For us at Malaspina University-College, Ellen White has been a very large part of the conception, design, and implementation of the First Nations Studies program,” added Johnston. “This unique program owes much of its success to the presence of elders in the program, and Ellen and Ray Peter have served as elders-in-residence for several years now. Many would say they are the soul of the program.”

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