Mary Richard

Mary Richard can’t even think of slowing down. “I don’t have time to retire,” this Manitoba Métis, now in her 60s, says cheerfully. And that’s a good thing for her province, city and Aboriginal peoples everywhere. To say she has worked tirelessly for Aboriginal people over the years would be understating her accomplishments. The CEO of Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg – to name just one of her current activities – Ms. Richard’s efforts have touched virtually every aspect of Aboriginal life in her province through five decades. She was the Executive Director of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg – the first of its kind in Canada. That was just the beginning. Ms. Richard, a former President of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg — was instrumental in ensuring the survival of Aboriginal languages in Manitoba. She implemented the Manitoba Language Retention Programs during almost a decade of service as Director of the Manitoba Association for Native Languages. “We were just becoming aware of language loss but had no materials for teaching,” she says today of her work during the 1980s. “So, we got Elders together with language speakers and I raised the money to get the books printed.” These education kits — made possible after Ms. Richard raised half-a-million dollars — are now available in seven Aboriginal languages and sought after by school boards and universities across the country. She’s established Native housing, training and cultural projects, built bridges to the private sector and established the plans for an Aboriginal business district in her city. Builder, doer, leader, partner – that’s Mary Richard.