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Marjorie White

Lifetime Achievement (2022)

Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht First Nations, BC

“I am proud of the progress the Friendship Centres have made all across the nation; they started small in basements or in churches and they’ve grown all across Canada…What I’ve done is not for myself but for the people; my grandmother always said to help the people – don’t just think about yourself. I enjoy working with people and seeing success.”

Marjorie White’s life embodies a rich legacy of creating connections, inspiring conversations, and crafting a network that continues to support and sustain Indigenous people from coast to coast to coast. A residential school survivor, Elder Marjorie left her community in 1956 to study nursing in Vancouver, where she and her fellow First Nations students quickly realized there was no place for them to gather together or access services. In response, they decided to create one themselves. The resulting Vancouver Indian Centre Society became the first Friendship Centre in the province. The idea grew and spread; there are now twenty-five Friendship Centres in British Columbia and 125 across the rest of the country. Elder Marjorie also helped to found the Circle of Eagles Society, a halfway home for people leaving incarceration that helps them transition back into the community; she served as its Executive Director for 15 years. Her work with Lu’ma Native Housing has seen the organization create housing for low-income Indigenous families and open the Lu’ma Medical Centre and the Aboriginal Patients’ Lodge. She was the very first Indigenous person to be appointed as a Citizenship Court Judge as well as the first woman and Indigenous person ever appointed to the Vancouver Police Commission. Among the numerous accolades she has received are the Order of Canada, the Order of B.C., YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, the Gold Feather from the Professional Native Women’s Association, and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal. An active member of her First Nation, Elder Advisor to the BC Association of Friendship Centres Executive Committee, and National Association of Friendship Centres senate member, Elder Marjorie currently continues to inspire, empower, and connect Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.