Dedicated educator, researcher, author and director of the Indigenous Peoples Health Research Centre at the University of Regina, Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew passed away on February 18, 2016. She was the 2016 Indspire Awards honouree for Education.
Promoting wellness among youth and healing through Indigenous knowledge and arts, with her team she was committed to exploring connections between physical activity and suicide amongst Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan.
In 2006 she became the first Indigenous Canadian to receive a PhD from a German university (Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität), which she received magna cum laude.
Published in 2009, her book Taking Back Our Spirits: Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing received acclaim from both academics and mainstream media. Written with passion and clarity, it examines both the legacy of “policies of devastation” imposed on Indigenous Peoples and the path to healing. As Dr. Episkenew said, “Indigenous literature can heal both writers and readers.” Over the course of a storied career, she was known for her ability to walk in both worlds: nurturing her identity as a Métis woman while succeeding in – and challenging – colonial institutions, for the benefit of all Indigenous Peoples.
During her acceptance speech at the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement award, Dr. Episkenew stated, “I thank all of you for recognizing me and the little bit I try to do to make my children proud and my grandchildren proud. And hopefully when I leave this world, it will be a better place than when I started.”
Indspire is saddened by the passing of Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew and sends condolences to the Episkenew family. She will be missed.