By Shirley Honyust/ Yenatli:yo
LONDON—On a warm sunny June day, in the Alumni Hall at Western University, in London, ON, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Leslee White-Eye was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by Amit Chakma, President and Vice Chancellor of Western University.
Chief White-Eye was selected by the Honorary Degree Committee at Western University who meet twice a year to make these decisions based on criteria submitted with the nominations.
David Sylvester, Principal at King’s University College (KUC), introduced Chief White-Eye with glowing accolades regarding her contributions to the community of Western University (WU), to the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, and her pursuit of the calls to action developed from the 94 Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“She has been a constant inspiration during her term as Chief, starting two years prior when she became the first female elected Chief since Arletta Silver in 1953,” remarked Sylvester.
Her formal education includes two degrees from University of British Columbia and one from Nipissing University, in North Bay, ON. She has been in leadership positions in the classroom, locally, provincially and nationally.
Chief White-Eye introduced herself in Ojibway, by her name, clan and nation, and described her role in the community as ogitchita kwe, an Indigenous woman warrior. She is armed with education, truth and knowledge.
Her first appointment was to deliver the convocation address to the mixed audience of students graduating with the degrees they earned at KUC. KUC specializes in social work, sociology, psychology, with Bachelors, Masters and post-doctoral degrees in several related fields of study.
Chief White-Eye spoke passionately about the wealth of knowledge, education and tools at their command, unavailable to previous generations. Present day scholars have state-of-the-art technology, computers, iPad, internet servers connecting them to people and businesses all over the world.
She encouraged them to see themselves as emerging leaders who also bring their own experiences and vision to the roles in which they will be positioned.
“You are the leaders and visionaries of Canada in this generation. Rally around a common communication process to discuss your ideas and to embrace new ones with others around the globe,” stated Chief White-Eye in her address to the congregation.
These words, spoken aloud, were not lost on her young audience, as they sat captivated by the wisdom and relevance of her speech.
The delivery culminated with the Indigenous perspective of finding our ancient truths: “Everything we do, every action we take, is filled with spirit and King’s University College is founded in that same belief.”
Students, faculty and guests showed their appreciation in resounding applause that filled the Alumni Hall.