Professor to receive prestigious Indspire Award

By Costa Maragos Posted: September 17, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Jo-Ann Episkenew is a professor at First Nations University of Canada.
Jo-Ann Episkenew is a professor at First Nations University of Canada. Photo courtesy of Eagleclaw Thom

Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew, Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre and a professor of English at First Nations University of Canada, has been named to receive the 2016 Indspire Award.

Dr. Episkenew is one of 14 outstanding Indigenous Canadians selected as recipients of the award, which celebrates Indigenous achievement.

"I am honoured. It’s hard to believe,” says Dr. Episkenew. “I look at people who receive this award and to be in the same company is really something.”

The Indspire Awards were created in 1993 and represent among the highest honour the Indigenous community can bestow upon its own achievers.

“The 2016 Indspire Awards recipients personify the successes Indigenous people have achieved and the significant impact we have made in all areas of life in Canada," says Roberta L. Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire.

Dr. Episkenew’s story is one of hardship and inspiration.

In 1988, as a mature student and single mother of four, Dr. Episkenew started her university studies and completed a BA in 1991, an Honours Certificate in 1992 and a Master’s degree in 1994 from the University of Regina.

She was awarded a PhD magna cum laude from the Institute for English and American Studies at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany. She was the first Indigenous Canadian to receive a PhD from a German university.
Dr. Episkenew has had a distinguished career as a professor, academic administrator and author.

Her work has also been recognized by the community in 2015, having received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards in Regina.

In 2014, Dr. Episkenew was appointed by the Minister of Social Services to an Advisory Group on Poverty Reduction.

“I hope that getting the Indspire award will inspire Indigenous youth, who are not on equal footing with others, to look at my story and give them hope,” says Dr. Episkenew.

Indspire is an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people. With the support of its funding partners, Indspire disburses financial awards, delivers programs, and shares resources with the goal of closing the gap in Indigenous education.

The 2016 Indspire Awards gala will be held February 12, 2016, in Vancouver and will air at a later date on Global Television and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre is a collaborative effort of the University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada. The centre's mission is to improve and strengthen the quality of Indigenous health research and the health of Indigenous people.