New Elder-in-Residence is a lifelong advocate for treaty education

By Costa Maragos Posted: January 10, 2018 9:30 a.m.

Noel Starblanket has been named the University’s Elder-in-Residence.
Noel Starblanket has been named the University’s Elder-in-Residence. Photo by Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography

As Noel Starblanket walks around the campus, he recognizes several faces.

These student faces are the same ones he met through his travels at elementary and high schools throughout Saskatchewan, as he shared his message of education for First Nations youth.

“It’s so wonderful to see them continue with their education,” says Starblanket. “It’s what I hoped for. It means they are going to make things better.”

Starblanket has been named as the University of Regina’s Elder-in-Residence.

He will work out of University’s Office of Indigenization, where he will advise faculty and students on matters related to curriculum and offer spiritual advice and personal counselling among many other duties.

Previously, Starblanket worked at the Aboriginal Student Centre providing support for students and the campus at large.

“I feel accomplished. I feel recognized. I feel valued by this University for the things I’ve learned over my life time and for my advocacy,” says Starblanket. “I say to my students many times that after 71 years, I’ve finally found my calling. Teaching is where I belong.”

Starblanket was born on the Star Blanket Reserve in Saskatchewan and is a descendant of Cree Treaty Chief Wahpiimoostoosis who is a signator to Treaty Four and Kaskitew Muscoosis Little Black Bear.

Noel Starblanket Tipi Raising
Noel Starblanket with a U of R team at the annual Glen Anaquod Memorial Tipi Raising
Competition. Starblanket is often available to offer advice on First Nations traditions.
Photo by Costa Maragos - External Relations

Starblanket has spent most of his adult life advocating for Indigenous First Nations’ organizations.

He’s has served as Chief of the Star Blanket Cree Nation. He was 24 at the time, making him one of the youngest First Nations chiefs in North America. Starblanket has served as Chairman for Treaty Four Chiefs, Vice Chief for Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.  

And he’s been the subject of some compelling documentaries over the years, bursting onto the national scene with the release of the acclaimed 1973 National Film Board of Canada production, Starblanket, which shows an outspoken and rebellious young chief.

Most recently, the documentary From Up North recounts Starblanket’s painful experiences attending the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret, Saskatchewan.

“I’ve descended from my great great grandfather who signed the treaty and my great grandfather who was a staunch advocate. To my grandfather who was an extremely spiritual man and my father who was an extremely political man,” says Starblanket. “I’ve acquired all of those teachings from them and have spent a lifetime advocating those teachings. And now at  this time of my life, it has fallen upon me to pass on those teachings.”

Now he will be able to do that as the University’s Elder-in-Residence where he sees a hopeful future, thanks to the University’s priority of making the campus a welcoming place for Indigenous students.

At least 11 per cent of the University of Regina’s students have self-declared that they are of Aboriginal descent.

“It’s the young people who are going to carry all of this forward,” says Starblanket.

Related Stories

U of R is gifted with an Eagle Staff, in recognition of the perseverance of Indigenous students

Campus tipi raising competition helps build community & raise awareness of First Nations culture

Visual arts professor turns to his Métis roots for major art project