Elder Ruth Christie celebrates honorary degree with tree planting

After being recognized with an Honorary Doctor of Laws at The University of Winnipeg’s Spring Convocation ceremony on June 13, Elder Ruth Christie gifted UWinnipeg with a white birch sapling.

“My hope is that this birch tree will be an inspiration for future generations who come to this University to further their education, to share their knowledge and culture with pride in their achievements,” she said.

Christie, along with her two daughters, planted the tree on the grounds in front of Wesley Hall. Friends, family, and members of the University community gathered to hear her speak. 

“I am really grateful for the weather,” she said, explaining that when planting a tree, it is important to pay attention to the phase of the moon.

“As my grandfather said, if you plant when the moon is waxing, your expectations will be greatly exceeded,” she said. “I hope this little tree will prove that right, and that it will be a beautiful reminder of what it was used for by the First Peoples of this country.”

Before planting the tree, she recited the poem Trees by Alfred Joyce Kilmer, which she memorized as a child. She shared stories of her family history, such as the time they transported 56 pounds of salt in a birch bark container across Lake Winnipeg to peddle it at Oak Point.

Christie gave many examples of the integral role birch wood has played in history; from using the wood to build canoes, paddles, toboggans, wigwams, and snowshoe frames, to collecting sap for birch syrup and harvesting white powder from the bark to treat diaper rash and for sunscreen. 

“I am really touched that Elder Ruth Christie is planting this tree sapling on campus,” said Lorena Fontaine, UWinnipeg’s Aboriginal Education Lead. “She is a respected Elder who generously shares her knowledge of Indigenous history, stories, and legends with the community. I am very proud that she has been recognized with an Honorary Doctor of Laws, and thankful for what she is doing here.”

Christie is an Elder in Residence in UWinnipeg’s Aboriginal Student Services Centre, and a distinguished community-based scholar, knowledge keeper, and storyteller who has influenced generations through her important work in public history and as a mentor. 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Jennifer Cox, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
T: 204.988.7671 E: j.cox@uwinnipeg.ca

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