On Thursday, May 12, Dr. Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor of MacEwan University, received an Indspire Award, the highest honour that the Indigenous community in Canada bestows upon its own people.

Dr. Trimbee, who is Red River Métis, was recognized in the education category for her past work as president of the University of Winnipeg, where she implemented one of the first Indigenous course requirements in Canada. Since 2016, all students at the university have been required to take a minimum of three credits in a course that contains significant Indigenous content, with options including language, culture, history and more.

“This award is really a recognition of all of the people that I've worked with, and the collective impact we've had,” she says. “It was an initiative that was led by the students. It took a lot of collaboration between students, leadership and faculty to make it work, so I see this as a recognition of what communities can do together. If there's a will, there’s a way.”

According to Dr. Trimbee, her work is not yet complete. Her efforts to create an inclusive environment for Indigenous students continue at MacEwan – albeit in a different way. MacEwan’s Teaching Greatness: Strategic Vision 2030 underscores the university’s commitment to Indigeneity and reconciliation.

“There are different ways to achieve the same end,” she says. “Here at MacEwan, I’m starting at a different time in a different community and territory. I didn’t want to just copy what I’d done in the past. What we’re doing here is different – and it’s really special.”

One of the ways this principle is being carried out is through joint faculty positions between academic departments and the kihêw waciston Indigenous Centre. These faculty members will specialize in culture, languages and history and other areas of Indigenous-focused scholarship. Dr. Trimbee sees this initiative as a valuable way to attract more Indigenous faculty members and enable Indigenous students to see themselves in leadership roles.

“We are proud to see Dr. Trimbee’s leadership recognized on a national scale,” says Carolyn Graham, chair, Board of Governors of MacEwan University. “This award is a tribute to her influence as a leader in education. Her work to build inclusive excellence will bring long-term value to MacEwan and the broader community.”

The award not only honours Dr. Trimbee’s achievements; it also recognizes her position as a Métis role model. She is open about the fact that she didn’t overtly embrace her Métis heritage until later in life, and now understands the value of having students – and other young Métis people – see themselves in leadership roles. “One of the reasons I'm so proud of my identity now is because I realized if you don't own it, then you don't give people that hope.”

The ceremony will be broadcast in June on APTN and CBC.

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