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Remembering Gwen Merrick

It is with great sadness we announce that Gwen Merrick, mentor, leader, teacher, passed into the Spirit World on February 14, 2018.

Gwen Merrick (Seewaskosiyaskwew – Sweetgrass Woman) was a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. She attended Portage la Prairie Residential School and lived her young adult life with her husband Rusty and their children in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. A strong believer in education, she was inspired and supported by her close friend and mentor, Sioux Valley Elder Doris Pratt. Doris encouraged her to attend Brandon University where she completed her Bachelor of Education. She later attended the University of Manitoba and completed her Master of Education degree.

After teaching and serving as a post-secondary counsellor for the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council, she became the Director of Education for the Fisher River Cree Nation. She was later employed as the South Zone Director for Health Canada in the Manitoba region and as a Provincial Coordinator for the Literacy Branch for the Province of Manitoba.

In 1999, she became one of the first employees of the newly created Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) as the Director of Service Delivery. She was involved in all aspects of first year operations, from policy development and staff recruitment and selection to strategic planning and budget preparation. Under the guidance of the Interim Working Group, which was composed of education staff from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and community-based Education Directors, she worked closely with the original MFNERC staff to conduct a needs assessment and develop a concept paper for a First Nations Education Framework.

Gwen also served as the Director of Research and Development and became the Associate Executive Director of MFNERC. She spent countless hours, days, nights, and weekends with the Interim Working Group and MFNERC staff developing and implementing the strategic plan for the organization. A true visionary, she was passionate about lifelong learning and holistic well-being of First Nations children and students. A strong believer in First Nations protocols and practices, she ensured that Elders and knowledge keepers were involved in providing guidance for the ongoing development of MFNERC.
As an advocate for First Nations students, she would often say keeyam—“never mind—that’s ok.” Or she would say, “That’s the way it was meant to be,” and she would work to overcome any obstacles and challenges that might come her way. Gwen had very strong family connections and was close to her husband of over half a century, her children, her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, her extended family, and her close friends, whom she also considered family.

In the traditional way of the Cree, she considered all children as sacred gifts and worked tirelessly to ensure that MFNERC never lost sight of its original vision—preparing children for mino-pimatisiwin—a complete and fulfilling good life.
Gwen’s legacy is showing all of us how to follow the ancestral teachings of respect, love and kindness and how to continue moving forward in what she termed The Journey of Hope. She was inspirational and insightful. We will miss her laughter, wisdom and unique gifts.

Traditional Dakota Wake Services and Feast will be taking place at Fisher River Community Hall on Saturday, February 18, 2018 at 2 p.m. Funeral services will be at the Fisher River United Church, February 18, 2018 at 2 p.m. 

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