(Jo-Ann Episkenew. Photo courtesy University of Regina)
APTN National News
Educator and researcher Jo-Ann Episkenew died at the age of 63 on Wednesday.
According to friends, Episkenew held a strong voice in the community as the director of the Indigenous Peoples Health Research Centre at the University of Regina.
Her lifelong dedication to healthy communities was showcased nationwide at this year’s Indspire awards held February 12 in Vancouver, where she won the award for education.
In her biography, she said her children inspired her to work hard to improve not only her life, but the lives of her entire family.
Episkenew obtained a Bachelor and Masters degree from the University of Saskatchewan. In 2006 she graduated from the University of Greifswald. She was the first Indigenous Canadian to receive a PhD from a German university.
According to colleague Cassandra Wajuntah, Episkenew has inspired the next generation of indigenous scholars.
“She is single-handedly responsible for producing dozens of Indigenous faculty members and graduate students,” said Wajuntah. “She has supported me all the way through my undergrad to my PhD, from being an 18-year-old to a 29-year-old mother. We have faculty members on campus who specifically stay here because of the support Jo-Ann offers them.”
In addition to this year’s Indspire award, Episkenew also won the 2015 YWCA Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement award. In her acceptance speech, her words reflected her love for her family and community.
“I thank all of you for recognizing me and the little bit I try to do to make my children proud and my grandchildren proud. And hopefully when I leave this world, it will be a better place than when I started.”