Shirley Horn has been chosen to be Algoma University's first-ever Chancellor.
Her appointment to the post by Algoma University's board of governors is highly appropriate, as Horn has had a lifelong, multi-generational connection to the property on which the institution is built.
Horn, born Shirley Fletcher in Missanabie, Ontario, was sent to Sault Ste. Marie to be a student at the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School in 1947, when she was seven years old.
Horn returned to the site in 2005 as a student on her own terms, enrolling in Algoma University's Fine Arts program, graduating with Honours in 2009.
She is an original co-founder of the Chlldren of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA), formed in 1981, and is the group's current vice president.
Now, as Algoma University Chancellor, Horn said "look where we are (Chlldren of Shingwauk Alumni Association)…we were in a little portable in the back, now we're looking at the Shingwauk Auditorium being a gallery that tells the history of this place, which arises from Chief Shingwauk's vision (of a teaching wigwam for his people)."
"I am that vision," Horn said, speaking to SooToday Friday.
"I came here as a little child and went through all of the things within the residential school, came back as a student in higher learning and now presented with this opportunity to be Chancellor."
"It was so overwhelming…I'm grateful," Horn said, referring to when Algoma University President Richard Myers informed her she had been picked to be Chancellor.
"I came here (to the residential school) with all my brothers and sisters, there were seven of us, but it still caused me anxiety because the junior girls, intermediate and senior girls and the boys were all constantly separated," Horn said.
"I was one of the fortunate ones, I wasn't abused in any of those terrible ways…the biggest thing I suffered was loneliness, missing my home, my grandparents."
Horn, however, still maintains friendships with many other former Shingwauk Indian Residential School students 60 years later.
"At a gathering of former Shingwauk students we made a big circle on the lawn here and made a declaration this was the home of the Chlldren of Shingwauk Alumni and it started from there," Horn said.
"We were able to grow and become a working group and students from other residential schools heard about us, and wanted to find out how we did what we did, so it just kept growing and growing."
Being an Algoma University graduate runs in the family.
One of Horn's daughters, Jutta Horn, is an Algoma University graduate (B.A., and a graduate of the Community Economic and Social Development program), while another daughter, Bonnie Wiebe, is presently working on a degree in Algoma's Social Work program.
After leaving the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in 1953, Horn returned to Missanabie, eventually met and married her husband (the couple separated in 1982), had three children (Jutta, Bonnie and son Dieter, who is a chef in B.C.) and lived and worked in various communities across Canada.
While owning her own restaurant in B.C., Horn became interested in First Nations political affairs.
"In 1993 I decided I wanted to come back and work for our First Nation (Missanabie Cree First Nation) because we were landless, we were supposed to receive our land, so I decided to go to Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (in Burnaby, B.C.) to learn business because I needed knowledge for what I had to do, to bring the people together."
Later, Horn became Missanabie Cree First Nation Chief.
"There was lot of adventure in that, a lot of learning for me, a lot of learning about political issues First Nations face," Horn said.
"For me, who I am as a person, as an aboriginal woman who has worked tirelessly for my people, that's what I want to do as Chancellor, to make sure the past is never forgotten by Algoma University and want this place to continue to function as a teaching wigwam."
“I am delighted that Shirley Horn will be returning to Algoma University, on the site of the former Shingwauk School, as our first-ever Chancellor,” said Dr. Richard Myers, President of Algoma U.
“Shirley has a terrific amount of talent and expertise, and has kept in close contact with Algoma University since graduating, including in her role with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. She brings national experience and connections, and has deep roots in the Anishinaabe communities of Northern Ontario.”
Horn is from Chapleau, Ontario, and at the age of five was sent to St. Johns Indian Residential School.
She was then transferred to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School at the age of seven, where she remained for six years.
In 1981, she helped found the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, a constructive organization that has been a leader at the national level on the residential school issue. She remained in a leadership position with the organization for 34 years.
In 2005, Horn returned to the Shingwauk School site – now the home of Algoma University – to enroll in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program.
As a rare graduate of both the Residential School and the University, she received a standing ovation at Convocation in 2009. Horn has been Chief of her own community, the Missanabie Cree First Nation for 10 years, and has also been a member of the Missanabie Cree Elders’ Council. Horn is also co-founder of the Echoes of the World Drum Festival, a former member of the Shingwauk Education Trust, and an accomplished artist.
Her piece, Project of the Heart, is on permanent display outside of the Doc Brown Lounge at Algoma U.
"I've spent so many years here, I have a relationship with Algoma University from the time I was seven years old to today," said Horn. "I'm still on the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association executive today, so it's been a long journey. It's an honour to represent Algoma University."
Algoma U’s Chancellor serves as the titular head of the institution.
The Chancellor participates in major ceremonies and events, including the annual September Induction as well as Convocation. The Chancellor confers all degrees.
By acting as an ambassador of Algoma U, the Chancellor also helps to raise the profile of the University as well as assist in both relationship-building and fundraising initiatives.
The Chancellor provides support to the University President, as requested, and promotes the University’s special mission in regards to Anishinaabe education.
Algoma University’s Charter includes provisions for the appointment of a Chancellor.
The Board of Governors determined that the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the post-secondary institution as an opportune time to appoint the first Chancellor.
Horn will be sworn in officially at the University’s annual Convocation ceremony, slated for Saturday, June 13, at which time she will begin her four-year term.
About Algoma University
Algoma University offers a wide variety of liberal arts and sciences degree options including programs in Psychology, Computer Science, Social Work, Business Administration, Fine Arts, Community Economic & Social Development, and Biology in Sault Ste. Marie, Brampton, St. Thomas, and Timmins.
As a partner with Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, Algoma U is committed to respecting Anishinaabe knowledge and culture. To learn more about Algoma University, visitwww.algomau.ca.
(PHOTO: Richard Myers, Algoma University president, announces Shirley Horn as the school's first-ever chancellor. Algoma U. handout)