Anishinabek Nation mourns loss of strong Anishinaabekwe leader, Muriel Sawyer

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (February 8, 2021) – Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare is deeply saddened to announce the passing of language keeper and Deputy Chief of Nipissing First Nation, Muriel Sawyer, into the Spirit World.

“Let us remember one of our strong Anishinaabekwe leaders, Muriel Sawyer,” expresses Grand Council Chief Hare. “Muriel was such a positive, strong role model for so many in her community and throughout the Nation. She was always a big presence and leader at any of our gatherings and had such a powerful way to inspire and motivate people through the creative and positive delivery of her knowledge, oftentimes with humour or song (or both). My deepest condolences to the family, friends, Nbisiing community members of Muriel, and all those who feel the profound loss of such a strong Kwe and Warrior.”

“After a most valiant and brave fight with cancer, our ancestors have summoned her to the Spirit World,” expressed Anishinabek Nation Lake Huron Regional Chief and Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod in a statement released on Feb. 6. “Although Muriel’s passing will leave a huge hole in our community, she will also leave an everlasting handprint on the many great things our community has and will continue to accomplish. She will be missed by many as we move on without her physical presence.”

She will be remembered as the embodiment of an advocate of Anishinaabemowin and Anishinaabe culture. Chief McLeod stated that Sawyer was “the driving force behind the community’s preservation and revitalization of its first language, Anishinaabemowin.” Muriel was a true long-time champion of education, in the classroom and beyond, and was a leader in ensuring the passing of the historic Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement in her community that would then lay the foundation for the establishment of the Anishinabek Education System (AES). Her commitment and dedication to education continued well after the successful passing of the Education Agreement, where she was part of the initial set up of the AES as a first member of the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body (KEB). She played an integral role in the implementation of the AES on behalf of the 23 Participating First Nations (PFNs) who are signatory to the Agreement. There were a number of key implementation activities that she supported including but not limited to: the inaugural meeting of the AES; determining the head office of the KEB; implementing the Master Education Agreement (MEA) with the Ministry of Education/District School Boards; hiring of Education staff for the AES/KEB; and confirming the AES structure.

Muriel was honoured with the prestigious Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation’s Anishinabek Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the recipient of a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009. During her over 40-year teaching career, Muriel held the position of vice-principal at Nbisiing Secondary School, where she began working in 1998 teaching Ojibwa language in Grades 9 to 12, where her teaching style was described as fun and engaging. She was also recognized in Professionally Speaking, the publication of the Ontario College of Teachers, as an Exemplary Teacher.

Muriel Sawyer’s goal was to have her students graduate with a sense of identity—proud that they know their language, culture and ancestry. She wanted them to feel and believe that they can succeed in both the Anishinaabe and non-Indigenous world. “I believe her goal was met and exceeded. The contributions and dedication of the late Muriel Sawyer nbah set the foundation for our youth to become successful in whatever they choose to do and will have a resounding effect for generations to come,” adds Grand Council Chief Hare. “Miigwech, miigwech, miigwech.”