Nipissing mourns loss of Dr. Muriel Sawyer

Muriel Sawyer portrait

The Nipissing University community was sad to learn of the loss of a great friend to the University, Nipissing First Nation Deputy Chief, Dr. Muriel Sawyer (Honoris Causa). Dr. Sawyer was a custodian of language and culture and an irreplaceable advocate for Indigenous education.

In 2014, Dr. Muriel Sawyer was the recipient of an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Education (Honoris Causa), from Nipissing University. She began teaching after earning her BA from Nipissing University in 1974 and continued to teach Junior Kindergarten through to post-secondary in her over 40-year career. She wrote, implemented and taught the first Anishnaabemwin program for the Nipissing Parry Sound Catholic School board for 25 years. Dr. Sawyer was instrumental in the launch of Nbisiing Secondary School, where she served as teacher, Vice-Principal and Principal until her retirement.

At Nipissing University, Muriel co-created the Teacher of Anishnaabemwin as a Second Language program (now known as Teacher of Indigenous Languages as a Second Language) as well as taught several courses in the program. She was an advocate, teacher and mentor for her students and colleagues. She leaves behind a lasting legacy with the many Anishnaabemwim teachers who are now continuing her extensive work.

In 2003, the Union of Ontario Indians awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award.  At the 2008 Nipissing First Nation Pow Wow, the community’s cultural committee presented her with an eagle feather and recognized her as a language keeper.  Dr. Sawyer was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009.

On behalf of the Nipissing University community, I offer my sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Dr. Muriel Sawyer. Our thoughts are with each of you who knew, worked with, learned from and were friends with Muriel.

Cheryl Sutton
President & Vice-Chancellor (Interim)