AT ALL TIMES
U of G staff
member stays close to his roots and strives
to teach others about native culture and traditions
Within the shelter of black yews
The owls in ranks are ranged apart
Like foreign gods, whose eyeballs dart red fire.
They meditate and muse.
Their attitude instructs the sage,
Content with what is near at hand,
To shun all motion, strife and rage.
Men, crazed with shadows that they chase,
Bear, as a punishment, the brand
Of having wished to change their place.
From The Owls by Charles Baudelaire
Native cultures have always valued animals, regarding
them with great respect. Individual animals have also been
used as "totems" or spirit guides and to represent
family groups or clans.
"They are our teachers, and what we learn from them
is what makes us who we are," says Micheal Mandeville,
a Métis of Saulteaux and French descent recently elected
to represent staff on U of G's Board of Governors for a three-year
term. He says that both his totem and his own native name
- Gookooko'oo - pay homage to the owl, a bird associated with
hidden knowledge, insight, wisdom and truthfulness.
"Truth is very important to us," he says. "We
must be truthful at all times."
A reminder of both truth and fairness - and one Mandeville
keeps close at hand - is his "medicine bundle."
It's an assortment of "sacred medicines" - sweet
grass, sage, tobacco, cedar - along with an owl feather, all
stored in a thin, rectangular wooden box. Mandeville often
carries the box into important campus meetings and gatherings,
including B of G meetings.
"I see my Board of Governors appointment as a very honourable
and respectful post," he explains. "I take the box
to the meetings because its contents provide me with guidance
and keep me focused."
A Physical Resources building mechanic charged with ensuring
heating, water and ventilation systems at various campus buildings
remain in top order, Mandeville has been with the University
for a year and a half. During that time, he has accomplished
quite a bit. But he's not stopping there - he has many dreams
for the campus, the main one being heightening awareness of
native issues, as well as creating and improving services
for native students, faculty and staff.
Born and raised in Connaught, a small community about 30
kilometres northeast of Timmins, Mandeville is the 17th child
of a Saulteaux mother and a Métis father whose ancestors
first settled in Quebec in 1534. His upbringing, he says,
was very strict and spiritually based, with both his parents
enforcing Catholic beliefs and traditions.
While young, he was also cared for by an "adopted grandmother,"
an elderly native woman who educated him about Ojibwa spirituality
and traditions. "She taught me to respect all aspects
of life. Both she and my mother also shared stories with me
and encouraged me to share them with others. I learned a lot
Mandeville attended school in Timmins until 1969, when his
family moved to Gaspé, Que. They returned to Ontario
less than a year later and settled in Kirkland Lake, where
Mandeville completed Grade 10. In the fall of 1972, he joined
the Canadian Army.
"Because I had spent quite a bit of time in the bush
growing up, I was a very good shot, so I was assigned to the
sniper division," he says. "I left after three years
because the army was just not my cup of tea. Being a designated
professional killer was against all of my beliefs."
He went back to Timmins and back to school, where he earned
his Grade 12 equivalency diploma before training to be a millwright.
He secured work with a couple of mining companies and remained
in Timmins until 1981, when he relocated to Yellowknife with
his wife and their four children (two from his first marriage
and two from hers). In Yellowknife, he worked at a local hospital
and studied stationary engineering. After completing that
course, he became a maintenance person and power generation
station operator for the North Warning System or DEW line,
as it is commonly known.
During their 20 years in Yellowknife, Mandeville and his
wife raised their children and saw them start their own families
- the couple now has seven grandchildren. He also took an
active role in native issues and in educating people about
those issues. He became president of the Métis local,
a role that saw him interacting with politicians at all levels.
"I've met Prime Minister Jean Chrétien - I spoke
with him in French when he came to Yellowknife in 1997. I
also took part in the Western Premiers Conference in 1998.
I am not saying these things to be boastful, but rather, to
show that while I might be quiet and soft-spoken, very much
like my father was, I am not afraid of standing up and of
After nearly two decades in Yellowknife, when the initial
plan was to be there only five years, Mandeville and his wife
returned to Ontario in 1999, settling back in Timmins.
"I have a sister in Cambridge, and she talked me into
checking things out in this area," he says. "At
around that time, the position at U of G opened up and I was
hired. My first day was Aug. 14, 2000."
During his relatively short time on campus, Mandeville says
he's had many opportunities to teach others about native culture
and traditions. Every month or so, he writes a column for
the student newspaper The Ontarion on aboriginal issues.
He's also been a volunteer with the campus radio station,
"I often meet native people who have lost their culture,"
he says. "I try to educate them, just like I've educated
my own siblings. My own brothers and sisters didn't care to
learn about our culture, like I did, from my mother and adopted
grandmother. When we were growing up, if you could hide the
fact you were native, you would! But I've taught them all,
and now they're all proud of their traditional ancestry."
In 2001, when the B of G elections came around, Mandeville
decided to run because he saw the post as another chance to
heighten awareness of native issues.
"U of G has strived to attract the best students out
there," he notes. "There are some very smart and
talented aboriginal students who could come here, but the
University has to make more of an effort to accommodate them
As an example, he cites the tour he received when he first
started working on campus. He says one of the University's
residences had a "Welcome Students" sign featuring
a dozen different languages - none of them First Nations languages.
Something that would go a long way in attracting more aboriginal
students to campus would be the establishment of a campus
centre for aboriginal students, faculty and staff, he says.
"The native community on campus, though small, needs
a place for spiritual gatherings."
Mandeville adds, however, that he is very much encouraged
by the recent establishment of the Lincoln Alexander Chancellor's
Scholarships. To be offered for the first time in fall 2002,
these scholarships are intended to enhance student diversity
at U of G. As such, they will recognize students of academic
distinction who are aboriginal, persons with a disability
or members of a racial minority and who have made significant
contributions to their schools and communities and demonstrated
the potential to become leaders in society.
"Establishing these scholarships is probably one of
the best moves the University has made," says Mandeville.
"The scholarships will be a legacy for many years to
come. But let's not stop there. Many more things can be done
and must be done to attract aboriginal students, faculty and
staff to the University of Guelph."