Constance (Connie) Eyolfson
(1936 – 2002)
From joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1954 to being elected vice-president of Manitoba Métis Federation Southeast Region (which included Winnipeg at the time) in 1970, and subsequently appointed acting president of MMF (1972-74), Connie Eyolfson was a trailblazer.
Constance (Connie) Eyolfson (nee Thomas) was born May 10, 1936, in Traverse Bay, where she was also raised. As a young girl, she watched her father volunteer for the Second World War. His sense of duty to his country inspired her to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1954, where she met her husband Gerald of 45 years. They married in 1957 and over the years lived in Fort Whyte, Winnipeg, and Traverse Bay. In 1980, with nine children, Connie attained her bachelor of arts from the University of Manitoba.
Her career, which included work for Children’s Home of Winnipeg, the MMF, the Alcoholism Foundation of Manitoba and the Anishinabe School, was more than a series of job titles; indeed, it was a testament to her belief in the Métis and First Nations people. She helped pioneer Indigenous community development before it was a thing, encouraging and supporting many of the province’s Indigenous organizations as a project officer with the federal Secretary of State department. She was relentless in using her voice to stand up for Métis and First Nations peoples, including her front-page-worthy protest immediately following the death of J.J.Harper. She went on to open the province’s first Indigenous healing lodge in 1992 for Indigenous peoples throughout the province and across Canada, in their quest for healing from the intergenerational impacts of residential schools.
Connie Eyolfson’s Strong Earth Woman Lodge, established in 1992, has been used as a model for family healing lodges by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Prior to her death in 2002, she helped countless people, families and communities to find their own path to healing their spirits. Over the years, she volunteered for her church and for many Aboriginal organizations. Her commitment to the love of life was inspired by, but also inspiring to, everyone who knew her. Her teachings and words of encouragement served as the gentle push for many individuals to achieving greater things for themselves and their communities.