Dr. Sherry Peden, Ph.D.
Sherry Peden was an Indigenous educator who worked tirelessly in the field of education. Peden inspired many students, and her legacy lives on in the memories of those who were fortunate enough to have known her.
Born in Kenora, Ontario, the family moved to western Manitoba where Peden was raised on Treaty 4 land farmed by her grandfather and subsequently by her father. In the RM of Grandview, she attended the Wicklow School, more than two kilometres from the family farm. This was the beginning of what would prove to be a lifetime in the field of education.
After attending high school in Grandview, she obtained a bachelor of education from Brandon University and began teaching elementary school at Cormorant at the age of 21. Peden went on to teach middle year and high school students at Norway House, working for both Frontier School Division and Norway House Cree Nation schools. At Norway House she would become the centre co-ordinator for the Brandon University northern teacher education program (BUNTEP) and then centre co-ordinator in Dauphin. She completed a master’s degree in education and became a professor at Brandon University.
In 2011, Peden completed a PhD in educational administration at the University of Manitoba, and in 2013, she became the academic vice-president at the University College of the North, in The Pas, which she held until retiring in 2015.
In her work as a teacher, one of her great motivations was to be a role model for Indigenous youth. She undertook to combat systemic racism in the educational system and institutions, and even after being diagnosed with cancer in April, 2017, she continued to work as a consultant in the field of Aboriginal education. One of her many career accomplishments was the creation of the Onikaniwak summer institute for providing First Nation, Inuit and Metis teachings for senior educational administrators.
An international presenter, Peden travelled the world, using storytelling to reach people. She was a mentor, trailblazer, and a critical-race theorist. Her work inspired not only her students, but several family members to pursue higher education. She was first in her family to graduate from university and the first to pursue a doctorate – especially important, given the historical impacts of the Indian Residential School system.
Peden was never afraid to take on new challenges. She never lost her connection to the land and could often be found at “the cabin.” She and her husband Leo built up a cabin located where she grew up, which became a gathering place for family and friends for tea, card games, traditional ceremonies and meals.