Murray Sinclair installed as Queen’s 15th Chancellor

‘My commitment to Queen’s is one I feel wholeheartedly’

Chancellor Sinclair seen at the ceremony wearing a beaded stole and fur turban.

On Tuesday, Queen’s officially welcomed Hon. Murray Sinclair, LLD ’19, as Chancellor.

Sinclair was installed as Queen’s 15th Chancellor in a ceremony at the Isabel Bader Centre, which Principal Patrick Deane and other members of the Queen’s administration attended. The event was also livestreamed for all to watch. Sinclair tuned in from home.

The University appointed Sinclair as Chancellor in April 2021, and he began his role on July 1 2021. The Chancellor presides over convocations, confers degrees, and chairs the annual meetings of the University Council.

Prior to becoming Chancellor, Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, served as Senator in the Senate of Canada from 2016 to 2021, and was the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba—second in Canada.

The ceremony began with a procession performed by the Four Directions Drum Group, who opened with a water song. Kandice Baptiste, director of the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre,  said it was chosen because of the land we’re on in Kingston, which is surrounded by water. She said the song is healing for the water, the land, and our bodies.

After the procession, Principal Patrick Deane gave an official welcome and land acknowledgement, followed by Ohén:ton Kariwatéhkwen—the opening address—given by Thanyehténhas (Nathan Brinklow), university senator.

“In passing these few words, we bring our minds together as one, as we acknowledge and send our greetings, our love, our honour, our thanks, and our respect to all the elements of the natural world that continue to support our lives,” Brinklow said.

“We begin by bringing our minds together as one and acknowledge all the people here today in-person and in our virtual space.”

The Commitment Wampum presentation took place afterwards, given out by Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) and Te ho wis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator). In the presentation, they spoke to their commitment to work with the Chancellor to further reconciliation, decolonization, and Indigenization at Queen’s.

“Wampum is very significant to Haudenosaunee peoples and historically has been used to bind peace,” Hill said.

Doxtator added, Wampum acts as a symbolic fire and an agreement for Indigenous people to hold on to their traditions.

Mary Wilson Trider, Board of Trustees chair, then presented Sinclair as the Chancellor. Sinclair gave a speech, promising to perform his duties to the best of his ability. Deane then officially installed Sinclair and invested him with the robes of the office.

“Being installed as [Chancellor] means a great deal to me. Becoming chancellor of a university, of course, is an important acknowledgement of the role of any person in public life, and of the importance the individual brings to the university,” Sinclair said at the installation.

“My commitment to Queen’s is one that I feel wholeheartedly.”

Sinclair said he hopes to ensure the education and experiences Queen’s students receive are inclusive and allows them to understands Canada’s history with Indigenous people.

“I’m looking forward to all of the endeavours that we will undertake together and the support that we will show each other,” Sinclair said.

“I want to thank the Indigenous leaders of the nearby communities for their support not only for their institution, but their support for me as well.”

Hill then presented Sinclair with a gift: a beaded fedora.

She said it explores the colours and patterns that are connected to the land and the autumn season, while incorporating contemporary beadwork to create a modern and traditional look.

“It’s my privilege as a representative of the Office of Indigenous initiatives and the Indigenous community of Queen’s University to present you, Mr. Chancellor, with this beaded fedora that we had commissioned for you,” Hill added.

The ceremony concluded with delegate greetings given by Rector Owen Crawford-Lem, followed by the Four Directions Drum Group Honour Song presented by Kandice Baptiste.

“[The Four Direction Drum Group] will close the ceremony during the recession with a Mohawk social song called ‘Owning Up.’ The song wishes us all a safe journey home,” Baptiste said.

In honour of Sinclair and two honorary doctorates, Daniel Christmas, and Tshaukuesh (Elizabeth Penashue), the group played another song called the “Longest Walk.”

The song is about the slow march towards progress and was chosen to reflect Sinclair’s life work as he championed relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Baptiste said.

The ceremony ended with the conferring of Honorary Degrees on Christmas and Penashue.

—With files from Sophia Coppolino


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