The University of Lethbridge community offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Helen Manyfingers (BEd, ‘78, LLD ’92), who passed away January 1, 2014.
A graduate of the University of Lethbridge’s Faculty of Education, Manyfingers was the first alumnus to be granted an honorary degree from the U of L, and in 1999, she became the first alumnus to be appointed to the Order of Canada.
“Helen Manyfingers made profound positive contributions for the benefit of southern Albertans and beyond,” says University of Lethbridge President Dr. Mike Mahon. “Her passion for education, and the work she undertook to ensure opportunities for First Nations people undoubtedly improved the lives of many individuals and families.
“We are very proud of the fact that Dr. Manyfingers was an alumna of the University of Lethbridge. Her life’s work exemplifies our purpose as a university, and we are extremely proud to be tied to her legacy.”
In 2007, Manyfingers was inducted into the University of Lethbridge’s Alumni Honour Society and in 2013, in recognition of her continued community service, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Manyfingers graduated from Grade 9 at St. Mary’s Indian High School on the Blood Reserve in 1937. Later in life, as a mature student with children, she decided to further her education. After earning Teacher’s Assistant Certificates NO. 1 and 2 from Mount Royal College in 1969 and 1970, Helen enrolled at the University of Lethbridge where she graduated with a Bachelor of Education, majoring in music and early childhood education.
For two years, Manyfingers worked as a Lethbridge Community College instructor for the basic skills program on the Blood Reserve while also working as a school maintenance supervisor at the reserve’s Lavern School. From 1969 to 1973 she taught in the Lavern and Stand Off kindergarten programs. She then became an education counsellor for the Blood/Peigan District in 1976, a role in which she served for 11 years for Blood and Peigan students on the reserve and in Lethbridge’s separate and public school systems.
Manyfingers also lent her expertise to the Lethbridge Community College Native Advisory Committee in 1975 and 1976 and to the Alberta Native Advisory Board for Southern Alberta from 1985 to 1987.
After retiring from her role as an educator, Manyfingers served as a member of the Blood Band Council, bringing a sincere dedication to making fair and equitable decisions. Further, Manyfingers served as a member of the University of Lethbridge Alumni Association and as the alumni’s representative on the University of Lethbridge Senate from 1985 to 1988.
Manyfingers also supported U of L students through the scholarship named in her honour – the Dr. Helen Manyfingers Alumni Association Education Award.