Jerry White earns Atlohsa Peace AwardNovember 05, 2019
Sociology professor emeritus Jerry White was named one of seven individuals to be presented with an Atlohsa Peace Award for their social contributions in the spirit of truth and reconciliation in the areas of media, arts, education and advocacy.
Photo and story by Paul Mayne, Western News
Volunteering with the Metis Society in Saskatchewan in the late 1960s, Jerry White often went into town to book rooms for local chapters to meet, as most venues would not rent to the Indigenous Peoples. It taught him lessons he never forgot.
“I took for granted this was a wonderful country,” he said. “But as I learned things like that, I saw there is still a lot of stuff we needed to fix.”
This week, the Sociology professor emeritus joins Candace Brunette-Debassige, Special Advisor to the Provost (Indigenous Initiatives), in receiving an Atlohsa Peace Award for contributions in the spirit of truth and reconciliation in the areas of media, arts, education and advocacy. Each award represents one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings: bravery, honesty, humility, love, respect, truth and wisdom.
Located in London, Atlohsa Family Health Services is a non-profit organization that provides community members with Indigenous-led programming and services that offer holistic healing, education, shelter and support.
Even at a young age, White always felt a “sense of responsibility.” At 20, he “woke up” and realized he wasn’t caring about what was going on around him.
“When it comes to the truth, it isn’t something you find, it’s understanding how things work,” said White of his time at the Metis Society in Regina. “The truth is understanding what happened in the past, how it’s impacted the present and what are we going to do about it.”
For White, it’s about the people who have taken the time to help him understand. White recalls Lyle Longclaws, from the Four Nations Confederacy, who taught him about the Sun Dance and how, as a kid, Longclaws stood atop a hill watching for the dust from cars of people coming out to stop them from dancing.
“How do you learn? You learn from people. All those people I have met created this award for me,” said White, who has also lived in China during the Cultural Revolution, worked in Poland with the Workers’ Defence Committee and spent time in Siberia with the Russian Association of Indigenous People of the North.
“I tried to understand how the world works. I have been blessed to work at this institution; it gave me incredible freedom to pursue these.”
London Community Foundation’s Vanessa Dolishny said White has demonstrated leadership and unwavering commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous Peoples in numerous ways.
“It isn’t often that we come across people so humble and committed to addressing injustices in society,” she said. “He embodies the spirit of truth and reconciliation in all he does. His formative role in changing the landscape through his educational and research contributions to improve the well-being of Indigenous Peoples locally, nationally and internationally is remarkable.”
In retirement, White remains editor and chief of the International Indigenous Policy Journal and remains Founder and Director of the Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium, linking Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and policy-makers.