In the lead up to July 1st, we’re profiling five Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area city builders, past and present, who have not only made significant positive impact in our communities, but have challenged us to be better civic-minded, inclusive, and collaborative individuals. Join us today as we take a quick look at Sylvia Maracle, a Mohawk from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory who was recently named an officer of the Order of Canada for her continued dedication and perseverance to urban Indigenous peoples and women’s issues.
Internationally renowned, and locally treasured, Maracle is the true embodiment of what it means to preserve against all odds. Her paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather raised her with lessons she still carries with her today. Lessons of perseverance and belief. Maracle grew up believing that “(she) was magnificent, that we all (are) and that we could do anything we want”, and that magnificence came with responsibility, a “tremendous responsibility to use the Creator’s gifts in a good way.”
Maracle’s “tireless work ethic, ability to foresee emerging issues and inability to accept no for an answer”, alongside her belief in a better future, allowed her to see gaps in her community and the ways in which she could help.
At just 19-years old in university, she took her first step by creating programming for young women at her local Indian Centre. And since, she has continued to impact the lives of many and has contributed to positive change in favour of greater aboriginal programs and policies.
The Mohawk leader, who has spearheaded efforts to improve education, housing, health care, child welfare and addiction treatment for her people, has outlasted seven prime ministers. She has learned to bend, tack, bide her time and always have a back-up plan. When someone slams a door, Maracle finds at least half a dozen windows.
– Via Carol Goar of the Toronto Star
Since first contributing to her community, Maracle has gone on to lend her expertise to Aboriginal Friendship Centres for over 40 years. Throughout her life she has also served on “dozens of task forces, boards, commissions and councils.” Creating a lasting impact. Beyond contributing to various organizations and programs, Maracle uses her journalistic background to be an accomplished story-teller, and “believes in the power of storytelling as a force for rebuilding (Aboriginal) communities.”
There is no doubt that Maracle is a prime example of how one individual can have a rippling impact that continues for decades. She truly exemplifies “where there’s a will, there’s a way” in everything that she does and has accomplished. We should look to her accomplishments – and undeniable ability to see obstacles as possibilities – for inspiration in our city-building work.
Follow us on Twitter to find see who we’ll profile next. Also, stay tuned with our Emerging Leaders Network on June 30th, as we ask our entire network to shout-out emerging leaders who’ll shape the future of our nation.
Biographical information sourced from Indspire, Toronto Star via Carol Goar, Irish Times via Catherine Conroy. Photograph courtesy of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres.