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Born: Jul 01, 1911

Date of Passing: Apr 25, 2001

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DR. AHAB SPENCE Passed into the spirit world on Thursday, April 5, 2001. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth (Bette) daughters, Janet and June; sons, Byron, William (Bill), Bruce and Barry; 20 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Dr. Spence was born July 1, 1911 at Split Lake, Manitoba. He was predeceased by his parents, Hector and Eliza Spence. At the age of 10 he became a student at Mackay Indian Residential School at The Pas. He also attended school in Elkhorn MB, Mortlach SK. He completed high school at Prince Albert, SK. Dr. Spence graduated in theology from Emmanuel College, University of Saskatchewan, in 1937 and with a B.A. in 1952. From 1937 to 1965 he served as Priest in many Indian and non-Indian parishes in Saskatchewan with the status of Canon from 1955 to 1959 and of Archdeacon from 1959 to 1963 in the Diocese of Saskatoon. He served as principal of Pelican Residential School, Sioux Lookout ON, and from 1963 to 1965 served as Supplementary Chaplain in the R.C.A.F. In recognition of the outstanding contributions made to the Indian and non-Indian people he served during this phase of his life, the University of Saskatchewan in 1964 awarded him the LL.D. (Honoris Causa), the highest academic honour ever awarded to a Canadian Indian at that time. From 1965 to 1970, Dr. Spence began his "second career" as a public servant with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In 1970, he worked for and became the president of the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (from 1974 to 1976). He also taught Cree and Native Studies at Brandon University and established his reputation as a Cree translator. In 1982, in recognition of the contribution he had made to the social, cultural. spiritual and education lives of many Indian and non-Indian people, he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada. Dr. Spence began his "third career" at the age of 69 at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, University of Regina in 1980 teaching Cree both on and off campus. From 1981 until 1985 he was head of the Indian Languages Department and encouraged the staff to produce textbooks and workbooks. In 1984 he was promoted to the rank of full Professor. Dr. Spence retired from SIFC in 1998 and was subsequently granted the title Professor Emeritus, University of Regina. Flowers gratefully declined, donations may be made in Ahabs memory to the Rod McGillvary Care Home, P.O. BOX 2818, The Pas, Manitoba. R9A 1M6. Funeral Service will take place on Monday, April 9, at Church of the Redeemer, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, The Pas, Manitoba. Hemauer Funeral Home, (204) 623-3261.

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Apr 07, 2001

Condolences & Memories (1 entries)

  • I was lucky to spend a year teaching at Pelican Lake school while Dr. Spence & his wife were in charge. He was a wonderful man with foresight & compassion. I was saddened to read in the Reconciliation Review of the pain both physical & mental inflicted on so many children in the Indian Affairs Residential Schools. Under Dr. Spence & his wife's guidance I'm sure nothing untoward happened. We really loved our little charges but I do wonder what became of them. Did having a foot in both worlds help & did they ever recover from the trauma of being parted from their homes at such an early age. This would have been part of the many issues confronted by Dr.Spence during his life work gaining recognition for the Canadian Indian population. - Posted by: June Boniface ( nee Lever) () on: Jul 17, 2013

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