Community leader Gary Carriere was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at USask Spring Convocation on June 6.
Community leader Gary Carriere was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at USask Spring Convocation on June 6. (Photo: Dave Stobbe)

Land protector’s passion and dedication the focus of USask honorary degree

Thanks to Gary Carriere, there is new hope for the Saskatchewan River Delta.

For the past four decades, Carriere has been a tireless advocate for the Delta and the people who live on it. A traditional Knowledge Keeper who is valued and respected by the Cumberland House community where he was born and raised, his considerable knowledge of the vast delta region ecosystems has aided dozens of researchers from the University of Saskatchewan (USask). 

In recognition of his dedication to this extraordinary ecological area, Carriere was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at Spring Convocation ceremonies at USask on June 6.  

“Back home, growing up, I can still clearly see in my mind how that place used to look,” said Carriere as he made his acceptance speech at Merlis Belsher Place.  

“I really believe. That is why I am here today.” 

The Saskatchewan River Delta, at 10,000 square kilometres, is the largest inland freshwater delta in North America. A unique landscape with global importance as an ecosystem, the delta is home to Swampy Cree and Métis people of the Cumberland House region. This area holds a special importance, both scientifically and to those who still live off the land. It’s a place that Carriere holds close to his heart. 

“We need to look after everything right from the smallest little insect and … microscopic organisms in the river, we need to look after all of that in order for all of us to be healthy. And that is a big task because a lot of people don’t know what’s going on outside of their communities, especially cities because we’re all trying to make a living,” he said. “But some of us have to step up and warn people what we’re doing to this planet. And I know you guys hopefully will be good partners in that area.” 

During her introductory speech, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Peta Bonham-Smith (PhD) characterized Carriere as an “environmentalist” and a “community leader”, and explained how he has worked with students and artists to share and translate his knowledge. 

“Mr. Carriere has watched the delta change and decline due to human interference. He understands what has been lost and how the environment can be reclaimed,” said Bonham-Smith. “He has been a guide and a collaborator with dozens of researchers including many from the University of Saskatchewan. His contributions have enabled countless scientific discoveries and have helped scientists and decision makers understand practices that are damaging the Delta.  

“Through his leadership and collaboration, there has been real change to the Saskatchewan River Delta.” 

As a member of the USask-led Global Water Futures (GWF) Advisory Council and co-investigator on a GWF project, Carriere has demonstrated all that is possible in positive collaborations between universities and Indigenous communities. 

“I know there is a reason why you [chose] to further your education, and hopefully you will find your path,” he said as he addressed graduating students. “Because once you find your path, it won’t be a job, it will be a pleasure to wake up to go do what you like doing.” 

Click here to learn more about the honorary degree recipients who were celebrated at the 2023 USask Spring Convocation ceremonies.  

Together, we will work towards Truth and Reconciliation. We invite you to join by supporting Indigenous achievement at USask.

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