Epidemiologist and interim director Jeff Reading, left, with Dr. Michael Dan, whose gift of $10 million allowed the creation of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health at the University of Toronto.
A transformative institute aimed at creating thriving health in Indigenous communities will receive the name, Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, on March 23 at the University of Toronto. The Institute — among the first of its kind in the world — was created at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health in June 2014 with a $10-million gift commitment from Michael and Amira Dan.
“Thanks to the Dan family’s generous donation, the Institute will conduct world-class research and academic training opportunities targeted towards innovative health interventions that contribute to thriving Indigenous communities in Canada and across the world,” said Howard Hu, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
“I’m pleased that the Institute’s name honours both Indigenous and non-Indigenous names of Canadians who have made significant contributions to the health of all Canadians,” Hu continued.
The Institute’s dual name has deep significance for the University of Toronto and for the Institute’s founding benefactor, Michael Dan. The name “Waakebiness” means Radiant Thunderbird from the South in the Anishinaabemowin language. It was given to Dan by Kalvin Ottertail, Midewin (medicine man) of the Lac La Croix First Nations community in 2012.
The name of “Bryce” pays tribute to Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, a University of Toronto graduate who founded the Public Health Service of Ontario and served as Chief Medical Officer with the Departments of the Interior and Indian Affairs from1904 to 1907. In 1907 he issued a report criticizing public health standards in the residential school system of Western Canada where 24 per cent of students died of communicable disease, primarily Tuberculosis. The statistics became public in 1922 when Bryce published, The Story of a National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians of Canada from 1904 to 1921.
“I’m tremendously proud that this Institute will pay tribute to my Indigenous friends while recognizing Dr. Peter Bryce’s courageous attempt at saving Indigenous children from the ravages of Tuberculosis in the early part of the 20th century,” said Michael Dan, also an honorary member of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health Campaign Cabinet.
The Institute will identify and cultivate partnerships with Indigenous communities, support Indigenous faculty and trainees and provide seed funding to support pilot projects. This work will be founded on respectful, sustainable and equal partnerships between Indigenous communities and the University of Toronto.
A naming ceremony on March 23, coinciding with the Spring Equinox, with remarks by Howard Hu, Michael Dan, the Honourable David Zimmer, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Jeff Reading, Interim Director of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health, Bryce family representatives and Indigenous elders and thought leaders celebrated the Institute’s name and highlighted its vision for cultivating thriving Indigenous communities.
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