December 9, 2016
by Canadian Architect
Sylvia McAdam. Photo courtesy of Spirit of the Land
The University of British Columbia School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture has awarded the 2016 Margolese National Design for Living Prize to Sylvia McAdam.
Sylvia, a citizen of the nêhiyaw (Cree) Nation, is one of four founders of Idle No More, the grassroots movement for indigenous sovereignty, rights, and the respect for the treaties to protect the environmental and create economic and social equality. The Margolese selection committee saw in her a “peaceful yet forceful determination to bring about positive change” and was particularly impressed by her broad and enduring contribution as a “knowledge keeper, passing on the teaching of Cree elders through her books and lectures streamed on YouTube.“
Sylvia holds a Juris Doctorate (LLB) from the University of Saskatchewan and a Bachelor of Human Justice from the University of Regina. She is the author of Nationhood Interrupted: Revitalizing nêhiyaw Legal Systems, a compilation of teachings, language, and customs that have traditionally been orally shared and passed down through generations. Along with Idle No More co-founders, Jessica Gordon, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson, Idle No More was awarded the 2013 Carol Geller Human Rights Award. The four colleagues were also named as Foreign Policy’s 2013 Top 100 Global Thinkers.
The selection committee also recognized Sylvia as a “leader of a national conversation that touches all Canadians and Indigenous peoples through its potential to raise awareness among non-aboriginal society members and to bring pride and dignity to First Nations’ peoples and communities.” In late 2015, in an attempt to address the seemingly unsolvable housing crisis in First Nations’ communities, she was part of a group who launched a crowdsourcing campaign, “One House, Many Nations,” to raise funds to build homes for First Nations. The campaign’s impact has been both symbolic and real, and has brought much-needed attention and awareness to the epidemic of homelessness that affects Canadians and Indigenous peoples, and particularly women.
The Margolese National Design for Living Prize aims to recognize a Canadian who has shown extraordinary talent and dedication to make Canada a better place to live. The committee was unanimous in its choice of Sylvia who identifies foremost as a citizen of her nêhiyaw Nation. Her resilience, determination, and commitment to Treaty 6 have already affected the lives and hopes of many across First Nations communities as well as Canadians.
She will receive the Margolese Prize at a public event in early 2017.