Verna Kirkness

Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24, 1983
Verna Kirkness, Ni-jing-jada
Educator, Scholar, Administrator, Author, Lifelong Advocate of Aboriginal Education

Verna Kirkness
  • Professor Emerita, UBC Faculty of Education.
  • Member of the Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba.
  • Founding Director of the First Nations House of Learning at UBC.
  • Founding Driector of the Ts’’kel Graduate Program at UBC.
  • Received the Outstanding Educator of British Columbia Award and Canada’s Educator of the Year Award in 1990.
  • Received the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba.

“I was one of the few Native teachers in my province in those early times. I guess I can consider myself privileged to have been able to work in all these areas, always breaking new ground.” - Verna Kirness

“The Indian child is caught between two cultures and is therefore, literally outside of, and between both.” - Verna Kirkness

Verna Kirkness’s zeal for education started early. She loved school and dreamed of one day becoming a teacher. She has authored several books and writes prolifically, analyzing and offering guidance in the field of Aboriginal education. Her drive for educational reform led to the founding of several new learning centres and forums — including the First Nations House of Learning at the University of British Columbia, where she served as its first Director, and the World Indigenous People’s Education Conference, held tri-annually in various countries. Kirkness was instrumental in the success of the Native Indian Teacher Education Program and worked tirelessly to support First Nations students at UBC. She served as a Professor in the Department of Education and was Director of Native Studies at UBC. She has received many honours recognizing her scholarship and contribution to education, including the Order of Manitoba (2007) and Order of Canada (1998).

For more information about First Nations in B.C., resources available at UBC, or information about these individuals, visit the Resources section.