Memorable Manitobans: Georgina Ann Charter [Medicine Wolf Woman] (1946-2005)
Educator, indigenous elder.
Born at New Malden, Surrey, England in 1946 to Rene Ferguson of Wakaw, Saskatchewan and Winifred Shaw of Surrey, she moved as an infant with her family to Wakaw after her father completed his service in Europe with the Canadian Armed Forces. Her mother was unprepared for the first home they had at Wakaw—a small, crowded, rustic cabin with an open fire pit in a rear lean-to where the family patriarch, Joseph Isidore Freguson, held sway. Her father and extended Ferguson family being Métis, she learned to speak the Michif language, and became knowledgeable about Indigenous culture. However, when she was sent to a residential school at nearby Saint Louis, she gradually lost the Michif language. She learned eventually that her great-grandfather, Mathias Parenteau, was Louis Riel’s guide and cart driver during the 1885 North West Resistance, and then later worked as a guide travelling from Fort Garry to the Battlefords and Cumberland House. Both Parenteau and her other great-grandfather, Leon Ferguson, were active in the 1885 Métis Resistance at Batoche.
Lacking other opportunities for employment, her father remained in service with the Canadian Armed Forces, stationed at Manitoba bases at Shilo and Rivers. The family maintained close connections with the Ferguson home in Saskatchewan, and she learned of her family’s awareness of the stigma attached to being Métis from Batoche, due to the 1885 rebellion, and a strong mistrust of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police lingered. She said that although the Métis community continued to meet for religious ceremonies at the grotto at St. Laurent-Grandin, near Batoche, traditional Indigenous rites were carried on “in the bush”, away from public scrutiny.
As an adult, she was one of the first Métis to obtain a Social Work degree when she graduated from the University of Regina in 1979. She was the first Métis social worker in Saskatchewan, serving with the Regina Public School Board from 1973 to 1977, followed by a year with the Saskatchewan Department of Social Services. In 1994, she completed her Masters in Education at St. Francis-Xavier University, Nova Scotia, and began teaching at the University of Manitoba in 1983. During her time there, she founded the University’s Northern Manitoba Social Work Program, and also taught in the Winnipeg Education Centre’s satellite program. In 1996, she co-authored Aboriginal People and Social Work, published by the University of Manitoba. She was a consulting elder for The Métis Legacy book series (Pemmican Publications).
Throughout her life, she continued to embrace Métis and Indigenous culture and traditions, and earned the honour of pipe carrier in the sacred Pipe Ceremony. She and her husband Wes Charter (Crowfeather) (1945-2016) followed the Métis practice of custom adoptions, becoming adoptive parents and grandparents to many children of their community. Their home was also the location for the Friday night practice sessions of the Birds Hill Sun Dance Drum Group. As a well-respected Elder, she was called upon many times to share her practices, advice, and wisdom.
She died at Winnipeg on 1 March 2005.
“Back to Batoche: A Cultural Centre for the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan” by David Adam Hutton, Master of Architecture dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1996.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 12 September 2021