Memorable Manitobans: Olive Patricia Dickason (1920-2011)
Born at Winnipeg on 6 March 1920, she grew up on a trapline in northern Manitoba when her parents lost everything in the Great Depression. She received a BA in Philosophy and French from the all-boys Notre Dame College at Wilcox, Saskatchewan.
In the late 1940s, after a failed marriage from which she had three daughters, she began a 24-year career in journalism at the Regina Leader-Post and subsequently, worked as a writer and editor at the Winnipeg Free Press, Montreal Gazette, and The Globe and Mail. She was the Women’s Editor at the Gazette, and later of The Globe and Mail’s daily newspaper and magazine. At age 50, she entered the graduate program at the University of Ottawa, receiving an MA degree in 1972. She later went on to complete a doctoral thesis entitled “The Myth of the Savage”, combining European written records, Aboriginal oral history, anthropology, archaeology, and the study of native art. She then authored Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from the Earliest Times, the most definitive book on the subject at the time.
Dickason taught at the University of Alberta from 1975 to 1992, stepping down after a seven-year fight against mandatory retirement. She was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1996 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in 1997. Along with six other honorary degrees, Dickason was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Winnipeg in 2003 in recognition of her contributions to the field of Indigenous history.
She died at Ottawa, Ontario on 12 March 2011.
“Former Manitoban’s native struggles profiled,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 May 2003, page 153.
“UWinnipeg mourns loss of Olive Dickason,” University of Winnipeg Press Release, 22 March 2011
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 25 December 2021