Elsie Bear was one of the Selkirk Friendship Centre’s most honoured helpers. She was born in Grand Marais and moved to Selkirk, Manitoba after getting married. She has left her mark for life on the organization, her fellow volunteers, the community and the many Aboriginal people she worked so diligently for.
Following her extensive involvement with the Selkirk Friendship Centre, the Manitoba Metis Federation and the St. Peter’s Anglican Church, her list of affiliations grew.
Upon her retirement, she quickly became involved with the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres (MAC), the Indigenous Women’s Alliance, the Selkirk & District Arts Council , the Selkirk Branch of the NDP and a Senator of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF). However, it was her work with the Selkirk Friendship Centre where Elsie’s contributions to the region were most noticeable.
Senator Elsie Bear was involved with the Selkirk Friendship Centre for nearly 25 years and initiated some of the Centre’s most important events. For many years, she coordinated the Annual Christmas Dinner for the Needy – an event she originated. Over 250 people avoided going hungry during that special time of the year thanks to the Yuletide Meal. She always worried that some people wouldn’t get a good dinner on Christmas Day and this was her way of ensuring that they never did.
Mrs. Bear’s commitment to her community did not go unnoticed either. She was awarded numerous times for her work including a very special birthday present in 1992 at the Fort Garry Place in Winnipeg. On December 20, 1992, one day after she coordinated the Selkirk Friendship Centre’s annual Christmas dinner, Elsie was honoured with the “Order of the Buffalo Hunt”.
Two years earlier in 1990, Elsie Bear was among 12 Manitobans honoured for outstanding efforts in community work and in enhancing the future for Aboriginal people by the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg (IMFC). Again, it was her work with the Selkirk Friendship Centre that drew applause.
Senator Bear’s position in the community was further recognized by the Federal Government in 1992, when they chose her along with three other Manitoba Métis Senators to do work on the Canadian Constitution.
Senator Elsie Bear attended every NAFC Annual General Meeting until illness prevented her from doing so. She will be remembered as one of our original pioneers of the Friendship Centre Movement and so deserving as one of our Spirits of Friendship.