Akokaochise “Groundhog” from the Mahkwa (Bear) Clan.
June 7, 1940 – September 9, 2010
Born in the community of Camperville located on Lake Winnipegosis in Manitoba, Mary was predeceased by her husband Damas, sons Joseph and Robert, parents John and Virginia McLeod and six siblings. She is survived by her son Gerry, granddaughter Ashley, three sisters, three brothers and numerous nephews, nieces and long time friend Joan Spencer.
Mary was a natural storyteller, often sharing stories about growing up in a traditional Métis community that she lovingly referred to as the Métis Capital of the World. Her stories left everyone with vivid images of horse drawn wagons, berry picking, fishing, fiddling and jigging. She was drawn to Winnipeg as a young woman to pursue a career in hairdressing. She fell in love with her life-long partner Damas and became a domestic engineer until her two sons were old enough. It was at this time she became active in the urban Aboriginal community which became her life-long passion and forever changed the lives of Aboriginal people and families in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba.
Senator Mary Richard was a proud Métis woman who promoted cultural awareness, language retention, economic skills and safe housing for Manitoba’s Aboriginal population. Perhaps her biggest accomplishment was the successful conception and completion of the Circle of Life Thunderbird House on the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg. Manitoba. Thunderbird House became a centre for social outreach programs on a corner that once represented the worst address in the city.
She was involved in many local, provincial, federal and national boards and committees, such as Senator for the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC); past President of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, past President of the Indigenous Women’s Collective; former Executive Director of the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre and the Manitoba Association of Native Languages, Co-owner of Bungees Restaurant, President and CEO, Circle of Life Thunderbird House, Co-chair of the North Main Task Force past Board member of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Neeginan, Median Credit Union, , National Economic Development, Indian Business Development Group, Nuclear Waste Management and the Native Women’s Transition Centre to name a few. Mary was also involved in the Aboriginal Senior Resource Centre and Kekinan Centre. She was recognized for her hard work and commitment for change in the community many times. Her awards include the Order of Manitoba, Order of the Buffalo Hunt, YM-YCWA Woman of Distinction and a National Aboriginal Achievement Award.
Mary was a respected Aboriginal activist, Winnipeg social advocate and politician who championed Aboriginal rights. She campaigned for the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba in the 1999 provincial election in the constituency of Point Douglas losing to the New Democratic Party candidate. The following year, she crossed to the Liberal Party of Canada and ran as that party’s candidate in Winnipeg North Centre for the 2000 federal election. She finished second against New Democrat Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
Her greatest accomplishment, pride and joy was her granddaughter Ashley, son Gerry, her family and dear friends who were often put to work to help her help others. There was no act of kindness too small or too big for Mary to tackle and no limit to what she would do for her community.
Mary will forever be remembered for her love of two stepping, travelling, Opera and for being a local historian and her fluency in English, Ojibway and Cree.
She will be forever missed in the Friendship Centre Movement.