Thelma Knight – A Visionary for Future Generations

Thelma Knight was in the second class of students to graduate from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College. It was 1977, and Thelma was one of six graduates.

The single mother of two daughters was just beginning her career, which would lead to many firsts in the City of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan.

“I know she was very proud to be part of a First Nations education institution,” says her daughter Tanya Tootoosis.

As a young woman of just 18 years of age, she sat on the Saskatoon Native Youth Association.

Over the years, her advocacy and activism shone, as she helped to lay the foundation of many First Nations programs that exist today.

Thelma sat of the first Board of Directors which developed the First Nations Daycare Programs in Saskatoon. She also sat on many boards for several other First Nations organizations including: the Saskatoon Urban Indian Association, the Saskatoon Indian Friendship Centre, and the First Nations Association of First Nations of Social Work.

“She believed in working for our people,” says Tanya Tootoosis. “She was a visionary for future generations.”

Tanya says her mother was very passionate about her Cree culture and children, and danced powwow. She was also an advocate and activist for First Nations’ treaty rights.

Thelma would also go on to become an Associate Professor at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College on the Saskatoon campus. There, she was instrumental in teaching and helping to develop the Social Work and First Nation Grief and Loss Curriculum.

For approximately 15 years, she coordinated the culture camp which was part of her program. Tanya says she and her sister, Starlene Knight, remember going to the camp. As Tanya got older, she even watched the children of other students attending the camp.

As strong, determined, single-mother, Tanya says she always stressed the importance of education.

“She used to stress the importance of getting that education, being open to learning knowledge, and help support and lead our children and future generations,” remembers Tanya. “And her true belief for people is that they need to be heard, acknowledged, and respected.”

Thelma Knight passed away in December, 2015 at the age of 61. But so much of her work lives on in the memories and institutions that were created out of her efforts.

by Merelda Fiddler