Bobiwash, A. Rodney

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Bobiwash, A. Rodney

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Alan Rodney Bobiwash (1959-2002) was a Canadian First-Nations and anti-racist activist, scholar, and crusader for racial equality and social justice. Based predominantly in Toronto, Bobiwash held many prominent positions in the first-nations and academic community, and was recognized in Canada, and throughout the world, as a spokesman for the rights of indigenous people.

Alan Rodney Bobiwash was born in Blind River, Ontario in 1959 as part of the Anishnabek Nation, from the Mississagi First Nation on the north shore of Lake Huron. Bobiwash, one of eight children (five sisters and two brothers), was born into the Bear Clan and his Anishnabek name, Wacoquaakmik, meant “the breath of the land”. He attended Garson-Falconbridge Secondary School just outside of Sudbury, Ontario, and graduated in 1978. After high school, Bobiwash attended Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario where he graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies. His honours thesis was titled An Economic and Social History of Pinehouse, Saskatchewan. After Trent, Bobiwash went on to study at Oxford University, Wolfson College where he wrote on the topic of Metis, Indian, and Company Regulations in the Post-Monopoly Era: The English River Fur Trade District. 1870-1885. During his academic career, Bobiwash won the Native Studies Prize and the was named Bata Scholar at Trent University, as well as earning a Short Term Residency Fellowship at the D’Arcy McNickel Centre for the History of the American Indian, Newberry Library Chicago.

In 1987 Bobiwash began lecturing part-time at the University of Manitoba in the Native Studies Department where he taught a course on Native Identity. From 1988-1990 he taught at Trent University in the Native Studies Department where he was a lecturer in a wide variety of First Nations courses at all levels. Bobiwash was one of the more politically active faculty members at Trent and encouraged his students to take a hands-on role in addressing the issues facing the Native community. After a break from teaching, Bobiwash began lecturing at the University of Toronto in the Aboriginal Studies Program in 1996. At the time, Bobiwash was also the Director of First Nations House at the University of Toronto, as well as the coordinator for the Office of Aboriginal Student Services and Programs; positions he held from 1994 until 1997.

In addition to his academic career, Bobiwash was highly active in the Toronto and Ontario First Nations community, as well as the anti-racist movement in Canada. In the early 1990s, Bobiwash was instrumental in launching a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against the far-right organization The Heritage Front, and played a pivotal role in their eventual demise. He also founded an organization called Klanbusters, which was formed to combat the growing prevalence of Klu Klux Klan and affiliated white supremacist organizations in Ontario, Quebec and the Prairie provinces. KlanBusters monitored far-right activities, prevented white supremacist parades and demonstrations and provided an anti-racist hotline. Bobiwash was also an Aboriginal rights leader with a particular focus on pay equity for First Nations people, and the status and rights of urban native populations in Canada. In 1998 Bobiwash became the director of the Native Canadian Centre Toronto, where he had worked previously as a policy analyst and Native Self-Government and anti-Racism Coordinator from 1991-1993.
From 1991 until 1998 Bobiwash ran Mukwa Ode First Nations consulting Inc. Mukwa Ode was a first nations consulting group that worked with aboriginal and non-aboriginal clients in a number of different areas. Among many projects, Mukwa Ode Consulting created the Toronto Urban Native Self-Government Handbook, conducted a review of the perception of policing in Toronto’s Aboriginal community, and worked closely with the Greater Toronto Aboriginal Management Board (G.T.A.M.B.). Throughout his professional career, Bobiwash, as a representative many different First Nations and Anti-Racist organizations, attended, organized and participated in numerous conferences, seminars and workshops around the world. Bobiwash was also a highly sought-after academic and professional public speaker, who was known for his passion for the subjects he addressed, and for his humour in addressing them. In the final years before his death Rodney Bobiwash worked for the Centre for World Indigenous Studies as the Director of the Forum for Global Exchange, as well as on the C.W.I.S. board of directors. In this capacity Rodney worked to allow indigenous participation in international forums, and to ensure an indigenous voice in the global debate on biocultural diversity. In 2000 Bobiwash received the Urban Alliance on Race Relation 25th Anniversary Award. Rodney Bobiwash died of cardiovascular disease associated with complications from diabetes on January 13, 2002, at the age of 42.


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