Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Joyce Fairbairn | Chief Morning Bird Woman

Senator Joyce Fairbairn was honoured in the 2013 exhibit Archives Exposed… From Galt Baby to Senator (guest curator Karissa Patton]. Today Fairbairn is included in the exhibit Archives Exposed… Kainai Chieftainship (guest curator IkKinaapssii, Rob First Charger], which closes June 28.

Joyce Fairbairn was born at the Galt Hospital in 1939, and raised in Lethbridge. She worked as a teen journalist at the Lethbridge Herald while attending Lethbridge Colligate Institute, writing a column titled “Teen Chatter”.  Even as a young woman Fairbairn was active in her community as a participant in local speech contests and festivals.

She graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English in 1960, followed a year later by a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. Fairbairn stayed in Ottawa and began writing for many newspapers; she became the first woman to work in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Her career on Parliament Hill continued when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau hired Fairbairn as his Legislative Assistant in 1970. Later Fairbairn also became Prime Minister Trudeau’s Communications Coordinator.  In 1984 Fairbairn was appointed to the Senate where she worked until January 18, 2013.

After her appointment to the Senate, it quickly became clear she would not be limited to the Red Chamber. Senator Fairbairn quickly became known for attending Southern Albertan milestones, openings, celebrations, and even the occasional cake-decorating contest. Senator Fairbairn became well known throughout Southern Alberta because, as one constituent commented, “she cared enough to come”.

Through her many accomplishments Senator Fairbairn has been a great role model for young women and young Canadians, especially her devotion to her communities: the Paralympics Association, the Kainai Nation, the University of Lethbridge, the city of Lethbridge, and many others.

Senator Fairbairn was named Ksiskaníípi'ksaakii, Chief Morning Bird Woman when she was inaugurated into the Kainai Chieftainship in 1990. Other recipients in the Chieftainship who have enhanced the quality of life for the Blood Tribe and beyond include Adrienne Clarkson, Bob Tarleck, Hugh Dempsey, John G. Diefenbaker, Prince Charles of Wales and others.

Archives Exposed… Kainai Chieftainship is on display at the Galt Museum & Archives in the Servus Credit Union Learning Studio. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.

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