Our school is named after Thelma Chalifoux, a retired senator and Métis activist who worked tirelessly on a variety of issues that affected indigenous people and women.
Chalifoux was born in Calgary in 1929 to a Métis father and Danish-American mother.
In the 1950s, she studied sociology at Lethbridge Community College and studied construction estimating at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. She pursued her studies while raising seven children as a single mother.
She spent 12 years with the Métis Association of Alberta as a field worker where she was instrumental in developing the land and welfare departments. While living in Slave Lake, she founded the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre and ran the first safe house for victims of domestic violence.
As a champion of Métis history and culture, Chalifoux helped ensure the Cree language was taught in northern schools. She produced a Métis culture and history video and curriculum guide for students in Grades 4-6 for the Métis Nation of Alberta. Later, she worked with Alberta Education on a Métis history and culture project. In 1994, she founded her own consulting company that specialized in the development and application of Métis-specific cross-cultural training courses.
Chalifoux was the first Métis woman to receive the National Aboriginal Achievement Award. She was also the first Métis woman to be appointed to the University of Alberta Senate.
In 1997, she became the first Métis woman appointed to Canada’s Senate by then-Prime-Minister Jean Chretien. As senator, she served as chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. She was appointed to a task force to consult with Edmonton’s indigenous community about indigenous youth gangs and advocated for better education and partnerships between the community, police and other Canadians.
After retiring from the Senate in 2004, Chalifoux served as the NAIT Elder-in-residence and founded the Michif Cultural Institute (now Michif Cultural Connections) in St. Albert to preserve, promote and celebrate Alberta’s rich Métis culture.
Watch the Thelma Chalifoux video to learn more about her contributions and achievements: