Mary Ellen Robinson (1927-2012)

Leading by Example

Mi'kmaw Elder Mary Ellen Robinson lived with kindness and thoughtfulness and was recognized for her life-long work helping Mi'kmaq. She fought to return Indian status to thousands of Indigenous women whose status was revoked because they married non-Indigenous men.

There are more than a few Nova Scotians who do not make headlines, yet still make important contributions. (Mary) Ellen Robinson (1927-2012) is a wonderful example. In countless, unpublicized ways, this Mi'kmaw Elder lived a life filled with kindness and thoughtfulness on behalf of her family, friends and community. Nothing filled her with more joy or pride than being a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, as well as the beloved godmother of several hundred children in other families. She loved helping others, especially young people.

Mary Ellen Lewis was born in Bear River. By marrying non-Native Peter Robinson, she lost her Indian status in the eyes of the federal government. At the time, Indigenous men could marry non-Native women and retain their status, but Indigenous women lost their status with such a marriage. Ellen Robinson fought that injustice for decades, and eventually in 1985 saw the federal government correct the double standard by returning Indian status to thousands of women like Ellen across the land. One of Ellen's accomplishments along her journey was to help found the Native Council of Nova Scotia. It was (and still is) a great help to Mi'kmaq living away from their home communities. And that's not all Ellen did. She also was a regular volunteer at the Shubenacadie Court House, helping youth stay out of trouble. Her favourite advice was for the young people to take better care of themselves. Besides raising her own family of five, Ellen worked at the Shubenacadie Residential School, where she comforted many a homesick and distraught child. She was a founding member of the Native Council of Nova Scotia and later served as their honorary board elder.

In 2009, Ellen Robinson received a medal for her years of community work from the Congress of Aboriginal People. In 2010, the Premier of Nova Scotia recognized her status as a respected Elder with an award.



Native Council of Nova Scotia