Lillian Howard of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation spent a lifetime championing Indigenous rights, social justice and environmental action. At Douglas College, she was a respected Elder working with students in the College’s Indigenous Pathway program and with Indigenous students from across the College. Today, Douglas College posthumously named her an Honorary Fellow, the highest honour presented by the College.
“Douglas College will be forever grateful to Lillian for fearlessly sharing her wisdom and experience in support of understanding and the pursuit of knowledge,” said Dr. Kathy Denton, President, Douglas College. “She remains an inspiration and a reminder for us all to pursue justice, in all aspects of what we do at Douglas, and it is a privilege to award her this honour.”
Howard grew up in the Yuquot Village, also known as Friendly Cove, on Nootka Island off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. She was a survivor of the Christie and Mission Indian Residential Schools, and in her youth she was already fighting to protect land, water and Indigenous rights by joining logging blockades and attending the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry.
In adulthood, her dedication catapulted her into becoming a regional change-maker. Across Metro Vancouver, she chaired and co-chaired Indigenous advisory committees for educational, artistic and governmental institutions, including Douglas College.
Howard was passionate about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. She raised awareness as part of the Butterflies in Spirit dance troupe and helped found the Uplifting Indigenous Families Fund to support affected families throughout and after Canada’s National Inquiry into the crisis.
Howard was nominated to be the next Honorary Fellow in early 2021 by Aaron Johannes, a faculty member in Douglas’s Applied Community Studies department. Sadly, Lillian passed away in October 2021 before the honour could be bestowed.
“Lillian had a famous passion for sharing the truths of the past and present, no matter how difficult, in a quest for reconciliation,” said Johannes. “To our students, she was a teacher, a witness, an Elder, a great friend and a maternal figure for young pupils who were often far from home, going through difficult times. Her enduring dedication to the necessary work we do at Douglas makes her undeniably deserving of this honour.”
For her tireless community participation, Howard collected many other accolades over the years. She received the Vancouver Civic Volunteer Award in February 2018, modelled in the 2019 Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week, and earned recognition as an Indigenous woman leader from the University Women’s Club Vancouver. She graduated from Royal Roads University in 2007 with a Masters of Environmental Education and received a posthumous Honorary Doctor of Laws from them in November 2021.
Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-ready skills of a college to graduate resilient global citizens who adapt, innovate and lead in a changing world.
For more information, visit douglascollege.ca.