Howard Adams, Ph.D.
By Joan Black
with permission from
Ten years past retirement, Metis education Howard Adams still defines his views as "radical." Whatever the political stripe, Adams' conservation and writing reveal the passion of a man who has made a career out of combating the systemic racism he says holds Aboriginal people back.
His is a lifetime of daring and innovative support of unpopular Metis and Indian social causes. Great numbers of publications illuminate his historical research, and his books are classics of Native literature. Adams' efforts and example continue to motivate Native people to aspire to a quality education and to challenge the status quo.
It's fitting then, that for decades of tireless activism inside and outside of the academic institutions where he spent his working life, Adams should be honored for his contributions in the field of education. The accolades come now not only from Aboriginal people, but from government, from educators and others with whom he has not always been on-side.
Political action to improve opportunities for Aboriginal people started early for Adams.
"I can remember holding a demo in high school," he says.
Later, while completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of California, Adams was inspired to actions by the free speech movement that fueled set-ins, strikes and demonstrations. He saw the aims and causes of the 1960s movement as "kind of parallel to our own people."
Where did Adams' political awareness and self-admitted radicalism come from? What drove the half-breed boy from the dirt-poor background to pursue his education to the Ph.D. level?
Adams says his outlook was the exception in St. Louis, Sask. where he grew up. Few students there aspired to more than the subsistence farming and labor-for hire existence of their parents. Most of his peers never completed even Grade 8 at Gerrond Elementary School.
His own willingness to tackle unpopular causes probably stemmed from his being "kind of an aggressive kid." The confidence to channel that aggression into positive action came from a few "lucky breaks" Adams says he experienced early in life.
Above all, he credits a happy family life with good parents.
"They didn't drink; they were good to the kids," Adams says. His mother also respected the local teacher and education in general.
Adams recalls that teacher, Mr. William Lovell, was a "very powerful influence." Adams was motivated to be a good student at least in part because Lovell favored him. The teacher promoted sports participation as well as academic subjects, and here too, Adams excelled.
National Aboriginal Achievement Awards
with permission from
Dr. Adams is a Metis from Saskatchewan and is respected academic and author. Currently, he's Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Davis. He is also a member of the adjunct faculty, the University of Alberta's graduate program in First Nations education. Fiercely proud of his Metis heritage, Adams single-handedly placed Metis concerns and conditions at the forefront of the Saskatchewan political agenda in the 1960's.