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Career Achievements Bring High Honour

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JANUARY 1992      v20 n07 p12  
Reprinted by permission of The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon, January 13, 1992)

Simply described as a Native health careworker, Jean Goodwill's title pales in comparison to that of most named to receive Canada's highest honor.

But the Cree nurse from Standing Buffalo Reserve near Fort Qu'Appelle could swap resumes with any of the politicians, moviemakers and songwriters recommended to receive the Order of Canada this April.

"I'm surprised, of course," Goodwill said of the honor, "but I've met a lot of people in many capacities during my career and I'm no longer that shy Indian girl I used to be."

The award will be given in recognition of a career that spans more than three decades and is loaded with a long list of titles and accomplishments, most of which Goodwill collected during 20 years in Ottawa.

She worked as a senior civil servant for the departments of Indian and Northern Affairs and Health and Welfare, where she headed various programs and served three years as special advisor to then-minister Monique Begin.

Outside of her government career, Goodwill is a founding member of the Native Women's Association of Canada, a founding member and past president of the Indian and Inuit Nurses of Canada, and the author of four books.

She is president of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health, a lecturer at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College and a member of two area health committees.

Being one of the first Native women to be appointed to the federal civil service, Goodwill quickly gained a reputation as a maverick among her mostly non-Native colleagues.

"I wasn't a very popular bureaucrat. I did have my radical moments, but sometimes you have to be that way to get your point across."

She said one of the more glaring errors Ottawa continues to make in developing health and social programs for Indians is that it assumes the programs should apply to all Indian communities across Canada.

"That's the wrong approach, because we're all very different people."

She said most of the bureaucrats she worked with didn't understand Indian people and their culture, and few of them made an effort to learn the language of the people they were serving.

Since returning to Standing Buffalo almost two years ago, Goodwill continues to apply the same philosophy to her work on local health boards as she did as a bureaucrat, although she admits her approach is somewhat more diplomatic.

Her main goal is to convince Ottawa it should provide the financial support to allow Indians greater control of health care in their own communities.

Goodwill is mother to two adopted daughters. Her husband, Ken, was recommended for the Order of Canada in 1978, but he rejected the appointment for personal reasons.