Peter Tabuns MPP, Toronto-Danforth

Government of Ontario


Published on May 9, 2024

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I rise to commemorate a friend of mine, a community leader and wise spirit, Pauline Rose Shirt (Nimikiiquay), who died this week. Pauline was beloved in our Toronto–Danforth community. I cannot do full justice to her story or her impact in this statement, but I want to note a few things.

Pauline was a Plains Cree Elder from Saddle Lake, Alberta, Red Tailed Hawk Clan, and member of the Three Fires society and Buffalo Dance society.

In 1974, Pauline and her then husband, Vern Harper, led the Native People’s Caravan. The caravan travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa to deliver a manifesto to the government on the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Pauline was the Elder at George Brown College in Toronto, and in 2023, she was appointed to the Order of Ontario. Pauline served on the Elders Council of the Urban Indigenous Education Centre, starting in 2008.

In our community, she was best known for being the founder of Kapapamahchakwew, Wandering Spirit School. In 1976, after unsuccessfully trying to find a public school that was culturally appropriate for her son’s education, Pauline started the Wandering Spirit Survival School. In 1983, it was officially recognized as a cultural survival/native way school. In 2019, there was a remaining ceremony to return it to its origins: Wandering Spirit School.

She was a warm presence at powwows and First Nations celebrations throughout our community.

I want to convey my condolences to her remaining family and thank her now for all she did to build our community.