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Champion of public health services for Aboriginal people and founding member of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada
A nurse with heart, Jean Cuthand Goodwill, of Cree origin, chose her profession early in life. As a child, she suffered from tuberculosis and spent several years in the sanatorium at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, which led her to study nursing. Already very determined, she received her nursing diploma from the Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert in 1954, after taking the final exams twice. She was the first Aboriginal to finish a nursing program in Saskatchewan.
She began her career at the Indian Hospital of Fort Qu'Appelle, and then accepted the position of head nurse at the La Ronge nursing station. After several years of working in isolation under difficult conditions in northern Saskatchewan, Jean Goodwill left Canada to work in Bermuda. When she returned, she became increasingly involved in developing Aboriginal organizations in Canada. Her goal was to ensure that Aboriginal communities receive health services appropriate to their culture and social conditions.
Jean Goodwill joined many associations and sat on a number of committees during her lifetime. She was executive director of the Indian-Métis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg, head of the Department of Indian Health Studies at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College of the University of Regina, a member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Public Health Association and founding member of the Aboriginal Women's Association of Canada, to name but a few. She was also a founding member of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada, where she served as president for seven years.
From then on, Jean Goodwill devoted herself to politics, but always in the interests of health care and improving the living conditions of Aboriginal people. In 1978, she became a nursing consultant for the Medical Services Division and an advisor to Assistant Deputy Minister D. Lyall Black at Aboriginal Affairs. Two years later, she became the first Aboriginal woman in the federal public service to be appointed to the position of special advisor to the minister of National Health and Welfare, Monique Bégin. Thereafter she was named to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Jean Goodwill accumulated numerous distinctions throughout her career. In 1981, she received the Jean Goodwill Award, created in her honour by the Manitoba Indian Nurses Association. Queen's University gave her an Honourary Doctorate of Law in 1986. In 1992, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her achievements. Then, in 1994, she won a national excellence award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.
Jean Goodwill succumbed to cancer in 1997 at the age of 69. She lived an incredibly active life, as evidenced by her many achievements, and was sustained by her desire to improve the quality of life of her people. She was convinced that their health problems were due mainly to poverty and poor standards of hygiene. Her involvement in and dedication to the Aboriginal cause resulted in nursing programs for Aboriginals, the introduction of clinics on reserves and an improvement in the living conditions of Aboriginal people.
Goodwill, Jean Cuthand. "Indian and Inuit nurses of Canada". Saskatchewan Indian Federated College journal. Vol. 4, no. 1 (1988). P. 93-104
"In memoriam". Canadian journal of public health. Vol. 88 (July/Aug 1997). P. 265
"Indian Women". The Saskatchewan Indian. (March 1989). P. 12
Saskatoon Women's Calendar Collective. "Jean Cuthand Goodwill." Herstory 2001 : the Canadian women's calendar. Regina : Coteau Books, c2000. P. 6
Kirkness, Verna. "Remembering a humanitarian of our own : Jean Cuthand Goodwill (1928-1997)" First perspective. Vol. 6, no. 8 (Oct. 1997). P. 25
"Profiles". Canadian woman studies = Les cahiers de la femme. Vol. 10, Nos. 2 & 3 (Summer/Fall 1989). P. 121-122
Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre. Aboriginal faces of Saskatchewan [online] : a photo gallery website. Ron Hyggen, Mason Medynski, Michelle Flamont and Mike Tanton. [Ref. June 21, 2001]. Access : www.sicc.sk.ca/faces/wgooje.htm
Sluman, N. ; Goodwill, J. John Tootoosis : a biography of a Cree leader. Ottawa : Golden Dog Press, 1982. 235 p.