Angie Bruce

April 8, 2024

Meet the University of Manitoba's new vice-president (Indigenous)

In February 2024, Angie Bruce began her position as the University of Manitoba's vice-president (Indigenous).
Photo credit: David Lipnowski.

Angie Bruce is a lot of things - a strong Red River Métis woman, mother, academic, and, as of February 1, 2024, the University of Manitoba's vice-president (Indigenous).

The newly appointed vice-president (Indigenous) grew up in a traditional Red River Métis household in the historic community of St. Laurent.

"My family, my dad's side, and my mom's side, were very much harvesters, trappers, and fishermen, which were all utilizing the resources and nature in terms of generating income and living in harmony with nature," she said. "I felt the lessons that we learned from that - lessons of community, the lessons of reciprocity - how do we bring that into our leadership style and how do we work when we have that intersectionality between who we are as an Indigenous person and who we are in terms of when we're taking on roles."

Before her PhD, Bruce attended Red River College Polytechnic for their Business Administration program, later transferring to the University of Winnipeg for her undergraduate studies. She found success in her academic pursuits by connecting with the Indigenous Students' Association. She also received early funding opportunities from the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF).

"At the time, they MMF would give me a stipend of $240 a month to help pay for my gas to go to school, and for me it was huge. It was a connection back to my community, so I knew my community was supporting me," she said. "I was living at home with my mother, and I was driving back and forth through that process. So, that's how my mom was supporting me. And then MMF was supporting me with that stipend every month. It did contribute to helping me achieve my goal, which was graduating from that program and then moving on here to my master's."

Following her undergraduate degree, Bruce completed her master of business administration with a specialization in health administration from the Asper School of Business. She is currently working on her PhD at North Bay, Ontario's Nipissing University. Her research is focused on Indigenous women in leadership.

"It's looking at whether we can as Indigenous women hold on to our Indigeneity and still be successful in a work environment, in particular a colonial institution. So, I'm bringing in my experiences working in the public sector, which is very much a hierarchical type of institution, and how do we bring our skills, our knowledge, and our teachings into that environment, and can we do that and still be successful," Bruce said.

Bruce is currently working on her PhD, with her research focusing on Indigenous women in leadership.

Before pursuing her PhD, Bruce began working within Indigenous spaces when she took a job working for Michael DeGagné, executive director at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The organization funded healing projects for Residential School Survivors and intergenerational survivors across the country until 2014.

Following her work with DeGagné, Bruce returned to the academic sphere for her PhD studies, where she began engaging in dialogue relating to the Indigenous experience in the academy, specifically focusing on sustainable education.

"Because we've had a place to go and a place to have these conversations and a place to gather together throughout my life, the MMF has actually been a part of those dialogues and conversations in the community, and to have a spot for our people and our rights, I think we are at a place in time where everybody who is Métis is proud to stand up and say it."
- Angie Bruce

The vice-president (Indigenous) has seen significant transformations in academia from her early days in school to her current position.

"I think now what I'm seeing at a university level is how we're transforming: the openness of many different people and many different faculties, the understanding of reconciliation. I always say that after the truth and reconciliation, one of the key pieces that individuals started to look at was the history part, so telling the truth," she said.

The University of Manitoba has implemented training for its faculties to include Indigenous perspectives in its curriculums. Mandates have also been put in place for certain faculties to include compulsory Indigenous-focused courses to create a better relationship between the academy and Indigenous students.

To help Red River Métis students transition into their post-secondary studies, the MMF has hired three Métis Inclusion Coordinators for the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, and Brandon University. The purpose of these positions is to ensure Métis students have access to Métis-specific programming, resources, and events being held on campus.

One aspect of her new role as vice-president (Indigenous) is ensuring the current systems in place are being put into practice.

"So, when I came on, I met with a group of Elders - Red River Métis, First Nation, and Inuit Elders - that work throughout the university, and they looked at me and they said, 'our task to you is to move quickly,'" she said. "We've done the education, we have these wonderful foundational supports and tools, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, but we need to see action."

Bruce understands that part of her new position includes fostering inclusive environments for Indigenous students, faculty, and aspiring academics so they can engage in meaningful collaboration and mutual learning.

"What I do is open up a dialogue and a conversation and influence, as well as support, decision-making and provide advice that allows us as an institution to ensure that the Indigenous perspective is being considered in all that we do. And so how do we action that I think is going to be one of my key priorities as I move forward," she said.

Bruce underscored the importance of collaborating with Indigenous communities both on and off campus to provide support to Indigenous students.

"We need to work with the internal campus community and the internal campus Indigenous community, but also our external communities. So, engaging with the Red River Métis, engaging with our First Nations, engaging externally with our partners so that we can come together, because reconciliation is truly a two-way street, so we need to be together. It can't be one person driving it; it has to be done together," she said.

Bruce understands that a part of her new position involves fostering inclusive environments for Indigenous students, faculty, and aspiring academics to engage in meaningful collaboration and mutual learning.

With her daughter about to embark on her own post-secondary journey, Bruce emphasized the importance of embracing her identity and being unapologetic about taking up space.

"I was always strong in my Métis identity, and it gave me the strength that I needed to move in spaces. I say to my daughter now, 'own your space.' We belong there. You have a right to be there. You have gifts to offer and so you need to own your space," she said. "Some of these spaces were not created for us, but we are strong enough in who we are. You have the support of your ancestors, the support of your community, and you need to stand up and take that space."

Bruce has also noticed an increase in Indigenous mentors making themselves available to students, which will be an asset to those navigating the post-secondary institution.

"A lot of people who graduated now from these programs come back and support students' achievement, and I think there's a big, big focus on that," she said.

She added it is important to recognize how far we have come in changing the narrative of Red River Métis history in the academic setting.

"The Métis perspective in particular has been a big focus - hearing our stories and our history from our people, which I think is a critical part of bringing that lens from the individual Indigenous Nations," said the academic.

The narrative for Red River Métis people has changed in recent years, and Bruce attributes this newfound pride to the work the MMF has done to ensure the Red River Métis voice is heard.

"Because we've had a place to go and a place to have these conversations and a place to gather together throughout my life, the MMF has been a part of those dialogues and conversations in the community," she said, "and to have a spot for our people and our rights, I think we are at a place in time where everybody who is Métis is proud to stand up and say it."


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