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Remembering School Namesake and Indigenous Women’s Rights Advocate

Mon, 14 Sep, 2020

News item: Remembering Nellie Carlson

On September 10, 2020, school namesake and Indigenous women’s rights advocate Nellie Carlson passed away, at the age of 93.


Nellie Carlson lost her rights as a Cree woman after marrying her Métis husband Elmer Carlson in 1947. She dedicated several years to speaking out against the rules in the Indian Act that stripped women of their treaty status if they married non-status men. Nellie was one of the co-founders of the advocacy group Indian Rights for Indian Women in the 1970’s.

In April 1985, her strong voice and advocacy work paid off. Bill C-31 was passed to amend the Indian Act, which eliminated gender discrimination and restored treaty status to Indigenous women and their chilldren. 

“Nellie’s life-long advocacy work has left a remarkable legacy for us all. Her inspirational leadership is an important reminder to our students that when you use your voice to stand up for what is right, you can make a real difference,” Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks said. “We know her passion will continue to inspire students at Nellie Carlson School for decades to come.”

Born into the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Nellie Carlson was forced to attend a residential school when she was only six years old. Her strength and perseverance through her advocacy work led her to receiving the Governor General’s Award in 1988. She also co-authored the book Disinherited Generations. 


In September of 2016, Edmonton Public Schools opened the doors to Nellie Carlson School in the MacTaggart neighbourhood of southwest Edmonton.

When Nellie found out she would become a school namesake she said, “I think I was surprised when I heard it. I never never thought I would ever see the day that there would be a school built after my name. There’s so much to learn out there.”

The Cree woman was an active part of the school community, attending several Indigenous Peoples Day events, mentoring staff and acting as an Elder at the school.

“She was a staunch supporter of education, and modeled pride and stature,” said Principal Henry Madsen. “Nellie Carlson’s legacy will live on at her namesake school, where we will focus on high levels of learning, relationships and advocacy for the rights of all. It is an honour to bear the name of such a remarkable woman.”

Learn more about Nellie Carlson’s life and work in our school namesake video.