Gabriel Dumont Institue


Tribute to the Leadership of Geordy McCaffrey

By James Oloo

May 6, 2021

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Geordy McCaffrey and Dr. James Oloo

Geordy McCaffrey and Dr. James Oloo

Geordy McCaffrey has been a part of Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) for most of his adult life, first as a student, then employee, and since 2003, as the CEO.

The past 40 years have been a remarkable time in the history of the Metis people. Many battles have been won, including hunting and fishing rights, and the fact that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to the Metis (Daniels v. Canada). Perhaps, one of the most remarkable achievements for the Saskatchewan Metis has been the creation of GDI, as a Metis-owned cultural and post-secondary institute.

As Lisa Bird-Wilson has stated in her excellent book, An Institute of Our Own: The History of Gabriel Dumont Institute, many individuals and communities did a lot of work for GDI to come into being, and to be where it is today.

One such individual who has had a great impact on GDI is the outgoing CEO, Mr. Geordy McCaffrey, who has been at the helm of the Institute for close to half of its 40-year history, from 2003 to 2021.  As a SUNTEP graduate himself, Geordy’s commitment to Indigenous teacher education has been inspirational. Under his leadership, the number of SUNTEP graduates has increased by over 110% from 624 in 2003 to 1,355 in 2020.

By 2003, GDI had awarded a total of $568,187 in scholarships to Metis students. Between 2004 and 2020, the Institute awarded over $2.8 million in scholarships to Metis students across Saskatchewan. In the 2003-2004 fiscal year, GDI had a total revenue of $4,466,551. In 2019-2020, the Institute’s total revenue was $39,086,104.

Geordy may say, and rightly so, that he does not deserve all the credit for the progress made at the Institute. Indeed, there are hundreds of dedicated staff, past and present, who have worked tirelessly for the Institute. I cannot mention them all here for lack of space. Some, including Lisa Bird-Wilson, were with the Institute before Geordy became the CEO. Others, like, Brian Chaboyer, has served on the GDI Board the whole time Geordy has been the CEO, and the current SUNTEP Saskatoon Head, Sheila Pocha, was on the GDI Board when Geordy was named the CEO.

As well as the team work and continuity, it takes a visionary leader to assemble the right team, and ensure that they have tools to work with at a workplace that encourages innovation, and is grounded in a positive environment that enables success. Examples above, including milestones attained at SUNTEP, student financial assistance, and revenue growth, have one thing in common. They involve partnership with other stakeholders. Too often, in partnerships involving Indigenous organizations, Indigenous peoples are regarded as junior partners and the partnerships as mere tokenism. I have witnessed Geordy standing up straight, his shoulders back, and head high, confidently and passionately representing the Institute in negotiations with stakeholders and partners. Geordy’s media interviews about the Institute give the image of someone who does not view his position as a job, but something deeper than that.

As Geordy passes the baton to Lisa on June 18, one chapter closes and another begins. But the theme of the book remains similar. Having worked closely with both Geordy and Lisa, I can say this with confidence: Lisa is not only a capable and enthusiastic employee of the Institute, but she has also been a caring, dependable, and loyal support for Geordy and the office of CEO.

Lisa wrote about the history of the Institute. She has been involved in many of the GDI’s progress over the past two decades. She has a vision for the future of the Institute. As I convey the warmest farewell to Mr. Geordy McCaffrey as a hard-working and brilliant mentor boss, it is exciting to know that the Institute will be in the very capable hands of Lisa. Geordy has set the bar high. Lisa is up to the challenge. Best wishes to Geordy, Lisa, and GDI. Onwards and upwards to greater things.

Dr. James Oloo is a professor of educational administration, policy, and leadership at the University of Windsor, Ontario. He was the research coordinator at GDI from 2011 to 2020.

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