Elders in Residence

In April of 2012 Unama’ki College instituted the Elders in Residence Program. These respected individuals will strive to:

  • be role models for students, faculty, and staff
  • counsel and advise
  • assist professors in curriculum delivery
  • foster an atmosphere of pride among students
  • reflect the benefits gained from guidance by Elders
  • promote Mi’kmaw and First Nations cultural values

Mary Ellen Googoo

 Mary Ellen was born in Whycocomagh, and raised in Eskasoni. She has worked for the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, the National Native Women’s Association, and the Indian Rights for Indian Women organization.  She obtained a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of New Brunswick, a Certificate in Special Education from Acadia University, and a Diploma in Education (Curriculum Development) from Cape  Breton University (then UCCB).  Mary Ellen has worked for the former Cape Breton District School Board, both as a teacher and as Cultural Coordinator, helping to develop the “Mi’kmaq Studies 10” and “First Nations 11” courses.  Mary Ellen also served as director of the Mi’kmaq College Institute (now Unama’ki College).

 An advocate for Mi’kmaw language and culture learned from the teachings of her late grandfather, Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy, Mary Ellen has worked for their promotion as an educator and as a member of the Elders Advisory Committee for Mi’kmawey Debert, the Tripartite Education Working Group, and the Culture and Heritage Working Group, and as co-chair of the Mi’kmaq Language Sub-committee for the Tripartite Forum.  In 2006 CBU conferred the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, upon Mary Ellen for her leadership in Mi’kmaw education. Today Mary Ellen lives in Membertou with her husband Francis, proud parents of seven children and 23 grandchildren.  It is an honour to have Mary Ellen’s guidance and quiet strength as Elder in Residence at Unama’ki College.

Lawrence Wells

Lawrence Wells is a Mi’kmaw Elder from the community of Membertou. He joined Unama’ki College as one of our Elders in Residence in 2015, and is an exemplar of the qualities of humility, respect, and tolerance that identify the Mi’kmaw Elder. Lawrence has shared his extensive knowledge of Indigenous culture and traditions for over 25 years and is known as the `Keeper of the Children, Keeper of the Fire, and Keeper of Lodges’.  He has also been an addictions counsellor and worked with the Native Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counseling Association in Eskasoni.

Lawrence leads by example, and is always ready to participate in activities with children and youth that incorporate the sacred in everyday life. He is a noted wood and stone carver and has crafted pipes for prayer. Lawrence is perhaps best known for his positive attitude, his generosity with his time, his knowledge of the Seven Sacred Teachings and ways we can heal ourselves, and for his affinity for nature. He does not believe in barriers and is available to students for support as needed. Unama’ki College