Elsie Basque, C.M.
Mi'kmaw Educator
On November 4, 2009, Elsie was appointed a member of the Order of Canada,

Elsie Basque, nee Charles, was born to Margaret Labrador and Joe Charles at Hectanooga, Digby County, on May 12, 1916. She was the first Mi’kmaq to earn a teacher's certificate from the Provincial Normal College in Truro. Photo: November 1999

Click on the Link to read a Halifax Herald column I wrote honouring Elsie: October 6, 1995


Quoted from a Halifax Herald Story - December 31, 2009

Four Nova Scotians join Order of Canada

Named a member of the Order of Canada on Wednesday was Elsie Charles Basque of Saul­nierville.

“I was very, very surprised," Mrs. Charles Basque, 93, said in an interview. “I still can’t believe it."

Mrs. Charles Basque was hon­oured for her pioneering contri­butions as an educator and for her voluntary work on behalf of seniors and aboriginal people in Nova Scotia and the United States.

In 1937, she became the first na­tive person in Nova Scotia to earn a teaching certificate. She taught in one-room schools in Cape Bre­ton, Indian Brook and other loca­tions in Nova Scotia, and in Bos­ton after moving there in the 1950s. She also became an advo­cate for issues affecting the elder­ly in the American Indian com­munity.

Mrs. Charles Basque wrote a report on those challenges in 1974 and it was sent as a position paper to the U.S. Senate.

While she appreciates the hon­our of being named to the Order of Canada, she said her greatest satisfaction came from her stu­dents.

She recounted a 1993 reunion of students she had taught in Indian Brook between 1939 and 1947. Many had gone on to university and professional careers.

“They came back to say thank you," Mrs. Charles Basque said. “It’s the greatest gift a teacher could ask for."


Halifax Herald - April 13, 2016

Residential School Survivor: Respected elder Elsie Basque dies at 99

Elsie Basque, 96 at the time, was presented with an honorary doctorate in humanities by Ray Ivany, president of Acadia University in 2013.

One of Canada’s oldest residential school survivors died Monday. Respected Mi’kmaw elder Elsie Basque would have turned 100 on May 12.

The Saulnierville resident was a pioneer in Nova Scotia, credited in her obituary as the first native teacher to teach in a non-native school.

Born in Hectanooga, Digby County, on May 12, 1916, Basque was the daughter of Margaret Labrador and Joe Charles.

The long-time teacher’s experiences were detailed in a Chronicle Herald essay by Daniel N. Paul, as well as in his book, We Were Not the Savages.

“She had the courage to go out and teach in a public school at a point in time when Nova Scotia was quite racist,” Paul recalled.

Residential school life left its mark on Basque.

“I’ve always regarded these years as time wasted,” Basque said, adding that she was in the eighth grade when she arrived at the school in February 1930, and in the eighth grade when she left in 1932.

“Volumes have been written about the school. It’s total disastrous effect upon the Mi’kmaw/Maliseet Nations will never be known,” she said.

“Generations later, the scars remain. It was not an education institution as we define education. Older children, boys and girls, were taken out of the classroom to do chores, i.e., milk the cows, clean the barn, plant and harvest, etc. The girls were ordered to launder the clothes, make uniforms, scrub the floors, and so on,” she recalled.

Basque attended Meteghan’s Sacred Heart Academy and then Provincial Normal College in Truro, where she was awarded a teacher’s certificate in 1937.

She applied by mail to the Inverness County school inspector for a teaching job at Mabou Ridge.

“On our short drive to his home in Port Hastings, he advised that it would be best for me to turn around and go home. He was certain that the good people of Mabou Ridge would never accept a Mi’kmaw to teach their children. After much discussion it was agreed that I could at least try.”

Basque’s work was well-received.

Later, she taught at the one-room Indian Day School in Indian Brook.

The Basques moved to Boston for several decades, where a 1974 report she wrote on challenges faced by the elderly in the American Indian community was sent as a position paper to the U.S. Senate.

At 93, she was named to the Order of Canada. She also received the Queen’s Jubilee medal.

She received honorary doctorates from St. Anne University, Provincial Normal College and Acadia University.



Elsie J. Basque (Charles)
(May 12, 1916 - April 11, 2016)

Elsie J. Basque (Charles)

Basque, Elsie J. (Charles) - Age 99, of Saulnierville, passed away, Monday, April 11, 2016, at home. Born in Hectanooga, she was a daughter of the late Joe and Maggie (Labrador) Charles. Elsie was a school teacher for many years, she was the first Native teacher having taught in a none Native school. She had received honorary doctorates from St. Anne University, Provincial Normal College and Acadia University. Elsie also received the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Jubilee. She is survived by daughter, Marty Simon, Saulnierville; stepdaughter, Marie Francis, Indian Brook; daughter-in-law, Rosie Basque, Eskasoni; grandchildren, Mangus Simon, Melissa Simon, Kristen Basque, Nick Basque, Anne Basque and 4 great grandchildren. She was predeceased by husband, Isaac; sons, Will, Bryan; daughter, Beverly; grandson, Bryan; great grandson, Bryan; and sister, Lucy Power. Visitation will be held Wednesday, April 13 from 2-4, 7-9 p.m. in the Meteghan Funeral Home. Funeral will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. in Sacred Heart Church, Saulnierville, with burial in St. Cleophas Cemetery, Hectanooga. Donations may be made to a charity of your choice.