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Elsie Cardinal: Resiliency and Courage

“Dbaadendizin — Humility: You are equal to others, but you are not better.”

A black and white portrait of an elderly Elsie Cardinal looking forward at the camera.

A portrait of Elsie Cardinal in Fort McMurray, 2014.


Elsie was born outside of Conklin on March 14, 1935, where she was one of ten children born to Annie and George Cardinal.

She grew up living in the trapline and did not attend formal schooling. Elsie taught herself to read and write. Preserving her roots, she learned the traditional Indigenous ways from her family members.

A historic photo from the mid-1940s of a family with a father and mother wearing suits, surrounded by children in front of a log house.

Elsie Cardinal’s family in Conklin, 1945.


Her childhood was full of adventurous memories with her family, particularly the times spent with her siblings running and jumping around the bushes tirelessly for hours.

A historic photo from the 1920s of camp set up with over four tents, canoes sit alongside the river with children around them.

A typical dwelling of residents located beside Lake Athabasca, circa 1920.


When she was 15 years old, Elsie stayed with the nuns in Fort McMurray and was trained to work in the hospital as a ward aide.

She was also passionate about health care. One of her fondest memories is about the time when she assisted a doctor with a tonsillectomy procedure.

A young Elsie Cardinal kneeling next to her oldest son, the toddler is pointing toward himself, the background has a wooden structure in a treed yard.

Elsie with her oldest son, Matthew in Waterways, 1955.

She spent many of her years in Fort McMurray, raising her five children there.

Throughout her career, Elsie held different titles. At one time, she was employed with Alberta Newstart, Alberta Vocational Centre then Keyano College. Elsie was dedicated and took pride in all her work.

Elsie was a proud Métis woman, always willing to share her knowledge and lend a hand to anyone that needed it throughout the Wood Buffalo region. She was very social and loved being a part of the Métis community.

Sadly, Elsie passed away on January 24, 2022. Family and friends will remember the pride she had for her Métis heritage, and the community will remain grateful for her knowledge and teaching.

Elsie Cardinal as a young mother standing with one daughter and son, three boys sitting on the tailgate of a blue truck in the front yard of a house.

Elsie Cardinal with her young children in Waterways, 1965.