Born in the Cree Nation of Saddle Lake in Northern Alberta, Doreen Spence was raised by two Traditional Cree Elders, her grandparents. Their teachings of love, kindness, humanity, language, and ethics shaped her childhood and helped Doreen to become the determined, resilient woman that she would need to be in order to accomplish all that she has accomplished in the years that followed.
In 1959, Doreen became one of the first Indigenous women to obtain a Practical Nursing Certificate, leading her to a nursing career that spanned over 40 years. Throughout her career she volunteered in numerous and often challenging initiatives with the police force, school systems, and hospitals to preserve traditions and ensure a promising future for the community.
In Calgary, where she still lives, Doreen was instrumental in the development of the then, Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative, a grassroots organization providing a foundation for the city to discuss human rights issues facing the Indigenous community and to investigate possible solutions.
Following in her grandparents’ footsteps, Doreen Spence is an internationally-respected traditional Cree Elder. Her teachings and traditional healing practice have led her around the world, where she made making her mark in places like Germany, Austria, Vienna, Slovakia, Poland, Switzerland, South Africa, Australia, England, the United States, and the list of countries continues to grow.
Elder Doreen Spence has also been a strong advocate for human rights. She was invited to sit as a committee member on the working group that developed the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The committee met over a twenty-year period to craft the declaration, eventually leading it to adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. On May 10, 2016, the declaration was officially adopted by Canada.