Jean Cuthand Goodwill was born August 14, 1928 and raised on the Little Pine First Nation. In the 1940s she contracted tuberculosis and spent three years as a patient at the Prince Albert Sanatorium. Once recovered, she remained at the sanatorium as a nurse’s aid and later went on to study nursing at the Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert. In 1954 became the first Indigenous Woman to finish a nursing program in Saskatchewan. Following graduation, Goodwill worked with the Indian and Northern Health Services in Fort Qu’Appelle, and then as head nurse at the La Ronge nursing station, where she often attended emergencies by bush plane or dog team. After two years, she moved to Bermuda where she worked for another two years. Upon her return to Canada, she got involved in developing Indigenous organizations. In 1962 she became executive director of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre in Winnipeg. In 1965 she married Ken Goodwill and together they raised two adopted daughters. In 1966 they moved to Ottawa where Jean became co-editor of Indian News and helped to develop Tawwow, a magazine that encouraged First Nations people to write about their own affairs.

In 1974, Jean co-founded the Indian and Inuit Nurses of Canada (now known as Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association) and served as President from 1983 until 1990. In 1978, she became a nursing consultant for the Medical Services Division and an advisor to Assistant Deputy Minister D. Lyall Black at Aboriginal Affairs. In 1981 she became the first Indigenous woman in the federal public service to be appointed as special advisor to the minister of National Health and Welfare, Monique Bégin. Thereafter she was named to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Upon retirement from government, she moved to Standing Buffalo reserve and became department head of the Indian Health Studies at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College of the University of Regina (now First Nations University of Canada).

An active member in her community, Jean was a member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Public Health Association, a founding member and past president of the Aboriginal Women’s Association of Canada and president of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health. She helped develop the National Native Access to Nursing Program at the University of Saskatchewan and the Indian Health Studies Department at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College at the University of Regina.

In 1982 Goodwill co-wrote a book about her father entitled John Tootoosis: A Biography of a Cree Leader. Goodwill received the Jean Goodwill Award in 1981, created in her honour by the Manitoba Indian Nurses Association. Queen’s University gave her an Honorary Doctorate of Law in 1986; in 1992 she received the Order of Canada; and in 1994 she received a national excellence award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. Jean Goodwill died in Regina on August 25, 1997.

Doug Cuthand