Dr. Marie Battiste is a Mi'kmaw educator from Potlotek (pronounced Boht-loh-deck) First Nations, Nova Scotia and full professor in the Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan. Born to Mi’kmaq parents, John and Annie Battiste, both of Potlotek First Nations, she was raised in Houlton, Maine where her parents chose to remain after potato picking harvest. Her parents worked in various labourer work, while they raised three daughters, Eleanor, Geraldine (Gerry), Marie and one son, Thomas, providing them with the core values in education. Marie graduated from Houlton High School in 1967, and following in the tradition of her brother who entered Ricker College, she attended University of Maine at Presque Isle and later transferred to University of Maine at Farmington, where she received a teacher certificate in 1971.
Her first job after graduation was working with the Maine Indian Education Council in Machias, Maine, introducing and developing a federal funded early childhood program called Head Start in three reservation communities and in an off-reservation population of Micmac in Aroostook County. Later she joined the University of Maine at Farmington in the Program of Basic Studies, a federally funded program to assist Vietnam veterans and underprepared disadvantaged students develop their basic skills in order to enter into university. These years provided a grounding in her working with social justice and culturally responsive language education for students—both children and adults—to improve education outcomes among them. She was recruited in 1973 to attend Harvard University (Ed.M.’74) where she graduated with a master’s degree and then moved to California where she worked for the American Institutes for Research, conducting federal research in bilingual and bicultural education policy. She then worked for University of California at Berkeley in the Native American Studies Program and subsequently applied for and attended Stanford University, where she took full time studies in bilingual bicultural education, while working full time at Berkeley. She completed her doctorate degree (Ed.D. ’84, Stanford University), writing her dissertation entitled An Historical Investigation of the Social and Cultural Consequences of Micmac Literacy. She returned to Nova Scotia upon completing her degree to work with the Potlotek First Nations as principal of Mi’kmawey School and Education Director of Potlotek. The advertised success of the language and cultural programming led to her receiving an honorary doctorate degree at St. Mary’s University in 1987, and an honorary doctorate from her alma mater University of Maine at Farmington in 1997, including the Alumni Achievement Award from the same university in 1992. In 1993, she and her husband, J. Youngblood Henderson and her three children moved from Eskasoni NS to Saskatoon SK, where she took up a teaching research position at the University of Saskatchewan and her husband Sákéj became Director of the Native Law Centre.
She has written and lectured extensively on cognitive imperialism, Indigenous knowledge and the humanities, and the decolonization of Aboriginal education, as well as worked actively in First Nations schools as an administrator, teacher, consultant, and curriculum developer, advancing Indigenous knowledge, epistemologies, languages, pedagogy, and research. Her research interests are in initiating institutional change in the decolonization of education, language and social justice policy and power, and anti-oppressive approaches that recognize and affirm the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada.