“The residential school was to educate me so that I could enter the civilized world. I commented when I left, ‘If this is the civilized world, I want no part of it.’” Powerful words from a man who at fifty-five became spiritual leader of his community.

Wellington Spence was born September 15th, 1921, near Mynarski Lakes. The Spence family had eleven children. Wellington was six years old when his nurturing relationship with the land began — it lasted a lifetime.

“Age seven I went to residential school, to look after my younger sister, Bella. At age seventeen Wellington left. "I was extremely violent and for the next twelve years was in and out of jail for fighting.” Wellington began living with Madeleine Nicholas in Waboden in 1955. They enjoyed a long, loving relationship. “We were raising four foster children before having any of our own. Eventually we had eleven children and adopted two grandchildren. Over the years we fostered about 75 children. Somehow we managed to feed and clothe them.

“In 1976 I became spiritual leader of Nelson House. Both sets of grandparents taught me traditional knowledge. I learned to perform sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies that were outlawed until 1972; even the use of traditional medicines was illegal. Years later I was asked to cure people of various ailments. ”Wellington continued, “I taught my children kindness, love and to respect all people.” Wellington Spence passed away September 22, 2012 at 91 years of age, a beacon for humanity.


Back to Portrait Gallery

Wellington Spence
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House)
Image size: 11 x 13 inches
Edition Size: 275