Memorable Manitobans: Gladys Evelyn Taylor Cook “Topahdewin” (1929-2009)
Born on the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba on 18 August 1929, daughter of Elijah and Ruth Taylor. At the age of four, she was taken to the Elkhorn Residential School where she remained for twelve years, suffering abuse there. After a brief return to her family, she moved to Yankton, South Dakota where she took a housekeeping position at the local hospital. At the end of the Second World War, she worked on a hospital ship bringing wounded soldiers from Hawaii and Guam to San Diego, California. She then returned to Yankton where she met her future husband, Clifford Cook. They were married on 29 September 1950.
She returned to Manitoba and eventually settled at Portage la Prairie. There she took positions in the local residential school as well as house cleaning positions in local homes. Eventually she became a drug and alcohol abuse counsellor for the Friendship Centre and coordinator of the National Native Alcohol Drug abuse program. She worked with the Agassiz Youth Centre, Women’s Correctional Centre, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Al-Ateen Groups. She was a member of the Manitoba Council of Elders for Corrections with the National Association of Cultural Centres teaching Dakota culture to federal employees. She provided aboriginal awareness training to provincial staff working with native people, she presented workshops dealing with residential school issues, and she gave presentations on aboriginal awareness, substance abuse and social issues.
Her humanitarian endeavors earned her such accolades as the Governor General’s Award, the Order of Manitoba, the Canada 125 medal for outstanding citizenship, the Premier’s Award for volunteer work, YM/YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, Manitoba Medical Association Award for Health or Safety Promotion, the Order of Rupertsland for the promoting native education in the ministry, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award.
She died at Portage la Prairie on 9 May 2009. She is commemorated there by the Gladys Cook Education Centre.
“Woman of ‘forgiveness and peace’,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 May 2009.
“The ’09 honour roll,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 2010, page H4.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 April 2016