Memorable Manitobans: Doris Dowan Pratt [Duzahan Mani Win] (1936-2019)
Born on the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation (formerly the Oak River Reserve) on 10 February 1936, youngest of nine children born to Bessie and Deamus Dowan, a descendent of Dakota Sioux who fled into Canada after the 1862 Dakota Uprising, she was also known as Duzahan Mani Win (“Walks Fast Woman”). She attended the Anglican Day School on the Reserve at the age of 6 then the Elkhorn Indian Residential School (1943-1951) and Portage Indian Residential School (1951-1952). In 1961, she married Walter Pratt and they had seven children.
She began working as a teacher’s assistant in 1964 and this experience awakened her love of reading and education. In the early 1970s, with the encouragement of a teacher at the Sioux Valley School, she applied to the Indian Metis Project and Careers Teacher Education Program at Brandon University, after which she received Bachelor of Teaching, Bachelor of Education, and Master of Education degrees from the university. She worked as a teacher, principal, director of education, and Educational Elder Advisor for Sioux Valley schools and spent five summers at the American Language Institute Development Program at the University of Arizona and achieved an Education, Culture and Language Specialist degree in December 2004. One of the few fluent Dakota speakers and writers in Manitoba, she dedicated her life to its preservation.
She developed resources for Dakota instruction including dictionaries, calendars, audio recordings, and videos, and wrote numerous books including The Dakota Oyate (2016). She was a recognized translator for the Government of Canada and translated census forms and documents for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She also championed the return of historical artifacts housed in museums across North America to their home communities. In recognition of her community service, she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), a YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brandon University Senate (2017).
She died on 6 March 2019.
This page was prepared by Leona Devuyst and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 March 2019
Back to top of page