Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Bernelda Wheeler (1937-2005)

Journalist, actor, author.

Born on the Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan on 8 April 1937, daughter of Clara and Colin Pratt, in the 1940s her family moved to Churchill where she attended residential school. In 1954, she became a disc jockey for CFHC, the CBC Northern Service radio station at Churchill. After attending the University of Manitoba for a short time, she went into print journalism and radio. Between 1972 and 1982, she was a host, producer, investigative journalist and writer for the CBC Radio’s Our Native Land and became known as “The First Lady of Native Broadcasting in Canada.”

She worked on stage with Tomson Highway and on the television series Big Bear. She also wrote several books including Where Did You Get Your Moccasins (1992) and I Can't Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam (1993). She was inducted into the Order of Canada (1991), the Citizen of the Year Award at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Circle of Honor (2002) and the Rebel With a Cause Award from The Elizabeth Fry Society (2005). Eric Robinson, Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism for Manitoba, commented that, “As a pioneer in media and literary circles, Bernelda will always be remembered for her sensitive storytelling of the lives of aboriginal people.”

She died at Regina, Saskatchewan on 10 September 2005.


Acclaimed Aboriginal writer passes away,” First Nations Drum, 29 September 2005.

Meet Bernelda Wheeler — the First Lady of Indigenous broadcasting,” CBC Radio, 3 April 2019.

Bernelda Wheeler: A trailblazer throughout life,” Wind Speaker, 13 December 2019.

This page was prepared by Ian Stewart.

Page revised: 25 December 2021

Memorable Manitobans

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