Condolence Notice — Ikkináínihki (Gentle Singer) Dr. Lena Heavy Shields Russell (BEd ’77, LLD ’06)

This notice is from the archives of The Notice Board. Information contained in this notice was accurate at the time of publication but may no longer be so.

The University of Lethbridge extends its condolences to the family and friends of Ikkináínihki (Gentle Singer) Dr. Lena Heavy Shields Russell (BEd ’77, LLD ’06) who passed away March 29, 2024, at the age of 90.

Heavy Shields Russell, a Blackfoot Elder, was one of the first women from the Blood Reserve to graduate from ULethbridge when she earned a Bachelor of Education in 1977 and was granted an honorary degree by ULethbridge at its Spring 2006 Convocation, recognizing her significant contributions to promoting, teaching and helping preserve the Blackfoot language. In 2021, she was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence.

A fluent speaker of Blackfoot and one of the most proficient writers of the language, Heavy Shields Russell collaborated on the Blackfoot Language Project and taught Blackfoot language classes. She realized that to survive, the Blackfoot tongue must be transliterated into written form and included in educational curriculums and over the course of her life, she quietly and effectively made that happen.

The matriarch of a large and extended family, Heavy Russell paved the way for many family members to follow in her footsteps as ULethbridge graduates, and she worked tirelessly to promote the bridging of traditional and customary approaches to the understanding of the Blackfoot culture.

A wake service will be held on Sunday, April 7, at Gladstone Hall, Blood Tribe, from 6 to 11 p.m. A funeral mass will be held on Monday, April 8, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Blood Tribe, at 11 a.m. Following the funeral mass, Heavy Shields Russell will be laid to rest at the Russell Family Plot — Iitsiksikkihkiniooyoo’pi.

Family and friends are welcome to a feast at Gladstone Hall, following the graveside service.

A full obituary can be viewed here.

The University will lower its flags on the day of the funeral mass.


Trevor Kenney |