poly·math | \ ˈpä-lē-ˌmath \
A person of encyclopedic learning
Duke has a breadth of cultural knowledge and an established intellectual and creative practice who brings an Indigenous approach to art and design education. Duke has become known in the academic world as a ’Path Breaker’, someone of great vision and experience who is both brave and cautious who can see far into the distance to lead, and who can also see very close up to the ground beneath his feet so that we don’t stumble. He began his career as an actor and poet in the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and he quickly became politically and socially active on behalf of Aboriginal and Metis Human Rights. During the 60s young people across this country were making a noise and steering us all towards recognition of Aboriginal inherent and treaty rights. As one of those strong voices raised up in anger and hope, Duke served as Vice-President of the Native Council of Canada from 1974 to 1976 and as President of the Ontario Metis and Non-Status Indian Association from 1980 to 1983. Breaking a different path, Duke was also among the first wave of Aboriginal People in Canada to enrol at a university. He received his Master of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University in 1978. His graduating thesis called We Are Metis continues to be a seminal text on the history and political aspirations of the Metis people to this day. Along with all these activities Duke also became an accomplished poet, an essayist, playwright, screenwriter and actor. His books of poems, his theatrical productions, his appearances on TV, in videos and in films, have contributed to the written and oral repository of Indigenous thought and literature in Canada and globally. His idealism and unshakable belief in the inherent goodness of people, and the inherent perils of the institutions that we all inhabit, helped lay the foundations for the Aboriginal programming now offered at OCADU. His vision helped define a new way forward for the program that will serve it for many years to come. This is what a Path Breaker does. He brings knowledge, confidence and fearless hope either in the classroom or the studio or sitting across the table at a buffalo stew lunch.
- Dr. Bonnie Devine, Founding Chair of Indigenous Visual Culture Program at OCADU