Gary Geddes

Gary Geddes
Joan Morris (left) and Gary Geddes (right) with the recipient of the Sellemah Scholarship, Tamaryn Schiefelbein (centre)

Shared names, values and friendships interwoven in scholarship

In her almost 30 years as a professor at UVic, renowned ethnobotanist, Nancy Turner inspired thousands of students while showing incredible caring and generosity for each one of them.

Nancy recently retired from UVic. To honour the countless ways she helped build the School of Environmental Studies, faculty, staff and alumni contributed to a scholarship fund in her name, the Sellemah Scholarship.

A shared name

Sellemah is not Nancy’s birth name, but a name shared with her by Songhees Elder Joan Morris. The two had become friends through their work to preserve the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples. The name was bequeathed to Joan by her own grandmother. Sharing this name with Nancy is a symbol of the deep friendship and connection between the two women, and just one example of the profound and lasting partnerships that Nancy built with First Nations communities.

Joan Morris - Survivor and Storyteller

As a child, Joan survived the Nanaimo Indian Hospital and the infamous Kuper Island Indian Residential School. She is a tireless supporter of victims of these institutions and an educator of those willing to listen. Acclaimed BC poet and author Gary Geddes met Joan Morris at one of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in Victoria. Gary had already written several works centred around justice and human rights. Listening to Joan’s stories set him on the path to write Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care, which exposes the sad truth about the segregated hospitals and their unholy marriage with residential schools.

Nancy and Joan
Nancy Turner and Joan Morris

Circle of learning

Joan introduced Gary to Nancy Turner. Gary’s wife had been a student of Nancy’s and raved about what a wonderful person she was. “Joan confirmed this, of course,” says Gary. “And I soon came to realize that Nancy’s warmth and personal graces are as admirable as her academic commitment and achievements.”

After the book was published, Gary made a generous commitment to the Sellemah Scholarship at UVic. 

“A scholarship for an Indigenous student working in the field of Environmental Studies seemed an appropriate way to reflect Joan’s heritage and love of the land and Nancy’s life’s work, studying and writing about native plants. Thus emerged the idea of linking these two gifted, passionate women and the book Joan had inspired through the Sellemah scholarship,” he says. “I’m thrilled to give this important project a small boost by donating the author’s royalties from the sale of Medicine Unbundled.”

This trio of extraordinary friends are already linked by their dedication to preserving traditional knowledge and the reconciliation process. Now they are further linked by a scholarship to support Indigenous students who will continue this circle of learning.

If you would like to contribute to the Sellemah Scholarship, you can make a gift online or contact the Social Sciences Annual Giving Officer,, 250-853-3941.