Acclaimed Cree author, playwright and musician Tomson Highway has received an honorary degree from the University of Manitoba.

Highway, whose work includes the multiple-award-winning plays Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing and The Rez Sisters, as well as the novel Kiss of the Fur Queen, was awarded an honorary doctor of letters this week in Winnipeg.

The honorary degree recognizes Highway's "powerful truth telling, his generous artistic spirit, and his indelible leadership in the Indigenous creative arts," according to an announcement on the university's website,

Playwright, novelist

Once a social worker, Highway worked for many years in Toronto's theatre industry. However, he earned national and international acclaim for his sixth play, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, in 1986.

In 1998, Highway published his first novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen, about two Cree boys torn from their families and sent to residential school.

He's also written children's books, including Caribou Song and Fox on the Ice.

Born on the tundra

Born on his family's trapline on the Manitoba-Nunavut border — in what he says was a tent in a snowbank — Highway grew up speaking only Cree and Dene before he was sent to residential school at age six.

A classically trained pianist by the age of 18, he went on to study at the University of Western Ontario, where he earned degrees in music and literature.

Highway is a member of the Barren Lands First Nation.