Indspire, the largest non-governmental funder of Indigenous education, will be celebrating the extraordinary achievements of 14 outstanding Indigenous Canadians in Calgary next month and 4 of them are from Alberta. The 2015 Indspire Awards will be held on February 27 at the Southern Alberta Royal Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary.
The Indspire Awards, the highest honour bestowed by Indigenous people on their own achievers, have celebrated the significant contributions of Indigenous people in Canada for 22 years. The awards recognize the success of individuals who have the discipline, drive, and determination to set high standards and accomplish their goals. They promote self-esteem and pride for the Indigenous community and provide outstanding role models for Indigenous youth.
“This year’s recipients demonstrate vast skills and knowledge base, while each proudly represents their Indigenous identity,” said Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of Indspire. “Over the course of their professional careers, these individuals have made distinct, enduring contributions to their communities and to the entire country. The Indspire Awards also salute the future by acknowledging the achievements of three Indigenous youth, so they can serve as role models for their peers. We are proud of each recipient and are honoured to be able to share their stories with all Canadians.”
The 2015 Indspire Awards Recipients are as follows:
Arts: Ron E. Scott (Métis – AB) is the founder, president, and executive producer of Prairie Dog Film and Television. He has received awards for many of his productions, including Blackstone, Mixed Blessings,Consequences, and various television specials. Blackstone has become one of the most watched programs on APTN, garnering 75 award nominations and winning 26. Ron is a member of the Aboriginal Filmmakers Program at the National Film Board, and invests his time and energy in training Indigenous people on the sets of his shows to introduce them to the industry.
Business & Commerce: Brenda LaRose (Métis – MB) started her own executive search firm, Higgins International, after seeing discrimination displayed toward her people at her previous job. She saw huge potential in them and began placing them in leadership roles across Canada. With a proven track record for placing many of North America’s Indigenous executives at senior management, executive and board levels across a wide range of sectors and industries, Higgins has earned a reputation as the premier provider of Indigenous executive search services.
Culture, Heritage & Spirituality: Peter Irniq (Inuit – Nunavut ) is an Inuit cultural teacher who has lived most of his life in the Kivaliq Region of Nunavut. He was the executive assistant commissioner of the NWT from 1974 to 1975, then was elected to represent Keewatin Region for four years. He was named director of the Inuit Cultural Institute in 1992 and Director of Communications for Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated the following year. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth with a mandate to be the guardian of traditional Inuit culture and language. Peter has also been recognized internationally for his artistic ability in designing inukshuks.
Education: Dr. Paulette C. Tremblay (Mohawk – ON) has worked in the public sector for almost 40 years. Formerly she was the CEO for the National Aboriginal Health Organization from 2008 to 2011. She was the Director of Education at the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation from 2005 to 2008 and the Senior Administrative Officer for the Six Nations Council from 2002 to 2005. She has been a former professor at the Six Nations Polytechnic Institute, Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. She was also the Director of Education for the Assembly of First Nations for five years. She has been a curriculum designer; educational, evaluation and training consultant for the private sector; a management instructor, consultant and policy analyst for the federal government; and a high school teacher and counselor. The author of many reports, articles and educational curricula, she became the Director of Education and Training for AFOA Canada in 2012.
Environment & Natural Resources: Gerald Anderson (Inuit – Newfoundland &Labrador) has worked with the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University for over 27 years. His responsibility includes liaison with Indigenous groups in Canada and circumpolar. Gerald had worked extensively with Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and Nunavik. His work with Indigenous groups primarily focus on establishing fisheries and marine education and training programs. Gerald helped developed Fisheries Development Training plans for Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, Innu Nation, Federation of Newfoundland Indians, and the Labrador Métis Nation. He worked very closely with Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River to develop and deliver a long-term fisheries and marine training program.
Health: William Julius Mussell (Skwah First Nation – BC) was the first of his community to graduate from high school, and the first of his cultural territory to graduate from university. He has held roles as Executive Director of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, founding chair of the Coqualeetza Cultural-Education Centre, co-founder of the Sal’i’shan Institute, President and Co-chair of the Native Mental Health Association of Canada, and Chair of the First Nation, Inuit, and Métis Advisory Committee to the Mental Health Commission of Canada. His research experience has focused primarily upon Indigenous social development, education, health, management, and mental health issues. He has 50 years of volunteer experience, including service on the executive of the North American Indian Brotherhood, leader and spokesperson of the Sto:lo First Nation, and treasurer and president of the Vancouver Indian Friendship Centre. He continues to serve as the principal educator of the Sal’i’shan Institute, a private, post-secondary education organization that specializes in health, education, mental health, addictions, and social development.
Law & Justice: Dr. Wilton Littlechild (Ermineskin Cree Nation – AB)has the distinction of being the first Treaty First Nation person to acquire his law degree from the University of Alberta in 1976. An avid sportsman and athlete, he has won more than 70 provincial, regional, national and international championships, was a founder of the North American Indigenous Games, and was selected as a torch bearer and ambassador for the 2010 Olympics. He has been inducted into seven sports Halls of Fame. Wilton served as a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993 for the riding of Wetaskiwin-Rimby, served on several senior committees in the House of Commons, and served as a parliamentary delegate to the United Nations. Chief Littlechild is a dedicated advocate of the implementation of treaties between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, and a pioneer of the global Indigenous rights movement. He was recently honoured with the Alberta Order of Excellence.
Politics: Kim Baird (Tsawwassen First Nation – BC) was recently named to the Order of Canada named for showing “exemplary leadership and vision by negotiating and implementing the first modern treaty in the BC Treaty Negotiations Process.” She was the youngest woman chief elected to head the Tsawwassen First Nation, and was a key player in negotiating British Columbia’s first modern urban land treaty, the Tsawwassen Final Agreement. She served six terms as Chief from 1999 to 2012. She initiated the Tsawwassen Mills project, a commercial real estate development, on Tsawwassen First Nation lands, currently estimated to be a 780 million dollar project. She has currently been working as a consultant for industry and First Nation groups and recently participated in a leadership exchange in Washington for women in politics. Kim has received a number of prestigious awards and she is the owner of Kim Baird Strategic Consulting.
Public Service: Madeleine Redfern (Inuit – Nunavut ) started her career as a businesswoman with a retail store in Ottawa, and began her extensive volunteering as President of the Tunngasuvvingat Inuit Community Centre, founding member of the Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre and the Ottawa Inuit Head Start programs. Following law school graduation, she became the first Inuit law clerk to clerk for the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2010, she became the Mayor of Iqaluit, and served for two years. Along with her positions with Ajungi Arctic Consulting and as Chair of the Legal Services Board, she also serves as an Advisory Board Member with Canadian Lawyers Abroad, as recent mentor with the Trudeau Foundation, and as a Northern Representative to EcoJustice Canada.
Sports: Gino Odjick (Kitigan Zibi First Nation – Quebec) is a former National Hockey League player, where he became known as the “Algonquin Enforcer” for his fighting prowess. Since retiring from 12 seasons in the NHL in 2002, he has focused his energies on being a positive role model for Indigenous youth. He has delivered workshops around the province on issues such as bullying, effective communication skills, relationship building, and goal setting. In June 2014, it was revealed that he was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a rare, terminal disease which affects the heart. His fans have been very supportive, setting up a trust fund for his care to help his family be close to him while he is in hospital. Additional funds will also go towards funding programs for Indigenous education and health. His words for the youth with whom he works: “I am just a little old Indian boy who grew up on the Rez. If I can do it any one can do it; it just takes work.”
Youth: Kendal Netmaker (Sweetgrass First Nation – SK) is the owner and founder of thriving clothing company Neechie Gear. He developed his business plan while completing two degrees in Arts and Education at the University of Saskatchewan and, after participating in several business competitions, he had received thousands of dollars in start-up capital to launch his company. Neechie Gear is a lifestyle apparel brand that empowers youth through sports. A portion of profits help underprivileged kids to play sports. Kendal has received both entrepreneurial and chamber of commerce awards. To date, his company has contributed over $15,000 in donations and has helped over 2,500 youth across Canada take part in sports.
Youth: Jordan Konek (Inuit – Nunavut) is a bilingual video journalist and reporter/editor for CBC North and has his own production company, Konek Productions. He developed his company while working as a researcher with the Nanisiniq Arviat History Project, filming activities related to the project in Yellowknife, Vancouver, and Ottawa. As co-director and co-producer, he hopes that this initiative will be an inspiration to Inuit youth. In 2011, he attended the COP 17 United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa and spoke at an international press conference about the Inuit perspective on climate change. An advocate for climate change, he also presented his work at the latest Inuit Studies Conference at the Smithsonian Institute and was a speaker at the International Polar Year conference in Montreal in 2011. He has also worked with the Canadian Rangers, assisting with the junior rangers program in Arviat, Nunuvut.
Youth: Gabrielle Fayant (Métis – AB) is the co-founder of a youth-led and youth-driven organization called Assembly of Seven Generations (A7G) and Program Manager of an economic youth program called ReachUp! North in partnership with Digital Opportunity Trust. She has worked for a number of National Aboriginal Organizations such as the National Association of Friendship Centres, Native Women’s Association of Canada, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and has experience on a number of local, regional, and national advisory committees and councils, such as the Canadian Commission of UNESCO’s Youth Advisory Group, Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee, and Walking With Our Sisters Ottawa Youth Committee. Gabrielle also serves as a board member for the Odawa Native Friendship Centre, and she sings with a female drum group called Spirit Flowers and as backup for a men’s drum group called O-Town Boyz.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Elsie Yanik (Métis – AB) received an honorary Law Degree from the University of Alberta in April 2014. She has spent most of her long life spreading kindness, preserving Indigenous heritage and promoting health and education in her community. She began work as a nurse’s aide at 17 and has spent 80 years spreading kindness as a minister, mentor and volunteer. Her community commitment has included terms as president of the board of Voice of Native Women of Alberta, 10 years of service with the Young Offenders Board, and work with the Nunee Health Authority in Fort Chipewyan. Her efforts have earned her a blessing from Pope John Paul II, a Governor General’s Commemorative Medal, and the duty of Olympic torch-bearer for the 2010 Winter Games. At 97, she still works with Keyano College as an elder and occasionally teaches classes at the Golden Years’ Society. She has received numerous honours from her community.
With the support of its funding partners, Indspire disburses financial awards, delivers programs, and shares resources with the goal of closing the gap in Indigenous education. Through the Indspire Institute, it provides resources to educators, communities, and other stakeholders who are committed to improving kindergarten to grade 12 success for Indigenous youth. Since its inception in 1985, Indspire has disbursed almost $65 million through close to 20,000 scholarships and bursaries to Indigenous students, making it the largest funder of Indigenous education outside the federal government. Each year, the organization presents the Indspire Awards, a gala celebration of the successes achieved by Indigenous people that is broadcast nationally.
The 2015 Indspire Awards gala will be held on February 27, 2015 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. For tickets, call 416.987.0250 or 1.855.INDSPIRE (463.7747) x228. Tickets can also be purchased online at indspire.ca/tickets or by emailing [email protected].
The gala ceremony will air at a later date on Global Television and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the returning exclusive broadcast partners.