By Clint Buehler
Four Aboriginal people were recognized for their achievement at the end of the year when they were among 57 appointments to the Order of Canada—Canada’s highest honour—announced by Governor-General Michaelle Jean
Murray Angus, who was honoured for his many efforts to build awareness and respect for Canada’s Native people and their traditions, and particularly for his contributions to empowering Inuit youth as founder of Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a unique eight-month college program for Inuit youth from Nunavut. It is designed for those who want to prepare for the educational, training, and career opportunities that are being created by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the Nunavut government. Angus was its founding instructor in 1985. Nunavut Sivuniksavut brings high school graduates from Nunavut to Ottawa for an eight-month program that prepares them for post-secondary studies and career opportunities while also teaching them Nunavut’s history, politics and culture.About 22 new students are chosen for the program each year. More than 300 students have graduated from it since it began in 1985.
Tantoo Cardinal has achieved a level of recognition most actors only dream of, beginning with memorable roles in such films as Loyalties, Black Robe and Dances With Wolves. Maclean’s magazine declared her Actress of the Year in 1991. In 1993 she was given the American Indian Film Festival best actress award. She also received the first Rudy Martin Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Native American in Film for her roles in Legends of the Fall, and The Education of Little Tree. Toronto Women in Film and Television honoured Tantoo with an Outstanding Achievement Award. And for her appearance on North of 60 she won a 1996 Gemini award for best performance by an actress in a guest role, dramatic series. In 1998, she received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Arts. In 2006, Tantoo was honoured by the City of Edmonton by being added to their Dreamspeakers Walk of Honour during the 11th annual Dreamspeakers Film Festival.
Judy Gingell of Whitehorse was recognized for her years of service in various Yukon Aboriginal organizations, including a precursor to the Council of Yukon First Nations. She was also the Yukon’s first Aboriginal commissioner — the territorial equivalent of a lieutenant-governor — serving from 1995 to 2000. Along with serving as the Yukon’s first Aboriginal commissioner, Gingell is also recognized for more than four decades of work to promote and advance First Nations’ rights and self-governance in the territory. That includes her tenure as chair of the Council for Yukon Indians, which acted as the negotiating body of the Yukon Native Brotherhood. Gingell led the council, which consisted of 14 First Nations, during historic land-claim and self-government negotiations with the federal and territorial governments through the 1990s. After what Gingell calls a “tough struggle,” 11 of those 14 First Nations have ratified agreements. She says those First Nations have come a long way since then. Gingell also headed up the Northern Native Broadcasting Corp. and the Yukon Indian Development Corp.
Joan Glode has said that her greatest fear is that she will not be able to make enough of a difference in the lives of children and youth. She need not worry, for the many of her colleagues who wrote letters of support for her selection for the 2009 National Aboriginal Achievement Award make it clear she has already done more than most. In 1973, she became one of the first Aboriginal people in Canada to earn her Master of Social Work degree. She would go on to become a human rights officer for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission; the founding President of the Micmac Native Friendship Centre, which she continues to support as secretary-treasurer; welfare program review & training officer, then coordinator of social services, for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Her impact reached new heights when she became founding executive director of Mi’kmaw Family & Childrens’ Services of Nova Scotia in1985, and over the 23 years of her leadership, built it into one of the most respected agencies of its kind in the country. It also led to her being recognized as a superior administrator, policy maker, negotiator, fundraiser and, most of all, as a loving and caring human being who has made a huge difference in so many lives. Active throughout her career in organizations related to it, she is currently co-chair, Canadian Native Mental Health Association; Advisory Committee, Maritime School of Social Work; Board Member, First Nations Caring Society of Canada; member of the Implementation Committee, First Nations Child & Family Services National Policy Review; Secretary/Treasurer, MicMac Native Friendship Centre; Board of Governors, Mt. St. Vincent University, and Senate, National Association of Friendship Centres. In recognition of her contributions, she has received numerous awards, including the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal; the Canada 125 Medal; and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. On International Women’s Day in 1992, she was honoured as “one of Canada’s outstanding Aboriginal women leaders” by Health and Welfare Canada. In 1996 she received the Canadian Association of Social Workers National Social Work Week Award for Nova Scotia, and in 2009, the National Aboriginal Achievement Word for Social Work.