Over the past 20 years, the Indspire Awards have recognized Indigenous professionals and youth who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in a variety of different career categories. They motivate and serve as invaluable role models for all Indigenous youth across Canada.
This year’s recipients demonstrate vast skills and knowledge base, while each proudly represents their Indigenous identity. Not only has each one mastered their skill, they also continue to work towards the betterment of their communities and for Indigenous success across Canada.
Indspire Awards Recipients 2015
Ron E. Scott – Métis – Alberta
Ron 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. He has also traveled and spoken internationally at conferences and universities. Ron will often donate series and episodes to libraries across the country to add to class curriculums. 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 – Manitoba
Brenda started her own executive search firm, Higgins International, after seeing discrimination displayed toward her people at her previous job. But she saw qualities and huge potential in them and began placing them in leadership roles across Canada. Higgins was the first Indigenous business in Canada to receive the Gold-level Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) Award from the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in 2005, 2011, and 2014. 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
Peter 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. His inukshuk for the 2010 Olympics was a highlight in Vancouver, and he has built Inukshuks in Paris, at Juno Beach in Normandy, in Buenos Aires, Mongolia, Washington D.C. and numerous other locations.
Dr. Paulette C. Tremblay – First Nation: Mohawk – Ontario
Paulette 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. Since November 2012, she is serving as the National Advisory Committee Chair for the Purdy Crawford Chair at Cape Breton University, and as an Associate Professor with the Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic since October 2008.
Environment & Natural Resources
Gerald Anderson – Inuit – Newfoundland & Labrador
Gerald 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. Gerald’s 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. The Marine Institute is increasing its presence across the north and strengthening partnerships with Indigenous communities. Gerald works to see youth gain employment in the fisheries sector and marine transport industry by bringing the training to those who would otherwise be unable to access the necessary education.
William Julius Mussell – Skwah First Nation – British Columbia
Bill 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 has worked to build bridges between traditional knowledge and mainstream ways of learning. 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 – Alberta
Wilton has the distinction of being the first Treaty First Nation person to acquire his law degree from the University of Alberta in 1976. He also holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Physical Education, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel (IPC) designation. 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. He was appointed as Honorary Chief for the Maskwacis Crees and also honoured by the Chiefs of the Confederacy of Treaty 7 and 8 First Nations as the International Chief for Treaty 6. 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.
Kim Baird – Tsawwassen First Nation – British Columbia
Kim 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, including a honourary doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Distinguished Alumni Award, Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, the National Aboriginal Women in Leadership Distinction Award, Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Award, and more. She was appointed to the Premier’s Aboriginal Business Investment Council and the Minister’s Advisory Council on Aboriginal Women. Kim is the owner of Kim Baird Strategic Consulting.
Madeleine Redfern – Inuit – Nunavut
Madeleine began 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.
Gino Odjick – Kitigan Zibi First Nation – Quebec
Gino is a former National Hockey League player, and spent 12 seasons in the NHL, from 1990–1991 to 2001–2002 for the New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, andVancouver Canucks, where he became known as the “Algonquin Enforcer” for his fighting prowess. Since retiring from 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: First Nation
Kendal Netmaker – Sweetgrass First Nation – Saskatchewan
Kendal 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.
Jordan Konek – Inuit – Nunavut
Jordan 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.
Gabrielle Fayant – Métis – Alberta
Gabrielle 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.
Elsie Yanik – Métis – Alberta
Elsie 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.
Learn More or Nominate For Next Year
You can learn more about our past recipients by visiting the Previous Laureates page. If you know someone and would like to nominate them for an Indspire Award, visit our Nominations page for more information.