This years Indspire Awards was held in Calgary, Alberta at the Jubilee Auditorium on February 22nd. The event was beautifully designed all the way down to the free bannock and popcorn, and a memorable stage designed to come to life with nature inspired video graphics. Gracing this stage were the honourable recipients whose unyielding dedication to their passions, community, and culture has earned them an Indspire achievement award.
From Driftpile Cree Nation, AB, poet Billy-Ray Belcourt received the youth achievement award. At 23, his debut poetry collection This Wound Is A World has won multiple awards, most notable the Griffin Poetry Prize. His next poetry-prose hybrid NDN Coping Mechanism: Notes from the Field comes out in the Fall of 2019. Belcourt says that when he writes, he’s “always interested in how to refuse the narratives of suffering that have, for decades, demarcated how the public can understand native people. I’m always keeping my eye on how to breach that narrative, how to instead spin-one that always keeps in mind our futurity as native people, our ability to love and care, to resist, to enact the kind of liberatory world that we want – that’s all at the core of my writing practice.”
From Sanikiluaq, NU, pop-artist Kelly Fraser received the youth achievement award. She won album of the year for her second album Sedna which was written with a mix of Inuktitut and English lyricism.
From Metis Homeland, MB, canoe and kayak athlete James Lavalee received the youth achievement award. It’s on his blood memory to paddle the waters of his homeland, and by following the pull to pursue this professionally, he’s reached extraordinary heights. In 2017, he won three medals at the Canada Summer Games, and received the highly prestigious Tom Longboat Award for indigenous male athlete of the year.
The Arts recipient this year was Barbara Todd Hager from St. Paul Des Metis Settlement, AB. She is a writer, producer, and director. Her docu-drama series 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus covers 20,000 years of history and is told from the indigenous perspective. This is the kind of powerful narrative that the film industry is in need of, thank-you Hager for putting your mind to it!
Award recipient for Business & Commerce went to Westbank First Nations (BC) Chief Ron Derrickson. Elected as Chief of his nation in 1976, his business models have lifted his community out of poverty and they are now one of the wealthiest bands in the country. .
Jijuu Mary Snow Shoe from Gwich-in Nation, NT received the award for Culture, Heritage, and Spirituality. Her greatest lessons were those taught to her by her father. He taught her how to survive on this earth, and of the importance of land, fire, and water – these are the true powers of the world. Snow Shoe tells First Nation Drum “I really would like to leave this with the youth, to go and get their education, to go to university, become a doctor or nurse or whatever, it’s all out there but they have to work for it to get it. Another one, to try to learn more about their culture, and how to survive out on the land.”
Dr. Vianne Timmons from Mi’kmaq, NS received the education award. As the Vice Chancellor at the University of Regina, Timmons says, “Indigenous youth are Canada’s next generation of leaders, so there is nothing more important than ensuring they get the education they deserve. Education opens doors, creates opportunity, build leaders, and changes lives.”
Dr. Marlyn Cook from Misipawistik Cree Nation, MB received the award for health. In 1987, she was the first First Nations woman to graduate from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine. Though something was amiss for her with all this western medical knowledge,and now weaves traditional healing together with western healing, ensuring the body, mind, and spirit of each patient is cared for.
For Law & Justice the award went to community-oriented lawyer Dianne Corbiere from M’Chigeeng First Nation, ON. “In some ways we’re doing great because we have the Indspire awards and we see that if we work really hard and things are fortunate for us we can reach some very high goals! But there’s still a lot of our people who are struggling with the colonial realities, and you know, they’re addicted, they’re in jail, they’re in the child welfare system – so we have both, and I’d like to see where the pendulum swings more my way and that the kids are going to school, and having better lives.” She has dedicated her time at the Law Society of Ontario to many working groups and review panels, such as the working group formed by the federation of Law Societies of Canada to decide how best to respond to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation report.
For public service the award went to Peter Dinsdale from Curve Lake First Nation. He has dedicated his life to improving the lives his indigenous brothers and sisters, and does so in his position as President and CEO of YMCA Canada.
From Mallard, Manitoba and Cote First Nation, SK, Bridgette Lacquette received the sports achievement award. She played in Canada’s National Women’s Team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. From a small community, dedication and resilience is what rose Lacquette to be among the best women hockey players in the world.
Even though she couldn’t make it to the ceremony, Atuat Akittirq was given a standing ovation and many blessings for her lifetime achievement award. From Aggu, NU, Akittirq embodies the resilience of Inuit knowledge and language. She was brought up in the traditional way, and continues to teach her traditional knowledge of culture and life as one of the Elder professors at the Piruvik Centre.
Amazing achievement, all resting on the backbone of determination, resilience, and education, definitely an inspiring evening for all who attended. Congratulations to this years Indspire recipients, your work is beautiful and makes all First Nations proud.