With a mandate to “serve First Nations, Inuit and Métis students in remote communities, rural areas and urban centres across Canada,” it’s no surprise that many of this year’s Indspire Awards recipients have dedicated their lives to doing just that. Among the award-winners announced yesterday in Ohsweken, Ont., are a Juno-nominated artist, the youngest winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize, one of the first Indigenous physicians in Canada and the first-ever First Nations Olympic hockey player — all recognized as Indigenous leaders who drive change in their community and help inspire the next generation of leaders.
“This year’s recipients have walked in two worlds,” says Roberta L. Jamieson, president and CEO of Indspire and executive producer of the Indspire Awards. “They are an inspiration to their local communities and for Indigenous people across Canada, showing our young people that they can do it too.”
An Indigenous national charity that celebrates First Nations, Inuit and Métis education and achievement in Canada, Indspire has honoured extraordinary individuals from a diverse range of communities for the past 25 years. The goal of the awards has always remained the same: to encourage and inspire First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth to achieve greatness.
"We hope these stories inspire our youth to dream big,” says Jamieson. “Not only do we recognize and congratulate the recipients for their individual success, but we celebrate the impact their stories will have for generations to come. The stories will also educate Canadians about the great contributions our people have made to this country.”
Here are the 12 recipients being honoured at the 2019 Indspire Awards:
Atuat Akittirq, Aggu, Nunavut
For her incredible resiliency in the face of hardship and adversity, including a forced relocation of her Inuit community, Akittirq is being honoured with the 2019 Indspire Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Genie Award-winner (given to her in 2010 for Best Costume Design) is also one of the foremost Inuit Elder professors at the Pirurvik Centre in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Barbara Todd Hager, St. Paul des Métis Settlement, Alta.
For her work as a writer, producer and director at her company Aarrow Productions, Canada’s leading Indigenous-owned media company.
BUSINESS AND COMMERCE
Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, Westbank First Nation, B.C.
For his work as an award-winning author, and the owner and president of RMD Group, making him one of the most successful Indigenous entrepreneurs in Canada.
CULTURE, HERITAGE AND SPIRITUALITY
Jijjuu Mary Snowshoe, Gwich’in Nation, N.W.T.
For her work teaching the Gwich’in language and passing on the sacred knowledge, stories and traditions of her people to ensure the Gwich’in way of life for generations to come.
Dr. Vianne Timmons, Mi’kmaq, N.S.
For becoming the first female president and vice chancellor of the University of Regina, where she works to create a safe, accessible and supportive environment for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students.
Dr. Marlyn Cook, Misipawistik Cree Nation, Man.
For being the first First Nations woman to graduate from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, and becoming one of the first Indigenous physicians in Canada. Dr. Cook advocates for the health of First Nations people by weaving together western medicine and traditional healing practices.
LAW AND JUSTICE
Dianne Corbiere, M’Chigeeng First Nation, Ont.
For her leadership in Indigenous law, including her work with the Law Society of Ontario where she sat on a working group dedicated to responding to the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation report. Corbiere was also the first Indigenous person to be named one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential by Canadian Lawyer Magazine.
Peter Dinsdale, Curve Lake First Nation, Ont.
For his work as the president and CEO of YMCA Canada developing cross-cultural understanding between Indigenous services and the broader public. In 2017, Dinsdale was elected to the Carleton University Board of Governors, and in March 2018, he was appointed to the Order of Ontario.
Brigette Lacquette, Cote First Nation, Sask.
For becoming the first First Nations athlete to play on Canada’s women’s Olympic hockey team in 2018. A role model for Indigenous youth, Lacquette visits schools and communities to teach young girls that they can find success in sports and athletics.
Billy-Ray Belcourt, Driftpile Cree Nation, Alta.
For his work as an award-winning poet and published author, including being the youngest winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and one of the first ever First Nations Rhodes Scholars.
Kelly Fraser, Sanikiluaq, Nunavut
For promoting Inuit culture, language and way of life across Canada through her music. This year, Fraser was nominated for Indigenous Album of the Year at the Juno Awards and Best Pop Album at the Indigenous Music Awards.
James Lavallée, Métis Homeland (St. Vital, St. Boniface, Bissett), Man.
For his extraordinary athletic achievements in canoe and kayak, including winning three medals for Team Manitoba at the Canada Summer Games in 2017 and receiving the prestigious Tom Longboat Award, given to top Indigenous athletes, that same year.