Native Village
Youth and Education news

April 1, 2012

Aboriginal Achievement Award Winners Honored as Beacons of Inspiration

A federal cabinet member, a Hollywood star, a public service worker. They come from many facets of life, but all have one thing in common: They are beacons of success not only to fellow aboriginals but are stellar role models in  any light.

Fifteen people received National Aboriginal Achievement Awards on February 24, including Hollywood Salteaux star Adam Beach, respected Anishinaabe elder Dave Courchene and Lifetime winner Senator Gerry St. Germain, Métis of Manitoba, are just three of the accomplished who were celebrated.

The black-tie fete and ceremony in Vancouver, hosted by hockey legend Theoren Fleury and actress Carmen Moore, also featured musicians Robbie Robertson and Derek Miller, among many other artists.

Biographical summaries and awards are below, with fuller bios available
at the site of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Foundation, which on February 24 was renamed Indspire, a combination of the words indigenous and inspire.

Adam  Beach, Lake Manitoba First Nation, has been acting since age 14 and is today a well-known actor, producer and political activist, as Indspire described  it.

“Between appearances in movies and on television, Mr. Beach is committed to raising the profile of Indigenous Peoples through inspirational speaking engagements and his support of the many events he has hosted or been part of,” Indspire said. He recently won a Gemini award for Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series for his work hosting last year’s achievement  awards.

Victor S. Buffalo, First Nation: Samson Cree First Nation, Alberta. As one of the guiding forces behind Peace Hills Trust, Victor S. Buffalo led the creation of Canada’s first and largest Aboriginal owned financial institute. The Trust now has eight branches across Canada with 70 per cent of the workforce from Indigenous communities. His determination has since led to the development of Peace Hill Insurance Canada and Samson Lake Louise Mall.

 A champion of education, he established the Samson Education Trust Fund to provide support to community members for university and training in technical trades. Buffalo was also instrumental in lobbying for and establishing four schools on the Samson and Pigeon Lake reserves. His years of hard work have awarded him an honorary Bachelor of Applied Technology Degree, induction into the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame, an appointment to the Alberta Order of Excellence and being invested into the Order of Canada. [Mr. Buffalo's information from Indespire.]

Dave Courchene, Anishinaabe, Manitoba, “has touched many lives through his  teachings,” Indspire said in awarding him for Culture, Heritage & Spirituality. Turtle Lodge, which he founded in 2002 to bring his message of peace and hope to the world, has an “international  reputation as a place of learning, healing and sharing for all people,” Indspire said.

On January 24 he opened the historic Crown–First Nations Gathering with a prayer urging all peoples to have “the courage to do the right thing” and work together to preserve the future.

Lifetime winner Senator Gerry St. Germain, Métis of Manitoba, “was instrumental in achieving a formal residential school apology from the Government of Canada to open the future for Indigenous youth,” among other  achievements, Indspire said. He was the first self-identified Métis to serve in Canada’s cabinet. He won elected in 1983 as a member of parliament and was reelected in 1984. In 1993 he was appointed to the Senate in 1993. He now chairs the Senate’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Indspire said.

Richard Stewart Hardy, K’omoks First Nation, British Columbia, has worked hard to protect aquaculture and preserve his First Nation’s shellfish harvesting grounds, the awards foundation said. He won for Environment & Natural  Resources.

Leona Makokis, Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, won for Education, partly for the diligence and dedication that “has allowed numerous students to obtain diplomas in indigenous knowledge, ceremony, and language,” Indspire said.

Dr. Janet Smylie, Métis of Ontario, was one of the first Métis doctors in Canada. She is an expert in indigenous health and has practiced and taught in urban, rural and remote communities, Indspire said.

Attorney Violet Ford, Inuit of Newfoundland & Labrador, is the first Inuit woman in the country to become a lawyer, Indspire said. She is also the first aboriginal to do so in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her award is in Law & Justice.

Richard Wagamese, Wabaseemong First Nation, Ontario, won for media and communications for sharing “his incredible gift of writing,” Inspire said. “These works tell a story of his victory over numerous struggles including childhood abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and the intergenerational impacts of residential schools.”

Leona Aglukkaq, Inuit, Nunavut, is best known these days as Canada’s Minister of Health. She is also Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development  Agency, and Member of Parliament for Nunavut. Her 2008 election made her the first Inuk to hold a position in the federal cabinet. She won for Politics.

Grand Chief Edward John, Northern Dene, British Columbia, has “dedicated most of his life to champion the rights and interests of Indigenous Peoples in the pursuit of social and economic justice across Canada and the world,” Indspire  said. “A passionate leader, Grand Chief John continues to be instrumental in significant legal arguments involving Aboriginal and treaty rights.”

Minnie Grey, Inuit, Quebec, “is devoted to improving the quality of life for Inuit People in Nunavik and across the Arctic regions of Canada, the United  States, Russia and Greenland,” Indspire said in awarding her for Public  Service.

Richard Peter, Cowichan Tribe, British Columbia, has been honing his wheelchair-basketball skills since he was 15. In 1994 he started playing for Team Canada, Indspire said, and has represented the country at four Paralympic Games. He won the Sports award.

Perhaps the most poignant recipient is Earl Cook, whose award is posthumous.

“Born prematurely with a number of health challenges and diagnosed in 2007 with bone cancer, Earl Cook overcame considerable adversities to lend his life to inspiring others,” Indspire said, adding that he was a sought-after speaker who delivered messages about the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.

“His irresistible optimism joined with his love of sports led him to become an honorary coach for the Detroit Red Wings as well as a team motivator for Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

The 23-year-old Youth award winner passed away on September 18, 2011.

he other youth winner, Métis Candace Sutherland, “has set an exceptional example to young people across Canada,” Indspire said. “Knowing what it was like to be poor and hungry, she devotes her time to helping others.”

Native Village Home Page

Native Village © Gina Boltz
To receive email notices of Native Village updates, please send your email address to:
To contact us, email


Thank you to ALL the wonderful individuals,  friends, organizations, groups, news services and websites who share or donate their research, work, time and talents to make Native Village possible
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research, archival, news, and educational purposes only.
NATIVE VILLAGE website was created for youth, educators, families, and friends who wish to celebrate the rich, diverse cultures of The Americas' First Peoples. We offer readers two monthly publications: NATIVE VILLAGE Youth and Education News and NATIVE VILLAGE Opportunities and Websites.  Each issue shares today's happenings in Indian country. NATIVE VILLAGE also houses website libraries and informational materials to enrich all lives on Turtle Island.
Unless otherwise noted, articles are written in full by the credited author at the credited source link. We are responsible for format changes and additional photos, art, and graphics which boost visual appeal and add dimension to the reading experience. Pictures and graphics not appearing with the original article are either credited on the page or by right-clicking the picture. Some may be free or by sources unknown.
Please contact us with any copyright corrections so we may properly credit the source.
 We are not responsible for changes to outside websites and weblinks. Please notify us if any problems arise.