National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation

National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation

November 24, 2008 11:06 ET

National Aboriginal Achievement Awards announces its 2009 Achievers

Outstanding Aboriginals honoured at prestigous awards event

Attention: Arts/Entertainment Editor, Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO--(Marketwire - Nov. 24, 2008) - Fourteen exceptional achievers, coming from diverse backgrounds, both culturally and geographically have been named recipients of the 2009 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, the highest honour the community bestows upon its own achievers.

They include a Gemini Award winning couple who produce animation and documentaries, a hereditary chief who is a champion of the Mi'Kmaq culture, a former premier, a rocketing 'Top 40 Under 40' CEO who is bringing millions in dividends to the communities he serves, a doctor of Veterinary Medicine, a member of the 2008 Olympic swim team and eight other outstanding recipients.

"Every year the jury selects an extraordinary group of recipients who reveal such outstanding talent and dedicated service," said Roberta Jamieson, President and CEO of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.

"I know that by honouring their achievement we will continue to inspire many others, just waiting to demonstrate their potential-that's why the work of the Foundation in providing bursaries to First Nations, Inuit and Métis students is so essential."

The 14 recipients will be honoured at the 16th Annual event, on March 6, 2009 at the Centennial Concert Hall, in Winnipeg, Manitoba taped live, to be televised at a later date on both the Global and APTN television networks.

Returning as host is major Hollywood movie star ADAM BEACH who returns to his hometown city - Co-hosting with Adam is actor TINA KEEPER also a Manitoba native and recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award.

Performing this year are Winnipeg's own multi-award winners Eagle & Hawk who will perform with members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra - emerging eclectic singer/songwriter Janet Panic - the incomparable rocking bluesman George Leach and a special performance by the Métis Fiddler Quartet accompanied by Métis jigging sensation the Asham Stompers.

The awards recognize the outstanding career achievements of First Nation, Inuit and Métis people.

Tickets for gala event are available online at or by calling: 416-987-0250.

The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards are generously supported by:

Private Sector Support:
Lead Corporate Sponsor: CIBC
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Canwest Media Inc., Air Canada, BP Canada Energy Company, Casino Rama, Fort McKay First Nation, Great West Life Assurance Company, Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba Ltd., TCIG Charitable Foundation, Manitoba Hydro, Nexen Inc., Rio Tinto Alcan, Suncor Energy Foundation

Public Sector Support:
Aboriginal Business Canada, Canadian Forces, Canadian Heritage, Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, Health Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Government of the Northwest Territories, Government of Nunavut, Province of Manitoba

The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) is a nationally registered non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to deliver programs that provide the tools necessary for Aboriginal peoples, especially youth to achieve their potential. Since 1985 the Foundation through its Education Program has awarded more than $30-million in scholarships and bursaries to more than 8,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis students nationwide. NAAF's key initiatives include: The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards (NAAA) a national annual broadcast celebrating 14 achievers in a multitude of career areas including a special youth award and an award for lifetime achievement; Taking Pulse joins NAAF with industry to present career options in specific growth sectors through a series of short documentaries and supporting curriculum materials with the aim of recruiting First Nations, Inuit & Métis youth; and Blueprint for the Future (BFF) a series of one-day career fairs that motivate and inspire First Nations, Inuit and Métis high school students with valuable resources and information on career opportunities. Over 30,000 students have attended these exciting youth oriented events to date nationwide.

2009 National Aboriginal Achievement Award Recipients:

The Rev. Stan Cuthand, B.Th., Cree, Little Pine First Nation

Stan Cuthand saw in the church an opportunity to get a higher education, to be of service to his people, and a means of bridging cultural and language barriers. He seized that opportunity and it became his life. Throughout his life Rev. Cuthand's command of the Cree language acted to facilitate change and engage Cree-speaking peoples in decision making processes both large and small. Working in his early years as an interpreter for Elders and Chiefs at meetings with Indian Affairs, his advocacy has spanned decades, highlighted by his involvement drafting the first constitution of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians. The first person to teach Cree at the University level, Rev. Cuthand has translated the speeches of Big Bear and Poundmaker, and contributed to the curriculum of First Nations and History departments.

Special Youth Award
Chelsea Lavallée: Métis, Southwest Region Métis Manitoba Region.

A grade 12 student from St. Ambroise Manitoba, avid volunteer and master of the Red River Jig, Chelsea Lavallée is a young and accomplished promoter of all things Métis. Member of the St. Ambroise Youth Steppers Square Dance Team, she uses dance as a means of cultural promotion across the province of Manitoba, helping her to win Métis Miss Teen Manitoba in 2005. Asked to share her life story in 2006 at the 38th Annual MMF General Assembly, Lavallée's Métis upbringing has helped her earn a 2006 National Métis Youth Role Model Award, 2006/2007 National Aboriginal Role Model Award and a 2007 Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award.

Arts (shared)
Melanie Jackson: Saulteaux, Sakimay First Nation, SK.

Writer, Director, and Editor of animation projects and documentaries for Dark Thunder Productions, Melanie Jackson is breaking ground for a new generation of storytellers. Contributing to different productions such as Voices of Aboriginal Youth, Ekospi Namew - At the Time of the Sturgeon, and the 2007 Gemini Award winning Wapos Bay, Jackson's natural storytelling talents are creating valuable outlets for First Nations narratives and dialogue.

Arts (shared)
Dennis Jackson: Cree, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, SK.

Using broadcast media as a means for not only culture and language retention, but rejuvenation, Dennis Jackson is the Gemini Award winning Producer and President of Wapos Bay Productions. Specializing in children's animated television programs that showcase Aboriginal peoples and their stories; Wapos Bay is leaving waves of change in its wake, netting a 2007 Gemini for 'Best Children's or Youth Fiction Program or Series.'

Business & Commerce
Allan C. McLeod: First Nations, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, MB. President and CEO, TCIG

President and CEO of Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba (TCIG), and named one of "Canada's Top 40 Under 40," entrepreneur Allan C. McLeod comes from humble beginnings. As a student, he persuaded a bank to approve a mortgage for his first real estate purchase, a property he still owns today. Allan began his career with TCIG in an entry level, management trainee position. He rose quickly to the position of President and CEO, where he remains today. Sales increased 631% from 10 years ago and TCIG has returned nearly $17 million in dividends to the Tribal Councils, a cumulative return of nearly a thousand times more on initial investment. As the President and CEO of TCIG, Allan also ensures that the TCIG and the Charitable Foundation contribute to activities that benefit the community at large.

Culture, Heritage & Spirituality
Stephen J. Augustine: First Nations, Mi'kmaq, Elsipogtog First Nation (Big Cove), New Brunswick.

Hereditary Chief on the Mi'Kmaq Grand Council and by Elders' training since an early age, Stephen J. Augustine has a thorough command of traditional practices, his language and the history of his people. He was among the first to bring Aboriginal perspectives into a National Institution and is presently Curator of Ethnology for Eastern Maritimes at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Using his wealth of traditionally based knowledge combined with a Masters degree, Augustine has worked extensively with the United Nations programs on development and the environment, and had also been teaching at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Cecil King: First Nations, Wikwemikong, ON.

A lifelong educator, Cecil King has fought hard to see his belief that First Nations children need not sacrifice their culture and teachings in school begin to come to fruition. Retired Professor Emeritus of Queens University, King became Dean of the Saskatoon Campus of the First Nations University of Canada. He currently works as a resident Elder, teaching Ojibwe and writing and translating Ojibwe texts.

Environment and Natural Resources
Gordon W. Prest

Using his life experience as a tool for change, Gordon Prest is a modern day keeper of the land. Working as an advisor and negotiator in the British Columbia forestry industry for over 45 years he now focuses on community economic development and capacity building projects for First Nations communities. Prest was formerly an instructor at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, and helped establish the University of British Columbia Faculty Of Forestry's Aboriginal Initiative in 1994.

Candace Grier-Lowe: First Nations, Norway House First Nation.

Candace Grier-Lowe chose not to listen to her high school counselor who recommended she not go to university. Instead she became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduating in 2005, becoming one of the few Aboriginals in the world to achieve this lofty goal, she has charted a new path as a role model. Dr. Grier-Lowe has since become the first successful candidate to be accepted into the only combined Veterinary Dentistry Residency and Masters Degree in Veterinary Science offered in the world.

Law & Justice
Delia Opekokew: First Nation, Canoe Lake Cree Nation, SK.

Delia Opekokew was 8 years old before she learned English, making her current private law practice in Toronto a testament to her ability to adapt. Meshing urban lawyer and scholar with tradition, Delia has used her upbringing to ground her work as she furthers the cause of justice for Aboriginal people, and the civil liberties and human rights for all Canadians. Representing Dudley George's family, fighting for the compensation and redress of First Nations land claims as well as First Nations war veterans, Opekokew's work speaks for itself in its scope for change.

Media & Communication
Carol Morin: First Nations, Cree/Chipewyan.

Voice of the North, award-winning-journalist Carol Morin is best known as a television host on three major broadcast networks, CBC, CTV and APTN. Becoming the first Aboriginal woman to anchor a national news broadcast in Canada on CBC NewsWorld, Morin has helped make First Nations peoples of Canada more prominent and visible to the general public. As an avid drummer, visual artist and writer, Morin uses these forms of expression to build connections with her culture and her community.

Paul Okalik: Inuit, Iqaluit, NU.

Paul Okalik's journey has been a long and important one. Returning to school as a mature student he went on to become the Premier of Nunavut's first government and was re-elected for a second term in 2004. Overseeing the coming of a new age for the Inuit of Northeastern Canada, Okalik facilitated Nunavut's transformation with its consensus based governance system, which has run smoothly since its inception in 1999. Vigorously working to protect the language of his people, Okalik brings over 20 years of negotiation experience to his post. Earning an Honours PHD of Law from Carlton University in 1999, Okalik is also the first Inuk lawyer in the history of both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Public Service
Joan Glode: First Nations, Acadia First Nation, Nova Scotia.

Protecting Aboriginal children is Joan Glode's life's work. As one of the first Aboriginal women in Canada to receive a graduate degree in social work, Joan Glode has harnessed her passions for children and the Mi'kmaw community to develop one of the most highly respected child welfare agencies in the nation. Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia has grown to become a multi-million dollar funded organization, giving it the ability to reach out and foster projects that target each and every one of the 13 Mi'kmaw bands in Nova Scotia.

Adam Sioui: First Nation, Huron Wendat First Nation, QC.

As a member of the Canadian Olympic Swim team, he competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A member of the Canadian National Swim Team since 1999, Mr. Sioui holds the Canadian record in 200m Butterfly as well as setting several Canadian National Age Group records and a Canadian relay record. Mr. Sioui is a contributing writer for Swim News magazine as well. A regular speaker at celebrity events and fundraisers he also worked as part of a volunteer group that visited hospitalized children and school children emphasizing the importance of exercise in their lives.

Technology & Trades
Mervin J. Dewasha: First Nations, Wahta Mohawk Territory, ON.

Giving back and leading by example, Mervin J. Dewasha's long career with INAC as the Director of Engineering was a driving force to improve the quality of services to First Nations communities. Presently he is the CEO of Neegan Burnside Ltd. Responsible for operations, management, business development and mentoring new staff of this Aboriginal owned engineering and environmental consulting service, Mr. Dewasha developed the practice of employing First Nation people within his workforce and apprenticeship programs. In 1999 and 2001 he developed the National Aboriginal Career Symposium to showcase various educational, employment and trades opportunities in science, math and careers open to Aboriginal youth.

/For further information: Chris Allicock – National Publicity
(416) 694-3131
Cell: 416-319-8003

Michelle Boivin – Manitoba Publicity
(204) 334-0740
Cell: 204 223-0510

Contact Information

  • Jamie Monastyrski, Director of Communications, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation
    Primary Phone: 416-903-4331