National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation

National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation

November 15, 2007 09:30 ET

Recipients Announced for 15th Annual Achievement Awards

Recipients Announced for 15th Annual National Aboriginal Achievement Awards

Attention: Arts/Entertainment Editor, Assignment Editor, City Editor, Media Editor, News Editor OTTAWA/ONTARIO/MEDIA ADVISORY--(Marketwire - Nov. 15, 2007) - Fourteen exceptional achievers, coming from diverse backgrounds, both culturally and geographically have been named recipients of the 2008 National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. They include a 14 year veteran of the National Hockey League, an activist fighting to protect the Innu way of life, an internationally acclaimed artist who made Woodland art an icon and 11 other esteemed individuals of accomplishment coming from across Canada's Indigenous landscape.

"The 2008 award recipients have transformed their knowledge and experience into outstanding achievement" said Roberta Jamieson, CEO of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. "We invite all Canadians and the world to join us in recognizing these extraordinary individuals who have contributed so much to the greater society around them." The 14 recipients will be honoured at the 15th Annual event, returning to Toronto after 10 years on March 7, 2008 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, taped live, to be televised on both the Global and APTN television networks.

Hosting this year's show is 22-year old Cree actress Larissa Tobacco, well-known to Much Music's VJ Search fans who enjoyed her energy, beauty and magnetic personality. For the second year, Jennifer Podemski is Creative Producer for the gala evening's events.

As part of this amazing honouring ceremony, the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards will be welcoming Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadian celebrities to join our team as special guest presenters. They include Juno and Gemini Award winners and Emmy-nominated actresses and performers, complimented by some of Canada's best and emerging Aboriginal talent

The recipients and their categories for the 15th annual National Aboriginal Achievement Awards are:

Norval Morrisseau (Ojibway, Red Rock Band, Nipigon, Ontario ) -- Lifetime Achievement Award --
is a shaman and self taught painter who painted for almost 50 years, gaining a worldwide reputation as one of Canada's most original Master Artists. His enormous success and achievement as an artist has motivated a whole generation of Native artists and inspired by rock petroglyphs and Midwewin birchbark scrolls, he created what has become the Woodland or Anishnabe school of art. He was recognized by the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 1970, and in 1978 became a member of the Order of Canada.

Boyd Wesley Benjamin (Vuntut, Gwitchin First Nation) -- Special Youth Award --
dreamt of being a pilot when he was a boy, watching planes take off and land on a runway visible from the bedroom window of his home in Old Crow, Yukon. Today he has his pilot and helicopter licenses, works in the North and at a young age is already living his dream and looking toward future achievements. And he's also a first-class fiddler!

Chief Jim Boucher - (Cree, Fort McKay First Nation) -- Business and Commerce --
has stood firmly in achieving his goal of ensuring members of the Fort McKay First Nation share in the economic development of the Athabaska Oil Sands. He founded the Fort McKay-Industry Relations Corporation to build relationships, facilitate consultation processes, and to advocate on behalf of his people. At the same time, he remains committed to sustaining the identity and traditions of his people and serving the interests of all First Nations people throughout the Wood Buffalo Region.

Hubert Skye -- (Cayuga, Six Nations of the Grand River) -- Culture, Heritage and Spirituality --
defied regulations and secretly taught the children in residential school their language in Moose Factory. Raised traditionally in the Longhouse, he is today a Faithkeeper in the Cayuga Longhouse conducting the ceremonies and speeches throughout the year for the seventeen ceremonies held for the seasons. He is multi-lingual in the Iroquoian languages. Elder Skye actively assists many cultural and educational organizations.

Dr. Marie Ann Battiste (Mi'kmaw) -- Education --
born to Mi'kmaw parents who did not finish primary school, she attained a doctorate in education from Stanford University in 1984. She is one of the acknowledged leaders of the renaissance in Indigenous education, both nationally and internationally. As a unique world-class scholar, her influential books, essays and collective works have created a new legacy in educational thought and practice. Her achievements and commitments to Aboriginal knowledge, learning, anti-racism, and decolonization in mainstream education have created significant pathways for others to share and develop. She is a senior tenured professor at the College of Education of the University of Saskatchewan, and Director of the Aboriginal Educational Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, and co-director of Aboriginal Learning and Knowledge Centre, a national centre of Canadian Council on Learning.

Dr. Jeff Reading (Mohawk, Tyendinaga) -- Health --
has achieved great strides in improving the health of Aboriginal people in Canada. He is the Scientific Director of the Institute of Aboriginal People's Health. Dr. Reading has published extensively in the world's health literature, covering areas from cardiovascular physiology, diabetes research, tobacco misuse, and health research capacity building. Perhaps one of his more notable achievements, Dr. Reading was instrumental in the development of the network of Aboriginal Capacity and Developmental Research Environments (ACADRE) centres across Canada, dedicated to conducting and advancing capacity in Aboriginal health research.

Paul Andrew (Shuhtaotine 'Mountain Dene', Tulita, Northwest Territories) -- Media & Communications --
is known throughout the north as "the one who tells stories". He has been a CBC radio and TV broadcaster for many years, at the forefront of bringing his Dene language to life in his interviews and as a journalist. He instills and maintains Dene cultural identity with his broadcasts in the Dene language. Mr. Andrew is also a musician and featured performer in the "True North Concert".

Joseph Leon Handley, (Metis, Saskatchewan) -- Politics --
has held a deep commitment to public service since his early years as a public school teacher. He is noted for the care and concern he held for his students and later as the eighth Premier of the NWT. He communicates with people of all walks of life, shifting effortlessly from meetings with Prime Ministers and Premiers to local dances in small communities. He is indeed a man of the people.

Sylvia B. Maracle (Mohawk, Tyendinaga First Nation) -- Public Service
has tirelessly given of herself in service to urban Aboriginal peoples. She has become a living legend for her achievements and work with the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and a long list of regional or local organizations, traveling extensively as a trainer and speaker for groups and communities. Ms. Maracle has created positive change on a national level in urban Aboriginal health, justice, employment and housing.

Reggie Leach (Beren's River First Nation, Ojibway) - Sports
played 14 years in the NHL, becoming the first First Nations player to reach super-star status. His achievements have inspired junior and amateur hockey players worldwide. He is in the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame. Today Reggie teaches his skills to aboriginal youth across Canada, gives numerous presentations about his prolific NHL career and raises awareness about alcoholism education.

Shirley Cheechoo (James Bay Cree First Nation - Michigeeng First Nation) - Arts
has devoted her life to promoting indigenous peoples and their cultures. She co-founded the acclaimed De ba Jeh Mu Jig Theatre Company, is co-owner of an art gallery promoting Aboriginal artists around the world and is co-owner of Spokensong film production company that promotes arts, culture, language, healing and indigenous life in Canada and internationally. Ms. Cheechoo's achievements have earned her numerous awards, including the CTV Fellowship Award and the Eagle Spirit Award. Her films have been selected for screenings at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, the AIF San Francisco and Vancouver Film Festival. Currently, Shirley founded the Weengushk film institute on Manitoulin Island.

Elizabeth (Tshaukuesh) Penashue, Innu - Environment & Natural Resources
for decades has fought to protect her homeland and the Innu traditional lifestyle. Her activism work began in the early 1980's in opposition to NATO low-level flying. Annually since 1996 she has led a 150-mile snowshoe trek throughout the traditional Innu lands. In the summer, she leads a month-long canoe trip on the Churchill River. Modestly and softly, she says she "is a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, such as the animals, plants and other beings." Ms. Penashue has been awarded an honourary doctorate of laws from Memorial University.

David C. Nahwegahbow, I.P.C. - (Whitefish River F.N., Ojibway) Law & Justice:
has made significant contributions to the cause of Indigenous rights and entitlement in the planet's forest resources through his involvement with the Forestry Stewardship Council. A founding member of Canada's Indigenous Bar Association, he has actively worked with indigenous professionals in other countries pursuing the rights of indigenous peoples internationally. Mr. Nahwegahbow is the senior partner of a successful Aboriginal law firm exclusively First Nation operated, and has been in the private practice of law for 25 years. Mr. Nahwegahbow continues to volunteer his time speaking at conferences, both nationally and internationally, as well as speaking at high schools and even elementary schools on the importance of the law as well as ensuring a positive bridging of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations.

Bernard McCue, (Chippewa, Beausoleil First Nation) - Technology and Trades
Through perseverance and determination to seek a better life through education, Bernard achieved an education in chemistry equivalent to an Honours University Level by taking extension courses after working hours. He made significant contributions to the development of synthetic jet aircraft lubricants, was awarded 3 U.S. patents, and made process improvements for the television industry by new and innovative methods that greatly enhanced the colour characteristics of the television sets for RCA Ltd.

After a national call for nominations, the Achievement Award recipients are selected by a jury comprised of past award recipients and individuals representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples from diverse geographic regions of Canada and areas of economy.

The Achievement Awards gala events are produced by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Canada's leading Aboriginal charity dedicated to providing financial assistance to Aboriginal students for post-secondary education. Since 1985 the Foundation has awarded more than $27.3-million in scholarships and bursaries to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students across the country in all disciplines, including law, medicine, education, psychology, fine arts, business and computer sciences. Over $3-million was distributed in the last year.

The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards are generously supported by:

Private Sector Support:
Lead Corporate Sponsor: CIBC
APTN, Air Canada, Alliance Pipelines, BP Canada Energy Company, Casino Rama, Global Television, Ft. McKay, Nabors Canada, Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Foundation,

Public Sector Support:
Government of Canada
Aboriginal Business Canada, Canadian Forces, Canadian Heritage, Office of the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-status Indians, Health Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada

For more information please contact:

Chris Allicock, Publicist

/For further information: Scott Cavan, Dir. Communications
416.926.0775 ext: 237

Contact Information

  • Scott Cavan, Director of Communications, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation
    Primary Phone: 416-926-0775 ext. 237
    Secondary Phone: 416-903-4331
    Toll-Free: 800-329-9780