The Aboriginal achievement awards were a huge success once again this year. The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) recently joined forces with CBC and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (NAAF) to broadcast this year’s ceremony. The highlight of this year’s show was a special lifetime achievement award given to legendary musician Robbie Robertson.
“This three-way partnership is a first,” said John Kim Bell, founder and president of the NAAF. “We are very excited to be able to have the awards broadcast by both networks. The award winners deserve the broadest recognition possible. We are pleased APTN has joined us in this new business partnership so this quality entertainment product can be experienced by more Canadians.”
This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the aboriginal achievement awards. The broadcast was expanded into a two-hour special.
APTN is the only national Aboriginal television network in the world offering quality programming by, for, and about Aboriginal peoples. More than 70 per cent of APTN’s programming originates in Canada; 60 per cent of the programs broadcast in English; 15 per cent in French; and 25 per cent in a variety of Aboriginal languages.
The network is distributed to over nine million Canadian households on basic cable, direct to home, and wireless service.
This year’s winners include John Arcand in the Arts and Culture category for his amazing fiddling ability. The undisputed master of the Metis fiddle, Arcand, now 60, has written 250 original tunes that are played across North America and has seven original recordings under his belt. Arcand helped found and is an instructor at the Emma Lake Fiddle Camp, an intensive camp dedicated to teaching the art of fiddling.
Also winning an award in the Arts and Culture category is Tom King. King, a Cherokee native, is a famed novelist, scholar, screenwriter, and literary giant. He has written four novels, numerous television scripts, and award-winning works of short fiction and non-fiction featuring Aboriginal themes.
With humour as his vehicle, King has brought First Nations issues to the forefront of Canadian society. He has cleverly used the Dead Dog Cafe as a vehicle for mainstream Canada to learn about some serious issues affecting the Aboriginal community and a window into the Aboriginal culture.
Judith G Bartlett brought home the achievement award in the Health Services category. Bartlett graduated from the University of Manitoba in medicine, and is currently one of the leading Aboriginal doctors in Canada.
She is Associate Director, Programs, and Research Associate at the Manitoba First Nation Centre for Aboriginal Health Research at the University of Manitoba. She expended tireless efforts in developing the holistic Aboriginal Life Promotion Framework, the basis of which is to understand the world and the self, to celebrate our openness as human beings while respecting the ways of all peoples, both individually, and collectively.
Winning in the business and commerce category is a member of Alberta’s Beaver Lake Cree nation, Mel E. Benson. Over a lifetime of achievement in the energy sector both in Canada and internationally, Benson has shown that bridges between the Indigenous world and this crucial area of the economy can indeed be built.
“I was committed to treating people the way we wanted to be treated,” he said of a massive multi-billion dollar pipeline project he recently helped manage in Africa. That project in Chad and Cameroon (worth $4 billion) is now considered a model for the world.
In the Northwest Territories, Benson’s leadership ensured that Aboriginal involvement was maximized in the massive Norman Wells expansion project, which was worth nearly $ 1 billion.
John J. Burrows won in the Law and Justice category. This proud member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation has emerged as the leading Aboriginal legal scholar and teacher in Canada.
Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada have taken to citing his articles when ruling on Aboriginal cases. Currently the Law Foundation Chair in Aboriginal Justice at the prestigious University of Victoria Faculty of Law, professor Borrows has taught more than 400 Aboriginal law students across Canada and brought Aboriginal legal perspectives to thousands of non-Aboriginal law students.
Receiving the achievement award in the Business and Technology category is Gary Bosgoed of the Peepeekisis First Nation. As one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurs, this founder and operator of Bosgoed Project Consultants is currently managing projects and operations worth more than $200 million.
It is the only firm of its kind in Canada owned by a First Nations registered professional engineer.
Bosgoed has brought the magic of modem telecommunications to 60 reserves as well as managing hospitals, housing units, commercial buildings, and energy projects for many others.
This year’s Recipient in the Youth category went to a young Metis, Matthew Dunn. Dunn is in his fourth year at the University of Saskatchewan, majoring in mechanical engineering. He is planning to pursue his master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering after graduation.
Dunn has received numerous scholarships, academic and citizenship awards, and has proven himself to be a star athlete and community volunteer.
Winning the achievement award in the Heritage and Spirituality category is Charles Edward Lennie. The Games that Lennie founded celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2000. Included in these games are the one-foot kick, seal skinning, bannock making, and traditional dancing, to name a few.
Lennie trained athletes himself, raised funds when needed, and brought his beloved games and culture to a wider audience through performances for royalty, Prime Ministers, and national television audiences.
Leroy Little Bear won the Aboriginal achievement award in the Education category. This veteran educator, and renowned academic is a model for all Aboriginals striving for success in higher learning.
The founder of the Native American Studies Department at the University of Lethbridge – where he served as chair for 21 years — Little Bear also went on to become the founding Director of Harvard University’s Native American Program. A member of the Black foot Confederacy, Little Bear contributed to publications for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in the area of criminal justice issues.
Winning in the Environment category is Chief Simon Lucas, a leader of the Hesquiat First Nation. He has played the lead role in integrating First Nations’ knowledge and values into emerging modem ecosystem science. Lucas has devoted his life to the cause of fishery conservation.
He played a lead role in forging the BC Aboriginal Fisheries Commission into an effective and representative organization for conservation and Aboriginal rights.
Taking home the award for Public Service is Chief Sophie Pierre. Pierre has led the Ktunaxa people for over 20 years. With her hard work and determination, she helped turn the St. Eugene Mission School into the St. Eugene Mission Resort. Worth more than $40 million, this first-class 125-room resort hotel with conference and meeting facilities is set amidst a breath-taking B.C. landscape.
Pierre has also fought for Aboriginal control over education, co-chaired the First Nations Summit, excelled in business and improved her community’s life in fields such as sport, recreation, the place of women, and support for the elderly.
Winning the achievement award in Community Development is Mary Richard. This Manitoba Metis is the CEO of Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg. She was the Executive Director of the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg, the first of its kind in Canada.
Now in her 60’s, She had previously implemented the Manitoba Language Retention Programs during almost a decade of service as Director of the Manitoba Association for Native Languages. She helped raise over a half-million dollars towards creation of Native Language books to help fight the loss of language.
Doctor Jay Wortman was recognized for his achievements in Medicine. This Metis doctor has been on the frontlines in the war against AIDS for more than a decade.
Right out of his family medicine residency, he developed a teaching module on HIV testing for general practitioners that became a model for family doctors across Canada.
In government, he developed the first HIV prevention program in Canada that targeted the Aboriginal population.
Last but not least, taking home the lifetime achievement award for his amazing musical abilities is Robbie Robertson, a Mohawk from the Six Nations reserve. Robertson is one of the most influential musicians of our time.
When legend Bob Dylan made his historic decision to take his until-then acoustic folk-rock music electric, it was Robertson and The Band he turned to for backup. He toured the world in 1965-66 with Dylan and recorded the legendary Basement Tapes with the undisputed prince of folk-rock.
Congratulations goes out to all Aboriginal Achievement Awards winners.