Canada honors Aboriginal achievement with awards

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TORONTO - Three Aboriginals from the arts community - rock legend Robbie Robertson, writer Tom King and fiddler John Arcand are among the 14 recipients to win a prestigious National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Aboriginal community's highest honor.

Robbie Robertson, one of the premier songwriters of the rock era, receives the Lifetime Achievement Award as one of the most influential musicians of his era. A native of Six Nations, Robertson's group The Band was one of rock's seminal acts. His work with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese is legendary. Tom King, the writer of four best-selling novels, numerous television scripts and the creative force behind CBC Radio's Dead Dog Caf? Comedy Hour, receives his award for his body of work. A professor at the University of Guelph, Tom is an academic and writer of vast talent. Saskatchewan M?tis John Arcand a master of the fiddle, has been writing and performing since childhood. With over 250 original tunes to date, he is recognized for ensuring this important M?tis tradition survives.

The 14 recipients will receive their awards at a gala evening on March 28 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. The awards will subsequently be televised by the CBC as a national network special.

The year 2003 marks the 10th anniversary of the awards, created by Mohawk conductor John Kim Bell to recognize the achievements of Aboriginal professionals.

"This year's recipients are a stellar group," said John Kim Bell, founder and president of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and executive producer of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. "It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Bill Reid received the first lifetime achievement award on the stage of the National Arts Centre and since that time 126 individuals have been recognized for their contributions to the betterment of life in Aboriginal communities and the rest of the country."

The 2003 National Aboriginal Achievement Award recipients also include:

oWinnipeg physician and chair of the United Way, Dr. Judith Bartlett;

oAlberta oil and pipeline expert, Mel E. Benson;

oUniversity of Victoria legal scholar, John Borrows;

oRegina-based professional engineer and entrepreneur, Gary Bosgoed;

oSaskatoon engineering student, athlete, actor and community volunteer Matthew Dunn - this year's youth recipient and aspiring astronaut;

oNortherner Edward Lennie, the creator of the Northern Games;

oUniversity of Lethbridge and Harvard lecturer, Leroy Little Bear;

oB.C. environmentalist and fishery conservationist, Chief Simon Lucas;

oB.C. Chief Sophie Pierre, the builder of the St. Eugene Mission resort;

oWinnipeg based community worker and language protector, Mary Richard;

oVancouver based physician and AIDS researcher and advocate, Dr. Jay Wortman;

Visit www.naaf.ca and go to the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards section for photos and biographies of this year's recipients.