A journalistic pioneer, a visionary businessman, a sports hero and role model: These are just some of the indigenous people who have shown over the past year in Canada, making significant marks in a variety of fields, including business, education, politics and sports.
The Indspire Awards (formerly the Aboriginal Achievement Awards), handed out annually since 1993 to First Nation, Métis and Inuit people across Canada, will be officially bestowed during a ceremony in Ottawa on March 24. Here is a closer look at six of the 13 winners for this year. No award was given in the Arts category, after Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq found herself unable to accept hers, Indspire said.
Seasoned journalist Duncan McCue, 45, is used to interviewing people. But in recent days he has found himself on the other side—being interviewed about his accomplishments. And they are many.
“I was totally surprised,” McCue, Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, told Indian Country Media Network. “I’m a journalist, and I’ve reported on the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, as they used to be called. I’ve admired the people in the past who have won.”
He is one of 13 indigenous people in Canada who will be honored with 2017 Indspire Awards. The awards annually honor indigenous recipients from across the country for their achievements in a number of fields.
McCue will be honored in the Public Service category. He began working as a TV reporter with CBC in 1998. Earlier this year he made the switch and is now a radio host on CBC’s Cross Country Checkup broadcast. He considers winning his Indspire Award to be a noteworthy feat.
“I’ve won journalism awards, and it’s important to be acknowledged by your peers,” he said. “But as an indigenous journalist, this means a lot to be recognized by my own people.”
Heather Kashman, a 23-year-old Métis from Edmonton, was shocked when she found out she would be receiving her accolade in the Sports category.
“I had kind of a mini freakout,” she said. “I thought somebody must have lied to have me included with all these names. I didn’t feel I deserved it.”
Kashman had a successful career with the University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team, finishing off her NCAA eligibility this past season. Though she aspired to play pro, back and hip injuries have forced her to retire from the game.
“This is amazing,” Kashman said. “It’s the most prestigious award an Indigenous person can get. I’m so humbled just to have been nominated. To have won just blew me away.”
A member of British Columbia’s Tahltan Nation, Jerry Asp is a prominent indigenous leader in western Canada. Asp, who will be honored in the Business and Commerce category, has been an avid supporter of aboriginal business development across the country.
“Jerry Asp’s extensive list of accomplishments depicts a man who has aided the representation of Indigenous peoples in business,” Indspire said in announcing his award. “He displays a drive to improve the economic development of his home community and other Indigenous communities across the country.”
From British Columbia’s Simpcw First Nation, Matthew is being honored via the Education category. He held numerous positions with various educational boards and organizations. And since 1985 Matthew has served as the chief of the Simpcw First Nation.
“Nathan Matthew’s career in education has been exceptional,” Indspire said. “He has identified and faced many inequities that still exist today. His passion for change is vital for the success of future generations.”
A member of Quebec’s Kanehsatake Mohawk Nation, Kimberly Murray is an Indspire Award winner in the Law & Justice category. As executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “she worked to ensure that the stories of survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School system were heard and remembered; and she promoted reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” Indspire said. In April 2015 she became the first-ever assistant deputy attorney general for Aboriginal justice for the Province of Ontario.
The founding chief of the Inuvik Dene Band in the Northwest Territories, Cece Hodgson-McCauley is being recognized through the Politics category. Now a lifetime honorary chief, Hodgson-McCauley, 94, is still actively involved with business dealings in her region.
“Education is the key to your future,” she said on the Indspire website. “Speak up for what is right. Be informed and stay informed. Get involved with the government. If you need help, ask and keep asking until you get the answers. And most of all, raise your children with love and security.”
“Known for her notorious and oftentimes effective persistence, Cece continues to work toward change and remains a role model for Indigenous people across the country,” Indspire said. “Her efforts and achievements are celebrated by all and solidify her place in Canada as a great I-indigenous leader.”
A native of Edmonton, Butcher, who is Métis, is a third-year student in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. He’s one of three individuals being honored with an Indspire Award through the Youth category. Besides playing football at the university and being on the honor roll, Butcher also helps out with numerous charitable organizations.
“His advocacy, resilience, and drive exemplify him as an outstanding role model for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth across the country,” Indspire said.