A spiritual caregiver, a former soldier turned mayor, an educator and author.
Ka Ni Kanichihk recognized a group of eight aboriginal women — and, for the first time, a group of three men — at the 2013 Keeping the Fires Burning awards program on June 20.
The annual gala celebrates community leaders who have worked to preserve First Nations culture and served as role models for younger generations.
This year’s inductees include:
- Heather Houston, a pipe carrier, eagle sundancer, cultural support worker and spiritual caregiver from the North End.
- Dorothy Grieves, an elder from Bunibonibee First Nation and Golden Jubilee medal recipient.
- Shirley and Mel Chartrand, of Deer Lake, Ont., and Vogar, Man., co-founders of Eyaa-Keen Healing Centre, which has helped more than 3,000 people over the past 25 years.
- Gertrude Walker, a Peguis elder who generously shares her cultural knowledge and has long been an inspiration for her hard work and perseverance.
- Tobasonakwut Kinew, of Onigaming First Nation, who served as grand chief of Grand Council Treaty 3 and was a founding member of the Native American Science Academy and Elder. Kinew, also a lecturer at the University of Winnipeg, is being recognized posthumously.
- Eliza Beardy, of Garden Hill First Nation, an elder and advisory committee member at the University of Winnipeg.
- John Morriseau, who served in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from 1958 to 1964 and is presently mayor of Grand Rapids, Man. Morriseau was also past president of the Manitoba Métis Federation.
- Priscilla Thompson, of Pinaymootang First Nation, renowned for her knowledge of traditional medicines and is known in the community as "our grandmother."
- Angela Roulette, of Sandy Bay First Nation, who founded Women of Mother Earth Network (WOMEN) and received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012.
Each winner is honoured with the title "grandmother" or "grandfather."
This is the first time the organization has honoured men as part of the awards, a decision executive director Leslie Spillett says was a direct response to requests made by the community.
"We wanted to promote women back into more of an equal place within our own collective. But we also recognize in traditional culture, men also have an equal role and responsibility," Spillett said.
"We knew women needed their own role models, but our men also need their own role models."
The inductees were selected from a number of provincial-based First Nations and Métis organizations. Ka Ni Kanichihk has honoured 91 grandmothers since 2001.
The awards are a celebration of strength in First Nations people, Spillett added.
"This is about celebrating our wellness, how good we are," she said. "Not about how messed up things are."
Althea Guiboche of Duck Bay, Man., a mother of seven children and published author, received Ka Ni Kanichihk’s 2013 Oscar Lathlin Memorial Award. Guiboche feeds the hungry and homeless through her Got Bannock? In Honour Of The Village We Once Had mission.
Ka Ni Kanichihk is located at 455 McDermot Ave. For more, visit www.kanikanichihk.ca or call 204-953-5820.