Missanabie Cree’s Shirley Horn received the Emile Nakogee Award for Leadership during the 29th Annual Keewaywin Awards ceremony.
“It’s a recognition for the really important work that gets done by women, and I accept this not just for me but on behalf of other women,” Horn said after the June 9 awards ceremony in Sandy Lake. “It takes community, and it takes more people than just one person, so that is why I accept this award on behalf of those people.”
Horn, who is currently the chairwoman for the Missanabie Cree First Nation Elders Group, chairwoman of the Elders Group for the North East Regional Chiefs Forum, organizer for the Echoes of the World International Drum Festival, a member of the Mushkegowuk Environmental Research Council and a former chief of her community, said Elders have a job to pass on knowledge as well as being good role models for the youth.
“It is a new role for Elders at this time in history,” Horn said. “It is not the same role as our Elders had before us – it has become quite expanded. We have learned to take mainstream education and put it together and bring it together with ourselves and look for the best in everything.”
Horn believes in lifelong learning, having recently graduated from the Fine Arts program with Honours from Algoma University in 2009 at the age of 69.
“I’m still doing the work with the Elders,” Horn said. “I want to do some work with the youth.”
Horn believes the Creator gave her the energy to help others through her leadership role.
“Leadership is many, many roles,” Horn said. “It is very small roles within your community and within your family and it is large roles like at the head of your organizations. There is someplace in there that everybody can fit. I think it is important if we are to grow as people, if we are to become as the prophecies say the leaders of these continents that we are on, and to teach people how to live with mother earth, to respect mother earth and how to respect each other.”
Horn encouraged others to not be fearful of taking on more of a leadership role.
“As one of our great philosophers has said, ‘A journey begins by taking the first step,’” Horn said. “I believe that, I believe that very strongly.”
Weenusk’s Mike Hunter Jr. received the NAN Elder Award, James Benson of the SEVEN Youth Advisory Committee accepted the NAN Youth Leadership/Community Involvement Award, Bearskin Lake’s Ester McKay was the NAN Youth Academic Award recipient, Wunnumin Lake’s Roberta Mamakwa was the NAN Youth Athletic Award recipient, North Caribou Lake’s Jordan Quequish received the NAN Youth Cultural Award, Taykwa Tagamou’s Tina Gagnon was the NAN Woman Award recipient, NAN’s Donna Kiecman received the NAN Staff Award and Deer Lake and Sandy Lake received the NAN Community Awards.
“I didn’t really expect to get this award,” said Hunter, a former chief of his community who has contributed to the community development of his community and the James Bay coast for many years. “What I learned is all from my father, my grandfather and my uncle.”
Hunter is a founding and current board member of Wawatay Native Communications Society and was a founding board member of Payukotayno Child and Youth Services until 1998.
“I was president for 11 years for Payukotayno Child and Youth Services out of Moosonee,” Hunter said. “When we first started, the chiefs said we were losing too many of our children to (mainstream) society down south so they decided to form their own children’s society. It took us about two years to get it going. There were a lot of obstacles because we had to comply to government regulations.”
James Benson accepted the NAN Youth Leadership/Community Involvement Award for the Seven Youth Advisory Committee.
“This award means a lot to me,” Benson said. “This award is not for ourselves, it is for everybody throughout Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory.”
Benson writes articles, stories and blogs and teaches youth how to do photography and how to make videos through his involvement in SEVEN Youth Media Network. He also works on the Rez Nation Photography Project with Webequie’s Kerina Wabasse, another member of the SEVEN Youth Advisory Committee. Nibinamik’s Elijah Howard Sugarhead and Attawapiskat’s Alison Kaye are also SEVEN Youth Advisory Committee members.
Wabasse enjoys writing as well as playing musical instruments and sports such as broomball and hockey; Sugarhead is the local youth co-ordinator in his community as well as a volunteer with the North-South Partnership; Kaye has graduated from the Office Administrative program at St. Lawrence College and Native Lands Management program at Cambrian College and currently resides in Kingston.
“We want to preserve our language, we want to preserve our culture through multi-media and we want to show the world that we can actually do things,” Benson said. “We want to show the world we have gifts, we have talents, we are creative.”
Benson said the Seven Youth Advisory Committee’s current goal is to get a 24-page issue of SEVEN out to the communities.
“It’s exciting, we’re not forcing ourselves to expand – we are just going with the flow,” he said. “It all takes teamwork, a lot of patience, it all takes a lot of perseverance and sacrifice. Being able to work with SEVEN is quite important and I enjoy it.”
Quequish accepted the NAN Youth Cultural Award on behalf of all the young people who are trying to learn their culture and ways of life and to understand the land and where they come from.
“That is where we come from,” Quequish said. “That is who we are. We are the land as First Nations people.”
Quequish, who is a parent of two children and currently a member of the NAN Oshkaatisak Council, a representative of the Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council and the Ontario representative for the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council, said he follows the traditional culture and teachings one day at a time.
“I follow it within,” Quequish said. “I’m honoured to get this (award). I’m deeply honoured that I work for my people, the Anishinabe, the First Nations. They really need a youth voice, so I try to be that voice.”
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