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Achievement award winners will visit Vancouver

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Raven's Eye Staff







The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards will be handed out in Vancouver on Jan. 27, and two people living in British Columbia will be on the receiving end at the 13th annual achievement award gala.

The community development award will be presented to Wendy Grant-John for her efforts to bring economic and social development opportunities to her Coast Salish community of Musqueam.

Grant-John is a three-term chief of her community, a former Assembly of First Nations vice-chief for British Columbia, and the former associate regional director-general for the department of Indian and Northern Affairs. She now runs her own store.

Grant-John single-handedly spearheaded the revitalization of Salish weaving, a tradition not practiced since the 19th century. The weaving of textiles long held an important cultural and social place among the Salish. Her involvement in the book, "Hands of Our Ancestors" The revival of Salish Weaving at Musqueam, was an important step in reclaiming this keystone of Salish culture.

Aside from overseeing the acquisition of the Celtic Shipyards and the Fraser Arms Hotel-two significant community economic development initiatives-Grant-John contributed to the foundation of the Big Sisters Mentoring Program for First Nations Women; the Wellness Council; and the Concerned Parents Group for the Musqueam Nation for parents coping with childhood drug and alcohol abuse.

In 2001 she was recognized for her contributions with the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Social Action. Two years later she added an honorary doctorate of Law from Royal Roads University to her list of accolades.

Taiaiake (Gerald) Alfred, scholar, author and a Mohawk living in B.C., was chosen to receive an award in the education category.

Alfred has been renowned as a scholar and writer for years, but his first steps into adulthood gave little indication of his current career. Interested in seeing the world, he joined the United States Marines as an 18-year-old and, serving as an infantryman, began tours of duty to Asia and Central America.

Upon his return, he enrolled at Concordia University in Montreal and began his journey into higher education. After leaving Montreal, Alfred continued his studies at Cornell University in New York where he completed his masters of arts and his doctorate. A prolific author of hundreds of articles and three books on Indigenous governance-including the groundbreaking Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto (1999)-Alfred is the founding director of the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria, the world's first graduate program to offer a masters of arts and a PhD in Indigenous governance.

Three Alberta residents will bring home awards. Dr. Herb Belcourt will receive an award in the housing category. Artist Jane Ash Poitras will be recognized for her contributions in the area of arts and culture. And broadcaster turned communications consultant George Tuccaro will accept an award in the media and communications category.

In 1970, Belcourt, who had already established himself as a successful businessman, started a housing project to provide decent, affordable housing to Metis families moving into Edmonton and Calgary. That project grew into the CaNative Housing Corporation, which, in addition to helping meet the housing needs of the people it serves, also provides scholarships and bursaries to Metis students. CaNative donated a house to be used as a residence for Metis postgraduate students at the University of Alberta.

Adopted by a non-Aboriginal woman after the death of her mother when she was five, Poitras grew up without any connection to her Native roots. She renewed that connection in 1981 and shortly thereafter decided to pursue a career as an artist.

Her mixed media works, which explore the impact of colonialism and the strength of Aboriginal people, have earned her wide acclaim and have been exhibited across North America and Europe.
Tuccaro spent 29 years as a broadcaster for CBC Radio North, and also worked on television on CBC Northbeat. He is also a singer/songwriter, comedian and popular emcee.

He established a booking agency in the Northwest Territories to help promote northern performing artists, helped to organize the annual Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik and volunteers his times to support grieving families, visit hospitals, seniors homes and prisons and hosts fundraising events.

Other 2006 award recipients include Saskatchewan Aboriginal leader and activist Jim Sinclair, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and lawyer and professor James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson, a member of the Chicksaw Nation and Cheyenne tribe in Oklahoma who now calls Saskatchewan home, who will be recognized for his contributions in the area of law and justice.

Nova Scotia's Andrea Dykstra, who recently earned her bachelor of science, will accept the award in the youth category.

The award for public service will be presented to Tony Belcourt, president of the Metis Nation of Ontario, while the business and commerce award will go to Bernd Christmas, CEO of Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia. Elder Gladys Taylor Cook of Manitoba will be recognized in the heritage and spirituality category.

The environment award will go to Elder Billy Day of the Northwest Territories in recognition of his work to protect Inuvaluit culture, rights and natural environment, while Olympic skier Shirley Firth Larsson of the Northwest Territories will receive a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the sports category.

Quebec broadcaster Myra Cree who passed away in October, will be named recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the media and communications category, the first time an achievement award has been awarded posthumously.