This year's 14 award recipients of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards were the stars set among a galaxy of planets, represented on stage by dangling globes of color and sharing space with the brown hand of the Creator reaching down from the heavens to clasp a world in his fingers. The show held in Edmonton on March 16 was seen on CBC Television on April 10.
Staircases wound their way up to the outer reaches where Saturn's colorful rings provided a backdrop for a horse and rider in a full bonnet of feathers and with a spear held high, chasing down a buffalo.
The set served its stated purpose, which was to represent the mystery and glory of the universe and its complexities.
John Kim Bell, the founder and chairman of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, the organization that puts on the awards night, said the set represented both inner and outer space, with the stairs forming double helixes, the determiner of all life on earth. The microscopic organisms found inside our bodies, explained Bell, have no concept of the whole of the hosts they occupy, and mankind has no concept of the whole of the universe that we occupy or the nature of the plan the Creator has for us all.
The plan for the evening, though, was well known to the members of the packed Jubilee Auditorium. It was to be introduced to and honor 14 exemplary individuals who occupy places of importance in our universe, who have made our planet a better place in which to live, and who have been shown to be luminaries in the Aboriginal community.
The lives of Mariano Aupilardjuk, Dolly Watts, Freda Ahenakew, Roman Bittman, Mary Thomas, Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, Richard Nerysoo, Leonard S. Marchand, Fred House, Zacharias Kunuk, Nicholas Sibbeston, Tomson Highway, Lance Relland and Harold Cardinal provide us with inspiration and the knowledge that a better day for Aboriginal people is upon us. Short video productions described each winner's achievements and the contributions made to society.
Brought together to help pay tribute to their stories was a group of exceptional performers, including a proudly pregnant Fara, whose voice becomes richer and warmer with each passing year.
Always astounding is mezzo-soprano Marion Newman, who was joined by Carey Newman and Melody Mercredi in singing "The Prayer" in a stunning finale complete with laser light show.
But it was young Krystle Pederson who stole the evening with a cute shtick. She sang "At the Beginning" from Disney's Anastasia to the bedazzled Lance Relland, the youth award recipient. Pulling Relland from the audience and up onto the stage, she tugged him close and coyly wrapped his arms around her waist and, in the bargain, the audience around her delicate little finger. Her fresh, innocent face and powerful performance will be a favorite memory of this year's awards show.
A pre-show show included a performance from Moving Spirit, a drum and dance group that performed expertly. The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dancers were also on hand and got the house doing a jig in their seats. The spirited Lorrie Church primed the audience with an energetic rendition of I Ain't Perfect in the preshow and Make Up Your Mind in the opening musical tribute.
Hockey hero Ted Nolan, and Olympic and Pan Am Games water polo star Waneek Horn-Miller played host and hostess to the evening's events.