"Our song needs to be sung," exclaimed Senator Thelma Chalifoux as she addressed a gathering of award recipients and visitors at the 4th Annual Aboriginal Role Model of Alberta Awards.
The Aug. 21 event paid tribute to 13 individuals from the province who have contributed to the betterment of Alberta's Aboriginal community.
Chalifoux, herself a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award as well as a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, acknowledged that there are many "unsung heroes" who are making a difference and stand for "good, honorable principles."
The awards, she said, are "about looking after our children, our communities."
The first award of the evening was the entertainment award. It was presented to Metis artist Morris Cardinal from the Fishing Lake Metis Settlement. Considered by many to be Canada's foremost Metis artist, Cardinal set out at age 13 to pursue his profession and hasn't looked back since.
Matthew Lepine from Ft. Chipewyan accepted the business award on behalf of Chief Archie Waquan and the Mikisew Cree Economic Development Corporation, which has several companies to its credit and recognizes its youth as its "greatest natural resource," said Lepine.
The community development award went to Dr. Maggie Hodgson, a leader in the field of healing at the local, national and international levels. She is also a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate, a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Order of Canada.
Anna Demchuk, the director of the Yellowhead Tribal Council was recognized for her efforts in the area of education.
"Today, the buffalo is economic development and education is the arrow that will get us there," she said.
An Alexis Band Elder, Nancy Potts, was hailed as a community role model who has always had a "heart full of concern" for her Stony and Cree people, said presenter Rita Norris.
Accepting the humanitarian award, Potts reflected on her younger years, when the dollar was not all-important and cultural and education was important.
Wilfred Pruden, a former employee with Native Counseling Services. The Lac La Biche Resident received the justice award.
As a television reporter who once worked in Native and mainstream newspapers, Leon Anthony (Soop) took home the media award. From southern Alberta's Blood Reserve, Anthony now works for Edmonton's independent television station, the A-Channel.
MLA Pearl Calahasen, Responsible for Children's Services, accepted an award for political contributions.
First elected in 1989, she dedicated her award to her mother and her people. A former teacher and community activist, she stressed the need for role models to work for their people, and that politicians, like herself, should be "there for the people."
A former welfare worker, community health representative, homemaker and band councillor, Violet Peacock, received the public service award while the principal of Edmonton's Ben Calf Robe School Program, Susie Seguin, was received the volunteer award.
The recipient of the sports award for people under 30 years of age went to Sheldon Souray from the Fishing Lake Metis Settlement. He played defence for the New Jersey Devils and was picked up this year by the New York Islanders.
His mother, Liliian Parenteau, accepted the honor on his behalf.
The sport over 30 years of age award went to Ted Hodgson, who once played for the Boston Bruins with Bobby Orr. Hodgson is now the director of the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta.
Role model awards organizer Irene Morin said she recognized the need to pat people on the back who had done good work in their community. People need to be recognized, she said.
"There are many deserving individuals out there," she said..