Two people with Saskatchewan connections are among the 14 outstanding people from across the country selected to receive National Aboriginal Achievement Awards during the 13th annual achievement award gala to be held in Vancouver on Jan. 27, 2006.
Aboriginal leader and activist Jim Sinclair, who has spent the last 40 years fighting for Indigenous rights, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and lawyer James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson will be recognized for his contributions in the area of law and justice.
Sinclair's accomplishments are many. He was a founding member of the Native Council of Canada, forerunner to the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), and of the Metis National Council.
He was president of the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan from 1970 to 1988 and president of CAP from 1994 to 1996. He was also involved in creation of the Gabriel Dumont Institute and the Dumont Technical Institute, the Saskatchewan Native Economic Development Corporation, the Provincial Metis Housing Corporation, as well as the Saskatchewan Native Alcohol Council and the Metis Addictions Centre of Saskatchewan.
Henderson, a member of the Chicksaw Nation and Cheyenne tribe in Oklahoma who now calls Saskatchewan home, is a professor and research director with the Native Law Centre of Canada at the University of Saskatchewan's college of law.
He was one of the First Native Americans to receive a Juris doctorate in law from Harvard Law school and during the constitutional process from 1978 to 1993 he served as a constitutional advisor to the M'ikmaw Nation and the Assembly of First Nations.
Henderson has worked in the area of Indigenous rights on both a national and international level. He was a member of the drafting team for the Indigenous Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Indigenous Declaration on the Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous Peoples and is a past member of the advisory board to the minister of Foreign Affairs. Currently he is a member of the Sectoral Commission on Culture, Communication and Information of the Canadian Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and Canadian Heritage's Expert Advisory Group on International Cultural Diversity.
He has published eight books, including Aboriginal Tenure in the Constitution of Canada and Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage.
Other 2006 award recipients include Nova Scotia's Andrea Dykstra, who recently earned her bachelor of science and is now working as Aboriginal Affairs advisor for Environment Canada-Atlantic region, who will accept the award in the youth category. Scholar and author Taiaiake (Gerald) Alfred from B.C. was chosen to receive an award in the education category.
Dr. Herb Belcourt from Alberta, the founder of CaNative Housing Corporation, will receive an award in the housing category. The award for public service will be presented to Tony Belcourt, president of the Metis Nation of Ontario.
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. The community development award will be presented to Wendy Grant-John of B.C. for efforts to bring economic and social development opportunities to her home community.
Olympic skier Shirley Firth Larsson of the Northwest Territories will receive a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the sports category. Artist Jane Ash Poitras of Alberta will be recognized for her contributions in the area of arts and culture.
Two awards will be presented in the media and communications category, one to broadcaster turned communications consultant George Tuccaro f Alberta and one to Quebec broadcaster Myra Cree who passed away in October, the first time an achievement award has been awarded posthumously.