Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, left, and hockey great Theoren Fleury, right, both winners of 2013 Indspire awards for aboriginal achievement. (Photo: Twitter/Facebook)

Indspire Award Winners From Every Walk of Life

Sam Laskaris
11/10/12

The current National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and a former National Hockey League star are among those who to be presented with 2013 Indspire Awards. National Chief Shawn Atleo and hockey legend Theoren Fleury are among the 14 indigenous Canadians who were announced in mid-October as recipients of the accolades, formerly known as the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. 

All recipients will be presented with their awards at a ceremony in Saskatoon scheduled for February 15, 2013.

"Each and every one of our award recipients is a role model and a leader who has made a profound impact in their communities and across Canada," said Roberta Jamieson, Indspire's president and CEO. "By honoring their achievements we continue to inspire others to demonstrate their own potential—which is why the work we do at Indspire with First Nation, Inuit and Metis students is so essential."

A jury consisting of former award winners selected this year's recipients. Atleo and Fleury were among the 10 career achievement award winners. Fleury emceed the awards last year along with actress Carmen Moore.

In addition, a Lifetime Achievement Award goes to 96-year-old Alex Van Bibber (Champagne and Aishihik First Nation), who worked as a trapping instructor for the Yukon government for 37 years.

Three youth award winners were also announced, each representing the country's First Nation, Inuit or Métis people. The renamed Indspire Awards have been presented annually since 1993.

Atleo has been the Hereditary Chief of British Columbia's Ahousaht First Nation since 1999. He was elected as the AFN National Chief in 2009 and re-elected for another three-year term in July. Atleo has also served as the Chancelor of Vancouver Island University since 2008. He earned his Inspire Award in Education.

Fleury, a Métis who was born in Oxbow, Saskatchewan, won his award in Sports. Though he was listed as being only 5-foot-6, Fleury had a rather successful National Hockey League career. A highlight occurred in his rookie season, when he helped the Calgary Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989.

During his 15-year NHL career Fleury also played for the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. He appeared in a total of 1,161 NHL contests and earned 1,167 points, including 489 goals. In 2009 Fleury's bestselling autobiography Playing With Fire was released, in which he detailed how he had been sexually abused by his junior coach, abuse that led to his abusing both alcohol and drugs throughout his NHL days.

The other Indspire Award recipients are Jacqueline Guest, Charlie Evalik, Winston Wuttunee, Lloyd (Sonny) Flett, Rudy Jacobs, Viola Robinson, Duane Smith and Gail Cyr.

Guest, a Metis from Alberta, was honored in the Arts category. She's a children and youth fiction writer who has published 17 novels to date. Her characters often depict Indigenous cultures.

Evalik, an Inuit from Nunavut, will be recognized through the Business and Commerce category. Since the mid 1980s, he's had a keen interest in helping Inuit communities improve themselves by establishing and promoting their Inuit-owned businesses. Wuttunee is a Cree entertainer from Saskatchewan's Red Pheasant First Nation. He has performed across Canada and the United States for more than 35 years. Many of his songs impart messages of cultural pride to help people through various difficult situations. He's being honored through the Culture, Heritage and Spirituality category. Flett, a Métis from Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, is being recognized in the Environmental and Natural Resources category as a longtime advocate of protecting the environment while working closely with developing industries.

Jacobs is the former Director of Health Services for Ontario's Six Nations of the Grand River.  She retired from her post in 2007 after 13 years. During her tenure she oversaw the development of 21 health initiatives, earning her Indspire's Health award.

Robinson, a Law and Justice category recipient, is a Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia's Acadian First Nation. She's been a tireless advocate of justice for not only Mi'kmaq but all Indigenous Peoples.

Smith, an Inuit from the Northwest Territories, is receiving recognition for his Politics work. A strong supporter of Arctic land claims, He's currently president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and vice-president of Inuit Tapariit Kanatami (ITK).

Though she is from Manitoba's Nelson House Reserve, Cyr is being honored in the Public Service category for her long-time work with various organizations that serve Indigenous Peoples in the Northwest Territories.

Meanwhile two of the three Youth Award recipients, Graham Kotowich and Gabrielle Scrimshaw, are from Saskatchewan. Kotowich, a professional ballet dancer, is the Métis Youth Award winner. Scrimshaw, the First Nation Youth Award recipient, is a 22-year-old from the Hatchet Lake First Nation that is the President of the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada. The Inuit Youth Award winner is Elizabeth Zarpa. She's from Labrador and has been involved with numerous youth and as well as adult associations.

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