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Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal Youth Shine

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER 1998      v28 n02 p22  
The shining stars of Saskatchewan's Aboriginal youth came out in full force at the 1st Annual Aboriginal Youth Awards of Excellence. The Wicihitowin Foundation, SaskTel and the Regina Aboriginal Professional Association (RAPA) partnered in the establishment of these awards to provide a forum to celebrate outstanding achievements and contributions by young people throughout the province.

Friends and family of the nominees gathered for the ceremony held at Queensbury Downs in Regina. The pride and excitement in the youths was evident on each face throughout the evening.

Marty Ballentyne, Carmen Lewis, RCMP Escort
top: Marty Ballentyne, MC; Carmen Lewis, Education Award Winner; RCMP Escort
bottom: Welland Ratt, Cultural Award Winner with SIVA Grand Chief Howard Anderson
facing page [image on next page]: Standing Buffalo Junior Girls Volleyball Team, Recreation Award Winners

Welland Ratt, Cultural Award Winner with SIVA Grand Chief Howard Anderson

"Tonight we are here to honour excellence," said Myrna Barclay of SaskTel.  And excellence was definitely the overriding theme of the evening.  In all, organizers received a total of 42 nominations for the original five categories.

However, they felt that the calibre of the nominations was such that it warranted the addition of another category.

The evening began with Grand Entry that included Grand Chief Howard Anderson of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans' Association and all of the nominees. Throughout the evening, each of the nominees was individually recognized and many of the dignitaries offered words of wisdom.

"Opportunity awaits those who discover that true strength lies in friendships," said Ray Gosselin of RAPA. In these words lay the key to the success of the evening. Cochairs Joan Beatty and Ruth Ahenakew-Madill established a theme of mentoring for the awards whereby the young people at the banquet shared their tables with officials, corporate sponsors and volunteers. These professionals were able to offer them insight into the career paths they were considering and the education they would need to achieve their goals.

Following entertainment by the 5th Generation, the winners of the six categories were announced. Carmen Lewis of the Island Lake First Nation took home the Education Award. This 17-year-old is consistently at the top of her class while pursuing a number of extracurricular activities including women's hockey, badminton and golf. She plans to study physiotherapy following graduation this year.

The Standing Buffalo Junior Girls Volleyball Team received the Recreation Award. These

Saskatchewan’s Aboriginal Youth Shine

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER 1998      v28 n02 p23  
Standing Buffalo Junior Girls Volleyball Team, Recreation Award Winners young athletes range in age from 13 to 15 and have played together for three years. The team members are dedicated to their sport and to their Dakota culture. They are positive role models for the young female athletes in Fort Ou'Appelle.

14-year-old Chico Peepeetch of the Yellowquill First Nation was awarded the Sports Award. This grade nine student holds an international black belt in the Filipino art of Sikaran and has become almost unbeatable after only three years in the sport. In addition to his schoolwork and sport, Chico also volunteers. He has goals of establishing a school of martial arts.

The Cultural Award was presented to Welland Ratt of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Growing up on his grandparents' trapline, Welland learned to hold his Cree language and culture very closely. He is a respected member of the community and is working to teach other students the values and traditional lifestyle of the Cree culture. He has made this learning process "cool" for his peers.

The Community Award winner was Rachel Jobb of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation. This active young woman is involved in all facets of the community. She maintains a high average in school, has worked as a fundraiser for the Indigenous Games, volunteers for local events and is fluent in Cree.

The final award recipient, Christopher Ross, was chosen as the Innovator. Christopher is a published writer and has designed, published and distributed four newsletters for Aboriginal youth. In addition to writing, he has a distinguished basketball career.

All of the youth, winners and nominees, have accomplished many milestones at their young ages and can only be destined for greater achievements. In the words of Ruth Ahenakew-Madill of CESO, "You are our future leaders and from what we saw our future is bright.