For the past 27 years, Indspire has recognized First Nations, Inuit, and Métis professionals from coast to coast to coast who demonstrate outstanding career achievements, and youth who serve as role models in communities and across the country.
This year, the non-profit organization honoured Alicia Aragutak, Ta’Kaiya Blaney and Alana Robert as its youth recipients.
The 2020 Indspire Awards ceremony, which was filmed on March 6 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, will be broadcast on CBC TV, APTN, CBC Radio and CBC GEM on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
Alicia Aragutak said it was an overwhelming experience to be among 10 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis honoured at the 2020 Indspire Awards.
“I felt very privileged to be around all these amazing women. I’m qaqak, humbled,” she said.
The 26-year-old Inuk from Umiujaq, Que., is the executive director of the Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq, Que., where culturally relevant treatment and healing processes are offered that address the role that intergenerational trauma plays in addiction.
“I really like the concept that you have power over your life, and if you deal with the issues and the trauma that guides you to using alcohol, you could have a better life and control,” said Aragutak.
“I wasn’t exposed enough to our people really wanting to get help, but at Isuarsivik I’m exposed to that. It’s so refreshing, and uplifting to see. People do want to get well, it’s just the services — they aren’t there.”
Prior, Aragutak founded and served as the first president of the Qarjuit Youth Council, a regional youth organization that advocates on behalf of the youth of Nunavik.
“I had so much opportunity to grow, and it helped me grow tremendously as an individual,” she said.
“Even though I was grieving that I wouldn’t have this role anymore, I felt like it was important for another youth to get all of the same opportunities that I had when I was there.”
Activist, actor, and singer-songwriter Ta’Kaiya Blaney is this year’s First Nations youth recipient. At 13, she was the youngest person to have intervened at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She urged the forum to create an Indigenous children’s fund to “ensure the survival and well-being of we, the Indigenous children and youth, now and for the generations to come.”
Earlier this year, she was among a group of Indigenous youth who camped at the B.C. Legislature calling for the RCMP and pipeline workers to leave Wet’suwet’en territory.
Blaney is also an actress and won a Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Female for her portrayal of the protagonist Ella in the critically-acclaimed film Kayak to Klemtu in 2018. The Leo Awards are presented by the B.C. film and television industry.
Alana Robert was selected as this year’s Métis youth recipient.
“It’s a huge honour to receive the award and to be among such an amazing group of trailblazers, defenders, and people who really have paved a path for our people and give us a lot to look forward to, build off and learn from,” she said.
The 25-year-old has graduated from law school and was called to the bar last week. She aspires to pursue legal work that focuses on combating the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
“When I look at the legal system and as I’m navigating my journey through the legal profession, I see sexism and racism often,” said Robert.
“I see how it systemically perpetuates in the legal system; that’s a tremendous challenge.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Manitoba, Robert founded the group Justice For Women to combat gender-based violence on campus. Today, she’s developing a discussion brief for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund on the ways to effectively use litigation to advance the rights of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit, and sits on the board of directors of the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto.
“I’m just trying to build my legal career and include as much as I can to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in a way that respects self-determination and what we see as a path forward for our people,” she said.
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