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Turtle Awards recognize Aboriginal achievement, encourage others

By Heather Andrews Miller Sweetgrass Writer RED DEER

The Turtle Awards are a valuable way to recognize people for their efforts, to encourage them to continue their hard work and to let others know that much can be accomplished.

“Aboriginal people are very humble, so in honouring them, they are excited and you can see the pride in their faces when they get the award,” said Mandy Griffiths, cultural liaison and parent educator at the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre.

Nominations have now closed for the third annual Turtle Awards, hosted and sponsored by the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre.

 “We give out awards to honour and celebrate First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals who are making significant changes to our community,” said Griffiths.
On June 21, 16 members of the Aboriginal community in central Alberta will be recognized for their outstanding contribution to Red Deer and surrounding area.

Awards include everything from a kookum and mooshum award, to education and training, to entrepreneurship. Another pair of awards is available to youth, one from five to 11 years of age, and another from 12 to 24 years, who are respected and admired for their achievements and commitments to their school, workplace and community and who exhibit a positive influence on their peers. The service provider award recognizes outstanding commitment to social service programs or organizations.
Nominations were also welcomed for those who practice traditional practices such as hide tanning, preserving of language, and trapping. And the lifetime achievement award is given to an individual who has demonstrated hard work, initiative, and strength throughout his or her lifetime despite obvious and numerous challenges and obstacles. The awards are given to deserving people from the age of five to 105.

Griffiths said the nominations were all worthy and that it was hard to choose just 16. The individuals who are recognized are encouraged to continue on with their worthy ventures, but it also shows other people what can be done. Past recipients include Douglas Bonaise, Agnes Johnson, Debbie Oostindie, Bruce, the Red Deer Dance Troupe, and Allison Plain-Cutknife.

Fundraising is critical to ensure that the Friendship Centre will be able to expand its support and services to the growing Aboriginal population in Red Deer and Central Alberta. Currently the centre hosts an impressive variety of programming, welcoming people from toddlers to Elders in programs, events and activities, from crafts to wellness and employment possibilities. As well, long term goals include a dream of acquiring a new facility so every fundraising event is welcomed.

This year’s extravaganza will be held at the Capri Hotel and Conference Centre, which is one of several sponsors of the event. As a fundraiser for the Friendship Centre Society, the evening will begin with a silent auction followed by an Aboriginal-themed dinner. Special entertainment includes world-class hoop dancer Dallas Arcand and Billy Walker. “It’s usually a sell-out so interested people should contact the Friendship Centre or Red Deer Aboriginal Employment Services as soon as possible to purchase tickets,” said Griffiths. “It’s always an enjoyable and exciting event so we encourage everyone to come on out.”

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