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Calgary Indigenous change-makers honoured for outstanding leadership and connection-building

Calgary continued to build bridges with Indigenous Peoples with recognition of their culture and achievements at an annual awards ceremony. 

The winners of the 2023 CAUAU Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award and the Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award were announced on June 22 at the Municipal Building. 

The Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award recognizes a person or a group who has shown leadership and connection-building within Indigenous communities in and around Calgary. The winner of this award is also recognized for creating and supporting positive change in their community. 

“I want to stress that reconciliation is not the responsibility of indigenous people. all Calgarians must accept the truth of our shared indigenous history and responsibility to help advance reconciliation,” said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

“Walking the path of Truth and Reconciliation is not just about acknowledging our colonial history, but also celebrating Indigenous culture and achievements.”

This year’s recipient of the Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award was Lowa Beebe from Piikani/Kainai First Nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy & Treaty 7 in southern Alberta. 

Beebe was recognized for showing a strong commitment to Indigenous awareness and empowerment on a local, provincial and national level. Working closely with chief and council members, Beebe has contributed to policy, engagement, governance, strategic planning and more. She is seen as a dedicated advocate for Indigenous rights in Canada which can be noticed in her co-founded law firm that offers corporate education on Reconciliation and Indigenous intercultural competency, further solidifying her reputation as a community leader. 

“Receiving this award has a personal connection for me. My late grandfather Howard Beebe Sr. of the Kainai Nation and Chief Crowchild were united in their efforts of transformative change as founders of the powerful influential Indian Association of Alberta in 1939,” said Beebe.

“Today, as the people of Mohkinstsis, our work continues to be inspired and guided by our ancestors on our path toward reconciliation.”

Building bridges between peoples

Former Chief Lee Crowchild of the Tsuut’ina First Nation said that in order to move forward, it is important to work together and build bridges. 

“This award is a reflection of people that are working at building these bridges, I’ve known Lowa for a lot of years, your recipient, and I couldn’t think of a better person that deserves this honour,” said Crowchild. 

The Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award acknowledges exceptional Indigenous youth who have demonstrated leadership and a solid commitment to achieving educational goals and encouraging their peers to do the same. The recipient of this award is also commended for inspiring and participating in cross-cultural activities in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. 

Danyka (Aahwanakii) LaBelle was the recipient of The Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award this year, following her sister in 2022. LaBelle said that a big part of what she does is centred around family.

“It shows that all of us together have made an impact,” said LaBelle. 

LaBelle was recognized for using her knowledge and traditional teachings to support and move forward initiatives at her school such as Orange Shirt Day, Red Dress Day and the Moose Hide Campaign creating awareness of the present-day ramifications of historical events for both students and teachers. She was also recognized for her display of leadership through her position as captain of her rugby team and a highly respected member of the Alberta North American Indigenous Games team and First Nations, Inuit and Metis club.

LaBelle has been accepted into a formal program at the University of Calgary but wishes to continue her pursuit of learning her traditional language from the elders of her community. As a way to further demonstrate her hard work and dedication, LaBelle has been awarded scholarships at the University of Calgary for both wrestling and rugby, making her a dual sport athlete at the university level. 

Labelle said that all of her success and accomplishments can be attributed to the unconditional support and guidance she has received from those around her. 

“The positive and encouraging environment I was given the privilege to grow up in showed me the importance of outside impacts on each individual’s life, which drives me to share my passions for culture, athletics and education with the upcoming generations,” said LaBelle.