Three ‘achievers’ from Manitoba

Local trio to receive prestigious award in Winnipeg March 6

Three more Manitobans will be joining the illustrious ranks of past winners of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation’s highest honour.

This year will see Chelsea Lavallee (youth award), Candice Grier-Lowe (health) and Alan C. McLeod (business and commerce) receive their awards in front of a hometown crowd at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall.

The 16th annual event will see 14 aboriginal people honoured with awards recognizing their achievements in a variety of areas, on March 6, 2009, and will be taped live to be televised at a later date on both the Global and APTN television networks.

Past winners from Manitoba include: Justice Murray Sinclair, Louis Stevenson, Dr. Ahab Spence, Angela Chalmers, Tom Jackson, Elijah Harper, Phil Fontaine, Yvon Dumont, Reverend Stanley John McKay, Dr. Cornelia Wieman, Dorothy Betz, Fjola Hart-Wasekeesikaw, Tomson Highway, Dr. Gilles Pinette, Michael Nepinak, Len Flett, Mary Richard, Dr. Judy Bartlett, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Tina Keeper, Kristin Frederickson, Gladys Cook, Verna Kirkness and Lisa Meeches.

Chelsea Lavallee, from St. Ambroise Manitoba, is one of the youngest recipients this year, if not the youngest at 17, for a special youth award in doing her part to preserve Metis culture.

Lavalee said,”I’m a square dancer. I also volunteer in my community. I teach dance to youth in my community. I’m a news reporter for the southwest region.”

She credits her parents for instilling in her a strong sense of community and teaching her the finer points of Metis culture.

After she completes her Grade 12 from St. Laurent School – a small rural school with a population of a little more than 200 students, Lavallee wants to attend university. While she is a little more than surprised and honoured with the award, Lavallee described thinking about accepting her award at the concert hall as “nerve wracking.”

Candace Grier-Lowe, originally from Thompson, Manitoba and then to Norway House Cree Nation through her mother, followed her dream.

“I always knew I would become a veterinarian,” said Dr. Grier-Lowe. “You know how parents ask you what do you want to be when you grow up or school councilors but there was never any doubt what I wanted to do.”

Since graduating in 2005, becoming one of the few Aboriginals in the world to achieve this goal, Dr. Grier-Lowe has charted a new path as a role model. She has since become the first successful candidate to be accepted into the only combined Veterinary Dentistry Residency and Masters Degree in Veterinary Science offered in the world.

These days she’s even teaching undergraduates in the veterinarian program offered at Western College of Veterinarian Medicine while working in the clinic and taking her masters program.

Ultimately, she’s got a tough decision coming up about staying in academia or working in a clinic full-time.

Alan C. McLeod, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, said the award is more than just acknowledging his business acumen in heading up one of Manitoba’s most successful companies and that it pays homage to the growth in Manitoba’s aboriginal people.

McLeod began his career with Tribal Councils Investment Group (TCIG) – in an entry level, management trainee position. He rose quickly to the position of President and CEO.

TCIG is a company that acts as the investment arm of its seven tribal council shareholders – started in 1990 with an investment of $25,000 from each participating tribal council.

It’s a position that he feels still has quite a few more pillars of success to build on.

McLeod said at the current pace of growth, TCIG should pass one billion dollars in revenue per annum in 13 years.

As a father of two – an 11 year-old boy and seven year-old daughter, McLeod shares some family history about the effects of residential school on his grandparents and parents.

“My dad was in his 40’s before he woke up,” said McLeod, “and started his journey on recovery, self improvement and getting in touch with who he is. He taught me what he learned when I was 20 and I’m sharing it with my own children now.”