Thursday, June 22, 2017

Award-winners recognized for their commitment to education, community and Aboriginal culture

Elaine Cairns and Latasha Calf Robe love to share their passion for education, literacy and learning for their community.

Today, the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee (CAUAC) and The City of Calgary recognized these two exceptional women with The Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award and Aboriginal Youth Achievement Award. Now in its 31st year, these awards honour those who build bridges of understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures.

2017 Winner of Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award

Elaine Cairns, 2017 recipient of the Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award
Elaine Cairns is a literacy specialist who has developed curricula and facilitator training for Indigenous learning programs. Elaine is currently the executive director of the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA), which she co-founded in 1996.

Elaine has worked with isolated communities, and provided mentoring and facilitator training for Indigenous community workers and trainers. The curricula she has worked on embraces Aboriginal traditions and focuses on sharing of information. In the acknowledgement that community is different, she works with community members to incorporate the knowledge of Elders about how to share the traditions and culture. With these learning programs, families are then able to share, teach, and build relationships within and outside their communities.

“As a Non-Indigenous person, I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award. It reaffirms for me the importance of the work I do in Indigenous communities”, says Elaine. “I have learned more from Indigenous people than they have ever learned from me. I have learned the importance of patience, to listen, be resilient, to persevere, and always have a connection to culture and traditions.”

Elaine’s efforts have opened the door to understanding the importance of working together to improve literacy in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures. She believes improved learning leads to improved lives and with passion and dedication we can bring literacy and learning to everyone. Making a difference, one learner, one community, one organization at a time.

2016 Winner of CAUAC Youth Achievement Award

Latasha Calf Robe, 2017 recipient of the CAUAC Youth Achievement Award
Latasha Calf Robe, 24, is a graduate of Mount Royal University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business, and a minor in Indigenous Studies and Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Latasha is a proud Blackfoot student from the Blood Reserve in southern Alberta and is being recognized for utilizing traditional community teachings. In founding the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) Resiliency and Empowerment Discussion Group in 2016, Latasha created a positive space for the Mount Royal community -- a place to celebrate Indigenous resiliency and empower her peers. Her academic work and leadership has helped bring the community together to bridge generational, cultural, and ethnic differences through dialogue and storytelling. She was a featured panelist at an Access to Education, hosted by Mount Royal University, to discuss barriers Aboriginal students encounter at post-secondary institutions and how to overcome them.

This year, she also presented the student address at Mount Royal University for the visit of the Honorable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. Aside from her academic achievements, Latasha’s involvement with student life demonstrate her strong desire and deep commitment to education, culture and her community.

“Winning this award allows me to represent my community, the Blood Reserve, in a positive way. I hope to empower and encourage other young Indigenous scholars and youth to iiykakimaat (try hard), and to never stop chasing their dreams,” says Latasha. “There is no goal too big. By using the resiliency and traditional ways taught to us by our elders, parents and community, anything is possible.”

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