1. This celebration was long overdue.
The organizers felt that with so many news stories about missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and dire situations on reserves in Attawapiskat and across Canada, it was time to provide a counterpoint by celebrating the accomplishments and achievements of indigenous women—the “life givers and culture carriers” of their communities. The night doubled as a fundraiser for the Native Women’s Resource Centre on Gerrard Street, which supports over 800 Aboriginal women and their families each year by providing hot meals, employment training, and programs ranging from medicinal plant workshops to hand drumming.
2. High-profile honorees are sometimes the most humble.
One notable recipient was Katherine Hensel, a highly acclaimed litigator for indigenous rights, who’s been heavily involved in such cases as B.C.’s Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry and the Ipperwash Inquiry. She did much of this work pro bono, on top of running her own legal practice. Her speech was brief: She simply thanked the hosting territories, her elders, and her community.
3. Throat singing can be super competitive.
Inuit throat singing is primarily performed by women. The ancient practice mimics the sounds of nature (howling wind, panting animals, snapping twigs). During their performance, mother-daughter duo Raigelee & Jennifer clutched each other and swayed from foot to foot while they sang. Standing almost nose-to-nose, they contorted their faces, trying to crack each other up: whoever made the other singer laugh first, won.
4. These awards are the kind that keep on giving.
The Good Path award was presented to Sara Luey. A victim of the ’60s scoop, where young Aboriginal children were forced out of their homes and placed in foster care, Luey struggled with addiction and homelessness for 18 years. The support of Aboriginal midwives during the birth of her youngest son helped solidify her resolve to turn her life around: She’s now clean, living in her first apartment, and plans to enter the addiction and mental health worker support program at George Brown. She wiped away tears as she received her award. “I have no family in the city, so I always felt I was alone. But I received so much support from the Aboriginal community and I’ve come to realize we are all family.”