Spotlight – Indspire Award Laureates

In this issue of Perspectives, we’re introducing Spotlight, a new feature that highlights people who have made significant contributions to education and the reinforcement of values upheld by the CTF-FCE.

For the first edition of this feature, we are focusing the spotlight on three women who were recognized as Award Laureates by Indspire, a national Indigenous organization that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada.

Representing the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own achievers, the Indspire Awards were created in 1993, in conjunction with the United Nation’s International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People. The Awards recognize Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement. They promote self-esteem and pride for Indigenous communities and provide outstanding role models for Indigenous youth.


Dr. Vianne Timmons

Dr. Vianne Timmons

Mi’kmaq, NS

“Indigenous youth are Canada’s next generation of leaders, so there is nothing more important than ensuring they get the education they deserve.  Education opens doors, creates opportunity, builds leaders, and changes lives.”

Dr. Vianne Timmons is the first woman president and vice chancellor at the University of Regina where she has been working to make education more relevant, accessible, and supportive for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students. In her role, she maintains a national and international leadership role in Indigenous education and has been advocating for the Indigenization of the university, including making large-scale changes like the implementation of an Aboriginal Student Centre and Indigenous Advisory Circle. She was named One of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by WXN four years in a row and was inducted into their hall of fame. Dr. Timmons and the University of Regina also played a key role in the recovery of First Nations University after a financial crisis in 2010. Dr. Timmons has also made it clear that the University of Regina is a safe space for students, and in 2017, came forward with her own personal experience of sexual violence in the hopes that she would empower students to continue to do the same.

Honours and Accomplishments

  • 2018: Named Officer of the Order of Canada.
  • 2016: Named Citizen of the Year by CTV Regina.
  • 2015: Received the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s President’s Award for Distinguished Leadership in International Education.
  • 2015: Awarded Inter-American Organization for Higher Education’s Leadership and Influence in Education and Public Policy.
  • 2014: Received the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada Recognition award for supporting diversity within academic institutions.
  • 2013: Received Red Cross Humanitarian Award for her work in the field of disabilities and education.
  • 2012: Awarded Partner in Education from Nunavut Arctic College for the support of northern education programs.

Culture, Heritage & Spirituality

Jijuu Mary Snowshoe

Gwich’in Nation, NT

“The land, the water, the fire is our power. That’s what my dad passed on to me. Remember that we have a beautiful land and with good water, we have all kinds of food and traditional medicine. We’re rich people. Respect one another and respect the land.”

Jijuu (Grandmother) Mary Snowshoe was born in 1938 and though her siblings went to residential school, her parents kept her at home and taught her the traditional Gwich’in ways. Her father taught her to hunt, fish, and trap, and her mother taught her to prepare traditional food and tan moose skin for clothing. She carries on the stories of the Gwich’in Nation by memory and can recount, as her father did for her, the first “white men” who came to their community, the flu epidemic, and the Anglican missionaries who came with religion. She continues to pass on her sacred knowledge helping to ensure the Gwich’in way of life lives on for generations to come. Mary taught the Gwich’in language for 24 years until her retirement in 2003. At 80 years old, still sets fish nets under the ice, fosters children, and continues to live off the land in the summer. In 2008, she received a Wise Women Award with the Northwest Territories Status of Women Council.

Honours and Accomplishments:

  • 2018: Speaker of traditional medicines at the Resolution Health Support Program for Indigenous people suffering from cancer.
  • 2013: Assisted in the teachings of traditional culture with students from Chief Julius School at Midway Lake Camp.
  • 2008: Received the Wise Women Award from the Northwest Territories Status of Women Council.
  • 2003: Retired from the Education Department after teaching the Gwich’in language for 24 years.
  • 1991: Assisted in the creation of a junior dictionary for the Teetl’it Gwich’in language.

Lifetime Achievement

Atuat Akittirq

Aggu, NU

“Throughout life, there are moments where we realize that words we have received from our Elders, to live a good life, have become reality. These moments remind us to value and listen to these words of wisdom. Each of us will, one day, be the Elders saying encouraging words to young people.”

Atuat Akittirq embodies the tremendous resiliency of Inuit knowledge and language. She was born and raised in Aggu in a traditional and nomadic Inuit life, lived through a forced relocation of her community, and despite adapting to a sedentary community lifestyle she continues to strongly advocate for the incorporation of Inuit worldviews. As a member of the Nunavut Department of Education’s Elder Advisory Committee since 2004, Atuat has helped develop curricula rooted in Inuit culture. Expertly skilled in Inuit skin preparation and clothing, her work on many films and documentaries with Isuma Productions led to a 2010 Genie Award for Best Costume Design for the movie, Before Tomorrow.  As one of the foremost Elder professors at the Pirurvik Centre, she readily shares with younger Inuit her deep knowledge of Inuit culture and life. She is known to remind Inuit about the importance of using Inuit culture as a foundation even in a modern sedentary lifestyle. Her contributions are essential to the efforts underway in Nunavut to ensure that the Inuit way of life is sustained for future generations. At 83 years old, Atuat continues to practice her culture and is well-respected for her contributions to Inuit life and thought.

Honours and Accomplishments

  • 2018: Contributed two chapters to Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, Second Edition: Beyond the Social.
  • 2017: Contributed two chapters to Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: What Inuit Have Always Known to Be True, a book that preserves Inuit knowledge and tradition through the contributions of well- known and respected Inuit Elders.
  • 2015: Elder and Inuit Knowledge Expert for the Early Childhood Education Elder Consultation.
  • 2012: Received Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
  • 2010: Received a Genie Award for Best Costume Design.
  • 2007: Contributed to the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Education Framework for Nunavut Schools.
  • 2001: Contributed to the research and story-writing for the critically acclaimed film Atanarjuat.