2019 Award Winner: Cheryl Casimer (?aq‡smaknik pi¢ak pa‡kiy)
Cheryl Casimer is a citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation and is from the community of ?aq̓am, which is located near Cranbrook in the southeastern corner of BC. Ms. Casimer is a longstanding advocate for First Nations issues and perspectives, and is committed to building better bridges of understanding between neighboring cultures.
Ms. Casimer is a former Chief and Councillor of the ?aq̓am First Nation. She was also previously employed as the Director of Treaty, Lands & Resources for the Ktunaxa Treaty Council.
Ms. Casimer has served on numerous boards and committees over the past 20 years, including one term as Co-Chair of the First Nations Summit (2002-2004) and one term as a board member of the BC Assembly of First Nations. She also previously served as a board member and President of the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society (KKCFSS).
Ms. Casimer was elected in June 2019 for a third consecutive three-year term on the First Nations Summit Political Executive, which is mandated to carry out specific tasks related to Aboriginal Title and Rights negotiations with British Columbia and Canada and other issues of common concern to First Nations in British Columbia.
2018 Award Recipient: Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo BC
While typically the award is presented to an individual, this year we have identified a post-secondary institute that has contributed in many important ways to the healthy, holistic learning and care of young Aboriginal children and their families and who we believe is a deserving recipient of the Perry Shawana Award. The institution is Vancouver Island University. The main campus of VIU is situated in the Snuneymux’w territory (Nanaimo). Satellite campuses are on the territories of the Cowichan Tribes, Snaw- naw-as First Nation (Parksville) and Tla’amin First Nation (Powell River).
VIU (formerly Malaspina University College) has a long history of working closely with local Aboriginal communities and agencies to provide education and services that enhance the learning experiences and opportunities for Aboriginal students in First Nation Studies, Child and Youth Care, and Early Childhood Education and Care as well as Aboriginal students attending other courses and programs across the campuses. Since the early nineties, First Nation Elders have been central to the development of the programs mentioned and have provided traditional and cultural teachings as a key part of those programs and courses. One of the earliest transferable First Nation early childhood programs in BC resulted from a partnership with Malaspina, the University of Victoria, Cowichan Tribes and the government of BC. The program was offered as part of an Early Childhood and/or Child and Youth Care (CYC) diploma program at Malaspina’s Cowichan campus. Successful completion of the diploma provided the opportunity for the First Nation graduates to go on to complete a degree in CYC. The program was unique in that it allowed transfer of students into partnering colleges and universities in BC. Many of the graduates of the early (and later) First Nations ECEC & CYC diplomas and degree went on to hold advanced, key positions at VIU, other institutions, community agencies, and government.
Over the last three decades, VIU has undertaken many diverse initiatives to strengthen the presence of local First Nations culture and tradition at VIU including (but not limited to): establishing Elders in Residence at all campuses and ensuring that the Elders are acknowledged as faculty within the institute for their traditional and cultural knowledge and expertise; creating a beautiful cultural gathering place for Aboriginal students and faculty, Shquap’thut, at the main campus in Nanaimo; establishing a Director of Aboriginal Education for the institute, actively recruiting Aboriginal faculty and administrative staff across the campuses; and developing numerous courses. In response to the Truth and Reconciliation ‘calls for action’ in 2015 VIU established Reconciliation Road a process by which VIU engages communities in the region, bringing people together to build cross-cultural awareness and understanding around the critical work of reconciliation.
Since 1995, about ten First Nation ECEC programs have been offered in collaboration with local First Nation communities including: Cowichan Tribes (Duncan), WSANEC School Board (Saanich), Tla’amin (Powell River) and Stzu’minus (Chemainus). In recent years, the ECEC program has continued First Nation delivery of courses and has worked closely with BCACCS on several projects including the development of online curriculum for the “Connections: Strengthening Approaches to Screening and Assessment” project. The Connections project has created on-line courses (funded through Health Canada) and delivered them to students many of whom are working in Aboriginal Head Start Programs across Canada.
In the mid-2000s, VIU faculty (including the ECEC program, their Dean, and the university executive) undertook a lengthy and exciting process to establish the first BC Regional Innovation Chair for Aboriginal Child Development (AECD Chair) in the province. This was made possible with funding from both the provincial and federal governments. The VIU AECD Chair position was approved by government in 2010 with an interim chair already in place. After a lengthy recruiting process an Aboriginal Chair, Danielle Alphonse from Cowichan Tribes, was appointed in 2013.
The AECD Chair and BCACCS have collaborated on a number of projects including Aboriginal Early Childhood Development Assessment: Issues & Insights in a Cultural Context (2013 to present time) and Transitions to Kindergarten (2017-18). The AECD Chair has been able to work with BCACCS contractors on the more recent project, sharing her knowledge, experiences, and expertise. Much of the expertise specific to transitions into kindergarten was gained through a multi-year initiative with Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre in Nanaimo, the Creating Quality Transitions for Aboriginal Children and Families projects. Over seven years, the partners (including School District 79) have collaborated to develop culturally appropriate curriculum, early childhood programming, and culturally responsive assessment and evaluation tools. These projects were co-funded by the Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network, VIU, and Coast Salish Employment and Training Society.
The list of accomplishments could go on. However, I think it is most appropriate to focus on what is really central to all of this work and to the decision to present the Perry Shawana Award to this particular recipient. While VIU would not be is not alone in their efforts to support Aboriginal students and collaborate with First Nation communities and Aboriginal organizations, it is not so much what they do as how they do it that stands out.
The history of VIU’s efforts and approaches show a commitment to and respect of Aboriginal students, faculty, and community and a vision of high quality, inclusive educational experiences for all. In their work with BCACCS, they have intentionally created meaningful, positive and productive collaborations. VIU has actively supported Elder involvement in all our work together. Further, they have shown a willingness to consider how to ensure policy, content and processes that demonstrate sensitivity to Aboriginal culture, traditions and protocols. The VIU faculty and others have protected time and space to build positive and equitable professional relationships and interactions, seeking ways to strengthen understandings between project partners.
Uniquely, VIU and their faculty have not expected to ‘shoe-horn’ in program development, decisions, and related policies. Although VIU experiences many of the same constraints as other institutions they have shown willingness to work toward creating institutional practice and policy that acknowledges their partners as equals and that actively seeks culturally appropriate, relevant, and sensitive ways to accomplish this.
The early childhood initiatives and programs offered by the institution have shown strong leadership in their local communities and beyond to build programs and develop curricula that reflect the First Nation and Aboriginal communities in the region and that respond to the particular issues and interests of the organizations with whom they work. VIU and BCACCS partnerships have shown that we can create new ways and ‘good’ ways of working together that benefit students and early childhood practitioners, ultimately supporting Aboriginal early childhood practice that benefits the children and families of our communities.
In closing, our hands are raised in thanks to the Perry Shawana’s family who supported, in his name, this recognition of excellence in the early childhood communities. I am very pleased today to present the Perry Shawana award to Vancouver Island University. The president of VIU Dr. Ralph Nilson has arrived from China (just this morning) to accept the award. Dr. Nilson is accompanied by Danielle Alphonse the BC Regional Innovation Chair for Aboriginal Early Childhood Development.
2017 Award Recipient: Rosalind Williams
Rosalind’s life, education, and career are inseparable from the historical context of her community; in a very short time home life became chaotic and the community deteriorated. She was born in 1949 and grew up on the Splats’In (Spallumcheen) Indian Reserve of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation. Rosalind was the third of eleven (seven surviving) children. She remembers an idyllic early childhood, hunting and fishing, riding horses, and speaking Secwepemc. She has spent three decades with many Elders from the Secwepemc and other nations exploring history, culture, and language. Language preservation and studies continue to be a focus for her. Rosalind is developing a lesson plan for preschool children translating language together with cultural concepts, to be integrated into the Splats’In Childcare Program.
2016 Award Recipient: Lenora Joe and the staff at Mem7iman Child Development Program
Lenora and the staff at Mem7iman are remarkable educators and advocates. Mem7iman Child Development Program is truly inspiring and innovative and is situated in the heart of the Shishalh community. Mem7iman’s program is rooted in culture, a connection to the land and a practice of responsive curriculum. The leadership demonstrates a commitment to high quality practices, strength-based, family-centred approaches and dedication to supporting staff to access high quality professional development. Mem7iman is a true leader in the field of Aboriginal Early Child Development (ECD). At Mem7iman the children and teachers are seen as researchers, working together to further their education and this effort makes them this year’s choice for the Perry Shawana Award.
2015 Award Recipient: Hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman
Shxwetelemel-elhot (Shwi tall mol eth lot), also known as Hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman, was born in Clearwater, BC then moved to Washington State where she graduated from high school, and raised her family.
After returning to BC, Maureen studied at the University of the Fraser Valley and also began her Council work for Skawahlook First Nation, a member community of the Sto:lo Nation, known as the People of the River.
Skawahlook First Nation practices a matrilineal system and Maureen was handed the responsibility of being Hereditary Chief of her Nation in 1999.
In addition to her Council duties, she is the political Chair for the Aboriginal Children and Families Chiefs Coalition, which is comprised of 13 Chiefs as the Board members, who advocate for programs and services for children and families within their communities.
She is also involved with several committees and boards that are committed to upholding First Nations Rights and Health issues.
Hereditary Chief Maureen Chapman’s commitment to Aboriginal Early Childhood Development and Care and her tireless efforts in defense of Aboriginal Rights and support of First Nations communities, and our children’s health and wellness are what make her this year’s choice for the Perry Shawana Award.
2014 Award Recipient: Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Currently the President of the UBCIC, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has constantly served First Nations communities within Band administration, by sitting on Council, and in a wide variety of roles. Throughout his esteemed career, he has been a champion for Aboriginal communities and our children. His defense of Aboriginal Rights and support of First Nations communities, and our children’s health and wellness is undying.
He gives generously of his energy to take an active role in the defense of Aboriginal Title and Rights by readily offering support to Native communities in need and has taken a personal approach seeing first-hand proposed mining sites in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, Taku River and Teztan Biny. He has seen the fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, he has met the Prime Minister on Parliament Hill, he has paddled the Peace River with Elders, leadership and youth of Treaty 8 as they fight the proposed Site C, he has burned referendum ballots with fellow chiefs in protest and proudly stood on the steps of the Legislature with 3000 other people united under the Title and Rights Alliance banner. These are a few examples of his dedication to the rights, health and well-being of Aboriginal people, communities, and children.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s commitment to Aboriginal Early Childhood Development and Care and his tireless efforts in defense of Aboriginal Title and Rights are inspiring.
2013 Award Recipient: Tyrone McNeil
Tyrone McNeil is from Seabird Island of the Sto:lo and is father to two daughters 14 and 22 years old. Tyrone has been involved in First Nation education, languages and children and families advocacy for about 15 years. In that time he has come to learn the importance of early childhood development and early childhood education specific to First Nations.
As past chair of the First Nation Early Childhood Development Council, Tyrone worked with like-minded First Nations throughout the province to develop the First Nation Early Childhood Development Framework. The Framework is meant to bring all First Nations in the province together in the early creation of a First Nation ECD/ECE system built for and by First Nations. It is with collaboration and involvement of all those with capacity in ECD/ECE that we will map out and implement a system to maximum benefit of First Nations children, parents, families and communities.
2012 Award Recipient: Dr. Jessica Ball
Dr. Jessica Ball is a professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria. She has worked extensively in innovative programs to sustain cultural diversity and support community development in the interests of children and families. In 1999, she joined the First Nations Partnership Program, which has broken new ground in re-conceptualizing early childhood education and training, and advancing the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge into our understanding of how to protect and promote child well-being while sustaining culture, traditional languages, and community social structures. Over the last 15 years, Dr. Ball has worked with many of our First Nations and Aboriginal communities in the development of early childhood programs and services and has mentored Aboriginal students into leadership roles.
Dr. Ball is the author of over 40 refereed journal articles and book chapters. In addition, Dr. Ball’s research with First Nations partners has documented the process and outcomes of innovative work in rural First Nations communities that have created inter-sectoral and integrated community-based children’s services. To represent these promising practices, she has elaborated the concept of ‘hook and hub’ and has received international recognition for her recent book about this approach: Early Childhood Care and Development Programs as Hook and Hub: Promising Practices in First Nations Communities.
2011 Award Recipient: Rose Point
Rose Point is from Thompson River, Seabird Island. She married Cagney Point of Musqueam, where she still resides today. Rose has focused much of her life on health care and has held long-term commitments with the Musqueam Education Department, the Vancouver School Board, the UBC Institute of Aboriginal Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Native Indian Teacher Education Program at UBC. Having witnessed seven generations of her own family, she has also fostered many children and has been trained by family midwives. Rose enjoys sharing her wealth of knowledge about traditional infant child care, medicinal plants and general health care practices. She is the Elder in Residence at the UBC First Nations House of Learning, British Columbia’s Institute of Technology (BCIT) and the UBC Institute for Aboriginal Health. She has received numerous awards for early childcare education service and is a shining example of the pursuit of lifelong learning and community service.
2010 Award Recipient: Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Ms. Turpel-Lafond was appointed BC’s first Representative for Children and Youth in 2006, and was re-appointed for a second 5 year term beginning in the Fall of 2011. She is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and a champion for the voices, rights and well-being of our children.
2009 Award Recipient: Dr. Margo Greenwood
Dr. Margo Greenwood is the Academic Lead at the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) in Prince George. She is an Indigenous scholar of Cree ancestry with more than 20 years’ experience in the field of early childhood education.
2008 Award Recipient: Grand Chief Edward John (Akile Ch’oh)
Grand Chief Edward John (First Nations Summit) is a Hereditary Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation located on the banks of the Nak’al Bun (Stuart Lake) in Northern BC. Having worked as a leader in Indigenous politics, business and community development, he has dedicated his life to the pursuit of social and economic justice for Canada’s Indigenous people.
2007 Award Recipient: Cindy Blackstock
A member of the Gitksan Nation, Cindy Blackstock has worked in the field of child and family services for over 20 years. An author of over 50 publications, her key interests include exploring and addressing the causes of disadvantage for Aboriginal children and families by promoting equitable and culturally based interventions.
2006 Award Recipient: Debra Foxcroft
Debra Foxcroft is a member of Tseshaht First Nation, located in Port Alberni. She has worked with First Nations communities for over 25 years and was involved in the creation of the first delegated First Nations agency in BC. In her work for and with Aboriginal children and families, she strives to implement the vision of Aboriginal communities reclaiming responsibility for their children – a vision that has been in the hearts of First Nations for many generations.
2005 Award Recipient: Chief Emma Palmantier
Chief Emma Palmantier, Lake Babine Nation, has extensive experience in northern health issues and Aboriginal politics. In addition to her work as Chief of the Lake Babine Nation, she has also served on the Provincial Chiefs Health Committee and worked for the College of New Caledonia and for the Northern Health Authority.