A new celebration of Indigenous achievement

Indigenous Leaders Gala honours students’ hard work

As a finale to Indigenous students’ month at the University of Manitoba, the first-ever Indigenous Leaders’ gala was organized with the hope of inspiring Indigenous students across the university. 

Nov. 28 marked the new university event, which featured an award celebration, dinner and traditional performances such as powwow dancers, Métis jiggers and a drum group.

UMSU Indigenous students’ representative Ishkode Catcheway co-ordinated the gala in order to create a gender-inclusive celebration of Indigenous students on campus. 

Awards ranged from faculty-specific to more humorous ones like “most Cree-ative” or “most deadly,” the latter recognizing a particularly cool student.  

Winner of the most Cree-ative award faculty of arts student Alexis Ross said winning made her feel honoured and humbled. She is proud as she works  toward reclaiming her Indigenous identity. 

“We deserve to take up space,” Ross said. “We deserve to be acknowledged for all the unnoticed hard work that we do.” 

Ross expressed how motivational witnessing the event is for the Indigenous community. It “empowers youth to go after what they want,” she said. “You can do what you put your mind to.” 

Catcheway said she hopes to see the Indigenous leader Gala become an annual event. In the future, she would  like to include awards recognizing student parents and two-spirited individuals. 

Sheri Shorting, co-president of the University of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association, received the trailblazer award. She noted the encouragement the award gave her to continue creating more inclusive spaces for Indigenous students and serving Indigenous Peoples. 

The event was a step toward “representation, reconciliation and creating a more inclusive space,” Shorting said. 

Shorting believes the gala will help Indigenous students “feel safe, seen and welcome on campus.”

“It is important for the university to hold an event that recognizes and celebrates Indigenous culture, Indigeneity, and especially, Indigenous accomplishments,” said Shorting. 

Brad Albert, a fourth-year student in the faculty of science, received the most supportive award. He emphasized the importance of the gala when it comes to bringing the Indigenous community together toward healing and reconciliation. 

“This is a really great event for Indigenous students to appreciate each other and become a community again,” he said. 

The awards were student-nominated, with nominees open to undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members. The recipients were selected by the Indigenous student working group. 

The person in business award recipient, John Lodge, expressed the significance of celebrating all 19 winners at the gala. 

“We don’t get these opportunities as Indigenous students,” Lodge said. “We don’t get to go out there and show our achievements and what we were able to accomplish, so it was really nice to get the recognition that we deserve.”