Stage Door News

St. Catharines: Celebration of Nations 2021 announces Outstanding Achievement Awards

Friday, September 10, 2021

The 5th annual Celebration of Nations opened on Friday 10 September and the gathering showcased its third annual Celebration of Nations Outstanding Achievement Awards. These awards were designed to reflect the artistic and intellectual programming that has come to define and distinguish this innovative Indigenous expressive culture event.

Recipients span a broad range of those involved in the arts and traditions of their respective Indigenous peoples while also acknowledging the prominent roles and contributions made by our allies and accomplices toward Truth and Reconciliation. Again, this year, we honour the intelligence and talent of six highly accomplished and inspiring recipients.

“Honouring individuals who are highly accomplished is a manifestation of acknowledgement and affirmation that yields social and ceremonial benefits,” said Tim Johnson, artistic producer of Celebration of Nations and founder of the awards. “By recognizing achievement in a good way, a bond is formed between the recipient and the community that supports the modeling of appropriate cultural and ethical standards of behaviour and success.”

The 2021 Celebration of Nations Outstanding Achievement Award-winners are: 

Outstanding Achievement Performing Arts – Julie Lumsden

Every now and then along comes an exceptional new performer who resonates with talent and vitality and who instantly captures the interest and fascination of audiences. Our recipient of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Performing Arts fits aptly within this description. As a proud member of the Manitoba Métis Federation, with Scottish and German settler ancestry, she occupies a prestigious position in the ensemble of the Shaw Festival, the second largest repertory theatre company in North America. Artists of stature selected for the Shaw ensemble, even those who might fit within the emerging category, are multi-talented performers. Such is the case for this performer, who has been cast in numerous classic plays such as Gypsy, which leverages her incredible voice, to other great works such as Brigadoon, Sense & Sensibility, Les Misérables, and Peter Pan. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice Performance from the University of Manitoba, and in addition to the Shaw, has performed on numerous stages across the country. The Winnipeg Free Press said of her work, she “is terrific in the lead ... She's also got a marvellous voice, which is showcased to great effect." Moreover, her family and Indigenous values are firmly rooted in place. When asked about what being an artist means to her, she answered as follows: “To me, being an artist is the result of work that started generations before me. I am very privileged to get to live my dreams, and that means I must continue to grow, learn, and train as much as I possibly can to honour my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.” For her expansive talent and humility, and respect and acknowledgment of her elders, we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Performing Arts, Julie Lumsden.

Outstanding Achievement Visual Arts – Leona Skye-Grandmond

Her art can be seen at the St. Catharines Ministry building in the form of an elaborate 6-foot hand drum, in Queens Park, Toronto, and, in fact, all over the world from Switzerland to France to Japan and throughout her homelands of Turtle Island. As an Indigenous artist of Ojibwa and Mohawk decent residing in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she has earned well deserved accolades and recognition. Earlier this year her achievements were highly rewarded when she became a Niagara Falls Arts and Culture Wall of Fame inductee. She is also an Allister Yonge Endowment Fund recipient and has been recognized for her many good works with the Indigenous community and within the region relating to issues such as Anti-Human Trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. With a great love for her traditional roots, she fearlessly creates works directly related to issues concerning her people and heritage through a vast array of imagery. With an emotional attachment to each piece, she attempts to bring forward the truths surrounding Indigenous people through the beauty of art. Love and light, truth and reconciliation, guide the way. For her creativity, for her refined aesthetic, and for her ever-inspiring commitment to visual expression and the human condition, we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Visual Arts, Leona Skye-Grandmond.

Outstanding Achievement Intellectual Advancement – Rick Hill

Known for being a renowned educator of Indigenous cultures, histories, and arts whose visionary work shaped the programming of several influential educational institutions including the Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian where he served as Assistant Director for Public Programs, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe where he served as Director, Native American Center for the Living Arts where he served as Museum Director, Niagara Falls Museums as an historian and advisor, and as a master lecturer at several post-secondary institutions including McMaster University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Six Nations Polytechnic, and First Nations Technical Institute among many others, our next recipient has led a life virtually unmatched in effective and influential productivity. Additionally, as an accomplished artist, researcher, and writer he became an essential resource for numerous organizations involved in the broad programming and educational activities centered upon the bicentenary of the War of 1812, was instrumental in this regard in establishing the Landscape of Nations Commemorative Memorial in Queenston Heights Park, and, as an Indigenous Innovations Specialist, is currently advising on a number of projects for Mohawk College and with LON 360° Inc. on book publishing, exhibit development, and heritage site planning. For his tremendous archive of accomplishment,we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Intellectual Advancement, the remarkable Rick Hill.

Outstanding Achievement Empathic Traditions – Jennifer Dockstader

We come to another of our prestigious awards, and one that carries a particular Indigenous credential, the award for Outstanding Achievement in Empathic Traditions. Our recipient has worked with her Indigenous community for over 30 years to help people become stronger and healthier. In terms of service her experience could be rendered visually as a majestic mountain. She has served as president of Niagara Chapter Native Women Inc., president of Survivor’s House of Hope, and president of the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the YMCA of Niagara and the Board of Directors for the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. Where she finds the time we have no idea, but suspect it comes from a love for her people and is built upon a strong educational foundation. She graduated from Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts as the top music student with a Major in Vocal Music and went on to achieve an advanced degree in Psychology from Temple University with a specialization in Addiction and Childhood Sexual Abuse. She currently serves as executive director for the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre. Starting in this role in 2014, she has worked to facilitate local paradigm shifts about Indigenous peoples and build a stronger community. She believes in the vision and mission statement of the organization, “To Enhance All Aspects of Native Life While Extending Friendship to the Community” — and — Working “Together for a Stronger Tomorrow.” A proud mother, auntie, daughter, sister, granddaughter, and friend, she believes in the strength of women no matter which role they take in society. Hailing from Oneida Nation of the Thames, Bear Clan, and a citizen of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy she is a strong believer in her people, her Indigenous traditions, and in the value that there is no higher honor than to be of service to the people. For that we extend not only this award, but our love and admiration! As a result, we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Empathic Traditions, the remarkable Jennifer Dockstader.

Outstanding Achievement Language and Culture – Tehahenteh Frank Miller

It’s impossible to overstate the contributions of our next recipient for language and culture, a man who has led a life of exemplary service to his community and to all who have sought out guidance and support. As a Turtle Clan Kanyen’kehaka (Mohawk) from Six Nations of the Grand River Haudenosaunee Territoryhe represents cultural continuity. He is a fluent Kanyen’kehaka speaker raised by his grandparents, Harry and Beatrice, who were also fluent speakers. Ever since he was young, he has remained dedicated to restoring and revitalizing Indigenous language and culture through teaching, curriculum development, public lectures and community programs and ceremonies. In 2000 he co-wrote the Native Languages curriculum document, grades 9 - 12, for Ontario’s Ministry of Education and Training, and in 1994 was a key contributor to Literacy Ontario’s Mohawk Language Standardization Project. He is the author of several language textbooks including, The Teaching, The Way We Speak, and Kanyen’kehaka (Mohawk Language)and is currently completing a comprehensive, thematic Kanyen’kehaka dictionary. Before his foray into Kanyen’kehá:ka teachings Tehahenteh spent 25 years as a commercial artist and business owner in Toronto, Ontario. For being a Haudenosaunee knowledge keeper who consistently acts in accordance with his culture’s principles and values of the Good Mind, and who has generously, graciously, and tirelessly assisted thousands of people to retain their language, we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Language and Culture, the extraordinary Tehahenteh Frank Miller.

Outstanding Achievement Two Row Alliance – Gervan Fearon

For his strong commitment to Indigenous peoples, we recognize our final recipient not only for his intelligence, but also his commitment and dedication to ethics and shared values, to high standards of conduct and faithful partnership. In our region of Niagara, he began a term as Brock University’s President and Vice-Chancellor on 1 Aug 2017. Before joining Brock, he served at Brandon University as President and Vice-Chancellor (2014-17) and also as Provost and Vice-President Academic (2013-14). Prior to his time at Brandon, our recipient served several other academic positions, including as the Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University; as Associate Dean at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies; as a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington; and as an Associate Professor at York University. These are extraordinary qualifications for an extraordinary man. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Western Ontario, after having received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Economics at the University of Guelph. He also holds a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) designation. Besides academic achievements, his career includes several years in the Ontario government in roles as a senior analyst at Treasury Board Division, Ontario Ministry of Finance, and an executive assistant to Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. He is passionate about the role of post-secondary education in supporting regional development and has served on numerous community boards and helped champion significant community development initiatives. And although he recently began a new position as president of George Brown College, we couldn’t allow him to leave the area without expressing our acknowledgement of his contributions and sincere appreciation for everything he’s done to create bridges of understanding, to advance Truth and Reconciliation. For all of this and much more, we honour in the category of Outstanding Achievement for the Two Row Alliance, Gervan Fearon.

We congratulate all 2021 Celebration of Nations Outstanding Achievement Award recipients.

The Celebration of Nations Outstanding Achievement Awards are determined by a committee comprised of Tim Johnson, Michele-Elise Burnett, Sara Palmieri, and Annie Wilson (core founders of the gathering). As the tone and tenor of the awards have been established and a critical mass of highly credentialed recipients achieved, the committee will expand to include previous award winners as both nominators and deciders of the awards in 2022.

Celebration of Nations continues through Sunday 12 September – with both in-person and livestreamed events, concerts, workshops and teachings. All are welcome. Learn more:

All livestreams are FREE to watch via Facebook or YouTube – with no registration necessary. All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).