The second annual Eagle Awards ceremony in Mississaugas of Credit First Nation (MCFN) recognized 2020 and 2021 honourees over the weekend.
The 2020 ceremony had to be postponed due to COVID-19.
Three community builders were acknowledged that year for their dedication to MCFN including Canada’s first Indigenous appeals court judge Justice Harry Laforme, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdesell, and the late Karl King, a community educator and devoted volunteer.
Speaking at the event, Chief Stacey Laforme offered thanks to the honoured members of MCFN and to those who have become friends of the community.
“It means a lot on a personal level, but it means a lot overall too because one of our mandates has been about building relationships, about making allies, about having friends, about doing things that benefit everybody, and this is part of that,” he said.
Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell has been an honoured guest at MCFN’s Three Fires Powwow on a number of occasions and is recognized with the 2021 Friends of Mississaugas of Credit First Nation Award for her support of treaty rights and the Moccasin Identifier Project, which promotes awareness of significant cultural sites and the ancestral presence of First Nations and Métis communities in the province.
A video was played at the ceremony in remembrance of the late Karl King, a community builder and educator who received the 2020 Community Volunteer Award.
King taught children about Anishinaabe culture and brought traditional activities such as drumming to the Lloyd S. King elementary school where he was an educational assistant.
Laforme was born and raised in MCFN and is the first Indigenous person to sit on Ontario’s Court of Appeal. Laforme also prepared a video statement to thank the community for the 2020 Trailblazer Award.
“…the fact that this honour comes from my own community as it does, is about as special I think as anybody can get, and it’s certainly special for me. It’s humbling, it will be a source of pride forever,” he said.
Chief Stacey Laforme explained that while the 2020 awards were postponed because of COVID, this year’s awards were held outdoors with limited attendance and protocols for mask-wearing and hand sanitizing.
The 2021 Eagle Award recipients include Carol Tobicoe, Volunteer award, Joanne Webb, Trailblazer award, Jane Beecroft, Friend of the First Nation.
Tobicoe has dedicated her time to community events including the Three Fires Annual Pow Wow and is currently supporting the preservation of history, language and culture as a member of the MCFN culture committee. She is the first woman ever to be elected to MCFN Council.
At the awards ceremony, Tobicoe was asked what she is most proud of in her career.
“Just being a member of the reserve, of the band and being able to be with other people and have friends and family,” Tobicoe said.
“I’ve just enjoyed living here and being a member. I’ve always tried to do everything that I could to help anybody or everybody.”
Webb is an advocate for Indigenous rights through positions on councils and committees in the province including the Ontario Aboriginal Council, Ontario Women’s Committee, and Ontario Human Rights Committee.
She was also the former Ontario division Diversity Vice President for Aboriginal Workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Webb is acknowledged by MCFN with the 2021 Trailblazer Award.
Beecroft lead the Community History Project as part of the Toronto Historical Association and is acknowledged for work done to keep MCFN history alive with the 2021 Friends of MCFN Award. In a statement, Carolyn King, former Chief of MCFN said Beecroft petitioned the City of Toronto and provincial as well as federal governments to learn about the Mississaugas of Credit.
“She is truly one of our best friends,” King said.
Chief Laforme affirmed the importance of gratitude and belonging at the ceremony.
“We always want to thank those who do so much for us whether their members or whether they’re allies or friends and we haven’t been doing that enough. So we came up with the awards,” Chief Laforme said.
“The awards help us to remember who we are and where we belong, and we belong everywhere.”
He is hopeful that next year’s event will be unrestricted and all can attend.