Canadian Governor General Julie Payette bestowed the Order of Canada on several individuals Friday, including an Inuk and two First Nation advocates and elders.
The investiture ceremony for the Order, one of the country’s highest civilian honours, was held at Rideau Hall, where Mi’kmaq elder and former Flat Bay Chief Calvin White, lawyer and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Judith Sayers, and former Kitikmeot Inuit Association President and Inuk advocate James Eetoolook were honoured.
White helped organize and unite Indigenous people in Newfoundland and Labrador almost a half century ago to fight for recognition and rights. In Ktaqamkuk, the Mi’kmaq name for the Island of Newfoundland, White brought people in communities together to form what would later become the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.
“With steadfast conviction and determination, he challenged legislation before the courts that eventually led to the establishment of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band,” says a media advisory from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.
“An Elder and cultural mentor to his community and to Mi’kmaq across the province, he strives to preserve and celebrate their unique identity.”
Sayers, “a powerful voice for sustainable energy development in Indigenous communities,” formerly served as Chief of the Hupacasath First Nation, “where she spearheaded the development of a run-of-river renewable energy project that has generated economic growth and employment opportunities,” the advisory says.
“An outspoken advocate for energy development that respects Indigenous rights, she has hosted conferences and workshops to impart best practices, and developed a toolkit to guide other communities in implementing clean energy projects of their own.”
Eetoolook, from Taloyoak, Nunavut, has been a “tireless advocate for Inuit rights, culture and heritage for 45 years.”
A former president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Eetoolook “was involved in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement negotiations, a landmark achievement on the path to self-governance.
“He has also served on multiple boards, notably as chair of the Inuit Wildlife and Environment Council, and has taken part in many initiatives related to environmental and wildlife protection.”
The Order of Canada was also given to Douglas Stenton, Nunavut’s “first official archaeologist,” who also “served as executive director of the Inuit Heritage Trust and as the territory’s longest-serving director of heritage,” the governor general’s media advisory says.
Stenton “was instrumental in shaping legislation to protect the rich history of the people of Nunavut,” and his “research and investigations of sites containing evidence of Sir John Franklin’s expedition contributed to the historic discovery of HMS Erebus in 2014.”