Lifetime achievement awards presented to deserving Island First Nation recipients

Ceclia Pitawanakwat

MANITOULIN—A total of six residents from Manitoulin First Nation communities have been recognized with lifetime achievement awards by the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity.

Sandra Margaret Peltier, Mary Jo Wabano and Myles Webkamigad, all from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, James Wegwanabe, the family of the late Theresa Recollet of Whitefish River First Nation and Hazel Recollet of M’Chigeeng First Nation all received awards virtually, recently.

The 2020 Evening of Excellence took place virtually on January 27 to honour those who have made their communities stronger and have enriched the lives of many with Anishinabek lifetime achievement awards. Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reginald Niganobe was the presenter. 

Sandra Margaret Peltier received an award in the culture category. The awards program reads, “Sandra Peltier is a survivor of Indian Day School and is committed to the preservation of Anishinaabemowin. As a young parent, she made the difficult decision to pursue her education, having to leave her children with extended family for periods of time while she travelled to school. It soon paid off as she successfully completed her studies and became a teacher. Her focus is on Anishinaabemowin, sharing her knowledge with youth and becoming a language specialist within her community. She also works with special needs children, accommodating the needs of the gifted children in her community. Outside of these interests, she can always be found lending a helping hand at cultural events and fundraisers, working toward the betterment of the community.”

James Megwanabe of Birch Island received an award in the public service category. “James Megwanabe was born and raised in his community and served as a councillor for two terms. He also served as the public works manager and fire chief.”

“Through Mr. Megwanabe’s leadership and guidance, the community was able to acquire the proper equipment to ensure the fire brigade was properly outfitted with the required equipment. He was instrumental in the formation of a mutual aid assistance agreement with the neighbouring communities and First Nations fire departments, ensuring expanded fire services and rescue capacity for all.”

“As fire departments are often underfunded, James worked tirelessly coordinating and supporting numerous fundraising activities raising tens of thousands of dollars,” the award profile reads. “These funds were used to purchase a new fire pumper truck, a rescue van, auxiliary equipment and uniforms. He was also very active with the community’s sports and recreation over the years as a coach, founder and player.”

Hazel Recollect received a lifetime achievement award in the public service category. “Hazel Recollect leads by example, using her culture and language along the way. At the start of her career, she worked for 26 years in the Department of Indian Affairs servicing First Nation communities in her role as a funding officer. In this role she worked closely with many First Nations along the North Shore and Manitoulin Island, aiding in financial arrangements, budgeting, reporting, accountability framework, employee benefits, capital and infrastructure, as well as social and youth employment. For the past 18 years, she has worked with the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin as their chief executive officer, holding the highest responsibility and accountability to the tribal chair and board of directors. She oversees the overall operation, administration and delivery of programs and services supporting Manitoulin First Nations in several areas such as education, economic development, technical services, among others.”

“For over 40 years (Ms. Recollet) has followed the Seven Grandfather Teachings in her daily responsibilities, sharing the language and culture and is truly an inspiring role model to others.”

Mary Jo Wabano received a lifetime award in the health category. “Mary Jo has been instrumental in progressive health innovative projects and initiatives that have had far-reaching impacts locally, provincially, and nationally. Since 1985, she has dedicated her time and energy working with First Nation youth and in the field of health. Currently serving as Health Services Director in her home community of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, she has a passion for children’s health and believes that we must plan for the seven generations to come.”

“She has worked tirelessly for many years focusing on health promotion and service, innovative programming and youth- focused activities. Most recently, she has worked on the development of a key initiative, an Indigenous children’s health and well-being measure to assist First Nations to identify local health needs regarding services from the children’s view utilizing cultural beliefs.”

“Mary Jo has completed much research and has published many papers over the years in the areas of health and children’s health,” her profile reads. “Her accomplishments are too many to mention and her impact throughout the Anishinabek Nation and beyond is too big to measure. She truly is a role model and the work that she has done and continues to do will have a lasting positive impact for First Nation youth for generations.”

An award was presented to family of the late Theresa Recollet, in the public service category. The award was accepted by her son Andy.

“The late Theresa Recollet tirelessly served her community of Whitefish River First Nation as a leader in the administrative department for over 40 years, in addition to serving two terms as councillor,” her award profile reads. “Her valued and trusted efforts have affected everyone in the community at some point in time. During this time, she has held the highest standards in regards to financial accountability  and transparency, helping the community towards financial strength and continued growth. She volunteered countless hours sharing her knowledge in financial services to many non-profit groups and fundraising activities and enjoyed helping in the community centre kitchen during events and gatherings.”

“Personally, she enjoyed sports and recreational activities, and was instrumental in the development of organized sports in the community. She loved baseball and was a fixture with the Birch Island Ladies ball club, winning several championships while traveling as far as the US to play tournaments. Sadly, Theresa recently passed to the Spirit World in 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer.”

Myles Webkamigad received an award in the public service category. He has, “Beginning in 1972, he spent 30 years working for his community in various roles, from band membership to payroll and eventually settled in the finance department as the operational controller of finance.” In 2005 Mr. Webkamigad began a new role with the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service as the finance manager, which he continues to this day, his award profile reads. “He is described as humble, kind, honest, ambitious with an excellent work ethic. Definitely traits of a great role model within the workplace setting and also throughout the community.”