“All my life I have worked for the rights of Indigenous peoples, for our peoples, for their human rights, their treaty rights, I’ve always done that.” —Regena Crowchild
WindSpeaker.com: Strong Indigenous women will be recognized for contributions to their communities at the upcoming 27th Annual Esquao Awards gala evening to be held at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino in Calgary.
On May 12, First Nation, Métis and Inuit women from Alberta will receive awards recognizing their achievements accomplished while overcoming the challenges and obstacles that faced them. “Over the last 27 years we have been honouring women that have been nominated from their communities (for) doing great work in their communities,” said Rachelle Venne, CEO of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.
“We are trying to amplify the spirit, strength and resiliency of Indigenous women in Alberta.” The awards were co-founded by Marggo Pariseau and Muriel Stanley Venne, who both made significant contributions advocating for Indigenous women, and moving their issues to the forefront.
The recipients of this year’s Esquao awards include the first Indigenous woman dentist, business owners, teacher schools and leaders.
Each year a special award is also given to one recipient. This year, the Circle of Hounour inductee, Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award will be presented to Regena Crowchild of Tsuut’ina Nation.
“Regena has some really great experiences over the years and I think is very well respected by chiefs and other leaders from the communities. We are very excited to have her,” Rachelle Venne said. “She was the first woman selected for council in her community in the 1970s for many terms and was recently re-elected in 2022.”
The Circle of Honour Inductee, Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award. is the only one the board of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women selects. It’s for women who are in leadership positions who have stood up and fought for the rights of Indigenous women in a significant way.
Crowchild, 79, more than fits that description. She has spent most of her career supporting Indigenous people, as a whole, to understand their Indigenous rights and to fight for those rights. “All my life I have worked for the rights of Indigenous peoples, for our peoples, for their human rights, their treaty rights, I’ve always done that,” Crowchild said. “Many of our people went to residential school and never had the opportunity to learn about their history, and the textbooks don’t have the true history about our relationship with the Crown and with Canada, or the true history of the lands. That was my thing to do, my purpose as I understood it. It is a difficult fight and it still continues.”
Crowchild explained that when she was just a young child her father taught her to understand the details written into the treaties, to teach others about the rights outlined in those documents and to contribute to implementing those rights for her people. “I guess I was kind of a pioneer here,” said Crowchild, who was also the first woman elected to sit on the Indian Association of Alberta board.
Throughout the years Crowchild has travelled nationally to meet with leaders to discuss the relationship between Canada and First Peoples and how to better implement treaty rights. “The government of Canada did so much wrong to our people,” she said. “Canada has to pay for those wrongs they did to us.”
Crowchild said it is events like the Esquao Awards that encourages other women to get involved and show the important role women have in their communities, families and in the world. “These 16 awards are just awesome. It encourages the women and inspires them to do better and get out there and do things,” she said.
On May 12, Crowchild will proudly put on the ribbon skirt made for her by her daughter and gather with other like-minded women to celebrate their accomplishments.