Lucy Beaverbones dancing as a jingle dress dancer.
Christine Hancock Photo (submitted by Blaine Beaverbones)
When Lucy Beaverbones’ mom proudly told her she won an award, the Grade 4 student was curious to find out which award she was talking about.
Beaverbones had been nominated early in 2020, and after the long months during the pandemic she and her mom had nearly forgotten about the award until an email popped up in her inbox to congratulate her.
She was one of 12 winners in the province of the 2020 Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Award from the Alberta School Boards’ Association.
“To me and my family, it’s pretty amazing. Very proud of her. She’s an amazing spitfire girl,” said her mom, Blaine Beaverbones.
The award celebrates First Nations, Metis and Inuit students from across Alberta who model strength and commitment in the pursuit of their personal education path and who embrace their own gifts, strengths, and potential while celebrating the ways of their people.
Lucy’s school teacher, Hywel Phillips, nominated her for the award, and the Friendship Centre also wrote a letter in support of Lucy’s nomination.
Phillips explained that a group of teachers decided that the students leading the indigenous cultural activity within Crescent Valley Elementary School deserved an opportunity to be nominated for this prestigious award.
“We decided that Lucy would be a prime candidate, she was one amongst others that were nominated for the award,” he said.
Phillips got to know Lucy in his Grade Three class last year, where she displayed a passion for her culture.
“When she was dancing within the school, that’s where I got to see Lucy’s passion, that was dancing for the school kids. You could just see her beam with pride as she was able to share her culture with the other students in the school. She has also been a role model and a leader for our younger indigenous students, taking them under her wing and helping them through the process of dancing and promoting her culture,” Phillips said.
Lucy dances in the pow wow circle as a jingle dress dancer, is part of the youth group at the Hinton Friendship Centre, and tries to be involved with pretty much everything she can be involved with.
Her family is in tune with their culture and it’s important to her to follow in their footsteps. Her mother added that while it’s sometimes hard, she follows their cultural protocols of womanhood.
“There are certain things that young women cannot do in our culture. A prime example is not to bother with boy stuff, it’s really hard on her but she does try,” Blaine said.
The nine-year-old is very close with her grandma, her kookum, who Blaine believes is a knowledge keeper and shares her stories with Lucy. Her kookum is also an elder for the Friendship Centre.
“She’s a pretty resilient little girl. She has a really big personality. She’s very in tune with her culture and she strives to be great in school,” Blaine added.
Last year, Lucy also won the student of the week award, which was a big accomplishment for her. Blaine added that it’s important for her family to keep up the traditions and keep the culture alive throughout the next generation.
While Lucy understands a little bit of her family’s language, she doesn’t understand it all.
“I understand my language, that’s Saulteaux. That’s a really big importance for us, it’s more of an art than anything now. It’s really rare to find Saulteaux-speaking natives within her generation. Language is pretty important for us,” Blaine said.
Blaine’s father is a pipe carrier, and it would be pretty significant for her children to pass that on, as well as the stories and knowledge from her mother.
Blaine believes her daughter won the award due to her dedication to their culture and her involvement in the community.
“I believe she is one of the first ones within our school division to get it. So it’s a pretty important one,” Blaine added.
Blaine was told that no ceremony would take place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that her daughter will still receive an award.
Lucy was one of 12 recipients of the award, and 18 students from across the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) received an Honourable Mention.
The Alberta School Boards’ Association received over 240 submissions from around the province this year.
These awards offer the opportunity to celebrate exceptional students nominated by members of their education communities.
Students are nominated by other students, teachers, principals, superintendents, education directors, trustees, school staff, Elders, or a member of the education community.
These nominations include detailed examples related to why the student is nominated and how they exemplify certain attitudes and characteristics outlined by the award.
Those characteristics include perseverance, maintaining strength, self-care and a healthy attitude, embracing cultural identity and promoting the strength, beauty and value of culture and community, modelling leadership through a cultural lens, respecting and honouring the autonomy, empowerment, and agency of others to self determine, improvement in work ethic, attitude, attendance and interaction with others, honesty and honour, and kindness towards others.
The nominations also include detailed examples on how the student has demonstrated commitment to their culture and community.
Some examples are assisting in community functions, celebrations and ceremonies, volunteering in the community or school, chopping and hauling wood, traditional dancing, learning or speaking their traditional language, and teaching others about their culture.
Recipients are then selected by the awards committee, comprised of the ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle members and one member from each partner organization: the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS); Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA); and, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).
This was the third annual Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Awards.
Other honourable mentions for the award from Hinton’s nominees included Bryson Strawberry, Chance Thompson, Jacob Thompson, Ehriennlucy Beaverbones, Kendra Beaverbone, Kiya Kelley, Matisiwin Beaverbone, Pyriel Kelley-Beaverbones, Taya Beaverbone, Xander Kelley, and Brea Oshanyk.