Indspire announces 2021 recipients, virtual ceremony set for June

By: Jace Koblun

Indspire announced the recipients of the 2021 Indspire Awards at a virtual event on May 20. The 12 Indigenous achievers are from a diverse list of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.

“Here at Indspire, we’ve consistently remained focused on our mission to recognize and celebrate Indigenous excellence throughout the challenging year we’ve collectively experienced,” said Indspire President and CEO Mike DeGagné. “It is both a pleasure and a privilege to invite viewers from all over Canada to help us celebrate the outstanding achievements of these 12 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders.”

A release stated the Indspire Awards represent the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people. The Awards recognize Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement on a national level in a variety of fields, including the arts; business and commerce; culture, heritage and spirituality; education; health; law and justice; public service; sports; and lifetime achievement. Three Youth Award winners are also being honoured for their accomplishments, serving as role models to other First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth in their communities and across Canada.

Recipients of the 2021 Indspire Awards:

Youth Recipient – Lesley Hampton
Youth Recipient – Mitchell MacDougall
Youth Recipient – Justin Langan
Business and Commerce – Rosa Walker
Culture, Heritage and Spirituality – Emily Angulalik
Public Service – Nahanni Fontaine
Sports – Dallas Soonias
Law and Justice – Val Napoleon
Education – Lorne Gladu
Arts – Drew Hayden Taylor
Health – Catherine Cook
Lifetime Achievement – Qapik Attagutsiak

Each recipient will be presented with a gold pin featuring a Canadian diamond unearthed from the Diavik mine in the Northwest Territories and supplied by Rio Tinto. An awards ceremony will be broadcast during National Indigenous History Month on APTN and CBC on June 22.

This year’s ceremony will be held in a virtual format under the creative direction of new Executive Producer Jennifer Podemski, who accepted the challenge of producing the show during a lockdown, taking on the role held for many years by former Indspire president and CEO Roberta Jamieson. The Awards were presented during an in-person gala ceremony in the past, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the need for a change of approach.

“When I think about all of the obstacles my team had to face this year, I am in awe of what was accomplished,” says Podemski, a highly acclaimed director, producer and actor, whose work has garnered international recognition and received numerous accolades. “This year, through the production of the Indspire Awards we have proven that with hard work, perseverance and collaboration, we as Indigenous people can rise above adversity and achieve our goals when we work together and support one another.”

The new format, which focuses heavily on the story of each recipient, pushes the boundaries of what is possible for celebratory events during unconventional times.

Indspire is an Indigenous national charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada. With the support of its funding partners, Indspire provides financial awards, delivers programs and shares resources so that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students will achieve their highest potential. In 2019-2020, Indspire provided more than $17.8 million through 5,553 bursaries and scholarships to First Nations, Inuit and Métis students across Canada.

Indspire said if you watch the ceremony with friends and family, following local public health regulations, you can register your watch party at for a chance to win two business-class flights anywhere in the world from Air Canada.

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