National Indigenous Day – 2020
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(June 21, 2020 – Toronto, ON) Today is the 24th National Indigenous People’s Day since being proclaimed by Governor General of Canada Roméo LeBlanc in 1996. Today we bring the total of the Indigenous actors, directors, screenwriters or producers we have honoured to 21 with the addition of 3 of the most highly respected people in the industry. They are, from left to right above, Alanis Obomsawin, August Schellenberg and Tantoo Cardinal.
Alanis Obomsawin has been involved in filmmaking since 1967 when she was invited to the National Film Board to work as an advisor on a film about Aboriginal people. She went on to direct films of her own, her first being the 1971 short, Christmas at Moose Factory. She became one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers. Her film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance won 18 international awards. A lifetime member of the Board of Directors for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Alanis Obomsawin has also served as a Member of the Board for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in Vermont and National Geographic International. In 2016 the Toronto Film Critics Association announced that Obomsawin would be the recipient of Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award, which recognizes a Canadian industry figure who has made a substantial and outstanding contribution to the advancement and/or history of Canadian cinema/ Her film, Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger was selected to screen in the Masters program at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Alanis Obomsawin is the world’s most honoured Indigenous filmmaker. An officer of the Order of Canada and twice a Governor General’s Award winner. She has won the Pioneer Prize from the U.S.-based International Documentary Association, the Outstanding Achievement Award from Toronto’s Hot Docs festival, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Chile’s Valdiva Festival and been named a Grand Officiere de l’Ordre national du Québec.
August Werner Schellenberg was born to a Swiss father and an English-Mohawk mother. He graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1966 and began his acting career in theatre with a six-month tour of Ontario performing for high school students with the Crest Theatre. He then went on to the Stratford stage where in his first year he won the coveted Tyrone Guthrie Award. The program for the 1983 Genie Awards, the year he was nominated for his work in Latitude 55, said the following about Schellenberg: “August Schellenberg has performed on every major stage in Canada, has appeared extensively on television and in feature films, and has received numerous awards and nominations during the course of his long and much applauded acting career.” His life and career is honoured with the August Schellenberg Award of Excellence, often referred to as the Augie, which is an annual prize that recognizes significant professional and personal achievement by an Indigenous actor, of any gender, from Turtle Island (North America).
Tantoo Cardinal won her Augie in 2015. She had already made eight films when she was cast in the ground breaking 1990 Kevin Costner feature Dances With Wolves. It went on to become the fourth highest grossing film of the year and won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It lifted the careers of many Indigenous actors but especially of costars Graham Greene, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Tantoo Cardinal who played the often stronger and wiser character named Black Shawl. More than 40 feature film titles later, her work has been honoured in many ways, the most recent was being named the 2020 recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
Also note: The Indspire Awards, which represent the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people, will be broadcast on APTN, CBC, CBC Radio and CBC GEM on tonight at 8:00pm / 8:30pm NT. For the past 27 years, The Indspire Awards have honoured 373 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals who demonstrate outstanding achievement. The show is a nationally broadcast celebration of culture showcasing the diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada including performances by Canada’s biggest names in Indigenous entertainment.
Northernstars is published in Toronto. We acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and that the city and surrounding area is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.