2019 Award Winners
CPRA Award of Merit – Doreen Nitsiza (Whatì)
The NWTRPA envisions a territory where everyone has access to recreation programs and spaces that foster healthy families, strong cultures, and vibrant communities; Doreen’s work as a recreation coordinator and her time on the NWTRPA Board of Directors have contributed to this vision in meaningful and significant ways.
Doreen was hired as the Recreation Coordinator in Whatì in 2010. Her experience developing and delivering recreation programs and services in her home community inspired her to join the NWTRPA Board of Directors in 2012. She served for 6 years as the regional director for the North Slave. As a member of this volunteer Board, Doreen played a role in the strategic direction of the Association, guiding the work of the NWTRPA. Her perspective and community experience has helped the NWTRPA become more focused, while respecting the unique differences of NWT communities.
While a member of the NWTRPA board, Doreen contributed to two strategic plans, as well as a governance review that significantly impacted the organization’s policies. In 2016, Doreen moved that NWTRPA and its membership endorse the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As a result of her, the NWTRPA has grown as an organization through its effort to advance decolonization and reconciliation through its work, workplaces, and relationships.
Doreen’s passion and dedication have contributed to the advancement of recreation both within her home community and across the NWT, and will continue to do for years to come.
Innovation Award – Karen Johnson (Yellowknife)
In her role as the Community Connections Coordinator with the NWT Literacy Council, Karen works with immigrants new to Yellowknife by offering informal English language literacy learning. Since the project started in 2017, Karen’s approach has been to offer programs that are a community bridge, bringing people of all walks of life together for fun, informative activities. Karen’s personal passion for outdoor recreation is infectious, and many of her participants have developed a love of recreation through their time with her.
While all of Karen’s programs have greatly impacted her clients’ experiences of and interaction with recreation, it is her work with women that we are celebrating this evening. Through relationship and conversation, Karen came to understand some of the barriers that women in the community, but especially Muslim women, face in being physically active. Over the last two years, Karen has focused her energies on breaking down these barriers.
The Community Connections Program offerings have been developed based on suggestions and feedback from community members. As we will learn tomorrow during the Bright Spots session, they include the very popular ladies only swimming, adult swimming lessons, ladies only cycling, and ladies only yoga. Karen uses a variety of recreational spaces throughout the community to offer fun, safe programming that builds confidence and community, including the pool, Fieldhouse, ski club, hiking trails, and more. Her diligent fundraising efforts have meant that all of these programs are free to anyone wanting to participate.
Karen’s programs just keep growing! But as importantly, they are inspiring others in the community to create recreation programs and spaces that are accessible and inclusive.
Award of Excellence – Dale Loutit (Hay River)
Dale has been working in recreation in different communities and in different capacities for over 20 years. Most recently, she has made significant contributions to recreation in the Town of Hay River as the Recreation Programmer and the NWT by being a very active Mackenzie Recreation Association Board member.
Dale works hard to ensure that the recreation department in Hay River isn’t duplicating programs and events hosted by other organizations, but rather is filling gaps in recreational offerings in the community. One example is the weekly social paddle for adults, a program that Dale is very passionate about and has put a lot of work into developing and running. When the program first started it had a few participants, but now in its third year, it is fully booked each week! Both locals and visitors partake in the program, providing an opportunity to showcase the community and connect participants through recreation.
Dale plays an important role in all recreation programs in Hay River and encourages people to attend and volunteer at events, even if she is not the organizer. Despite her extensive experience, she continuously tries to find ways to improve her work, skills, knowledge, and ability to offer high-quality recreation opportunities for the residents of Hay River and the NWT alike.
Scott McAdam Youth Leadership Award – Davonna Kasook (Inuvik)
Davonna Kasook is an exceptional young person who supports her community in many ways. Her advocacy for improved mental health and wellness in her community has sparked conversation throughout the Beaufort Delta region and inspired efforts to educate youth on mental health, wellness, and self-care. Since participating in the 2017 Jack Summit in Toronto, a national, youth-led mental health conference, Davonna has worked tirelessly to start and sustain a Jack Chapter in Inuvik. Davonna has also used her position on the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s Regional Youth Advisory Group to be the voice of youth in Inuvik, bringing the issues and concerns of youth, as well as their insights and solutions to the IRC’s Board of Directors to review and consider.
A graduate of the Environment and Natural Resources Technology Program at Aurora College, Davonna was named the 2018 recipient of the Aurora College Board of Governors Student Leadership Award. The award recognized Davonna’s service to the school, including her tenure as the president of the student cooperative association and her work as a tutor, and her academic accomplishments; she graduated with the highest average in her class.
Davonna demonstrates leadership in many other ways in her community as well. She is an active member of the Inuvik Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and Ground Search and Rescue, one of the very few locals involved with these organizations. She is constantly trying to recruit friends, family members, and peers to join these volunteer organizations so they can build capacity with Indigenous and local people.
Whether she is coaching young soccer players to prepare them for Arctic Winter Games tryouts; preparing and cooking food for feasts at community events; volunteering as a linesmen, scorekeeper, and referee during regional volleyball, soccer, and basketball tournaments; or advocating for youth mental health initiatives, Davonna always puts community first.
Active Elder Award – Lena and Henry McKay (Fort Resolution)
Henry and Lena are wonderful role models for the community of Fort Resolution. At 75, they remain active, working together and living off the land. They follow the seasons, using what is available to them from the land, from trapping in the winter to setting nets in the summer. They are known for always providing meat, fish, and other delicacies to many Elders and youth.
In addition to sharing what they harvest, Lena and Henry are always available to share their teachings with others in the community. Most recently, they helped facilitate workshops for an on the land culture camp in partnership with the Soaring Eagle Friendship Center and K’atl’odeeche First Nation. Some of the activities they taught included plucking and fixing ducks, flushing beavers, preparing fish, making stretchers for and skinning muskrats. Henry also taught gun safety and shared traditional knowledge of the land, while Lena showed the youth how to make bannock and prepare traditional foods.
Because of their hard work and determination to pass on and share traditional knowledge, Henry and Lena have taught many people in their community about respect for the land and how to survive and lead a healthy lifestyle no matter what circumstances are given to you. They are a wonderful team, and together they are always giving back, sharing, teaching, and working hard each day.
Honourary Life Membership – Joanne Ogina (Ulukhaktok)
Joanne worked as the recreation coordinator for the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok for nine years before moving into the role of justice coordinator/administrative assistant. During her time as recreation coordinator, Joanne contributed immensely to the recreation and parks field by changing the sphere of recreation within the community. She developed and offered many programs for the youth and Elders, ensuring everyone in the community had opportunities to lead a healthy lifestyle regardless of age. Whether she was organizing the Billy Joss Golf Tournament, the Kingalik Jamboree, fishing derbies, or community events around the holidays, Joanne demonstrated excellent leadership, bringing the community together to ensure events were a success. Joanne and her collaborators were recognized for their inspiring work with the NWTRPA Innovation Award in 2014 for Tumivut, a project that brought together young Inuvialuit with experienced hunters, Elders, and sewers to learn how to travel and hunt during shoulder seasons and how to prepare and sew with caribou skins.
Joanne has also played an important role in recreation at the territorial level. She was the regional director for the Beaufort Delta on the NWTRPA Board of Directors from 2013-2015. Joanne was a strong representative for her region and a thoughtful, considerate, and generous board member. In addition to bringing a much-needed perspective to important governance processes, including a strategic planning process and a governance review, Joanne always brought country food to meetings to share with the other directors and staff.
Joanne also served as a board member with the Aboriginal Sport Circle of the NWT from 2013-2018. During her time with the ASCNWT, she helped strengthen and grow the organization. Some of Joanne’s notable achievements during her term include: steering the Board and multiple committees to help the ASCNWT develop policies, create a stronger board of directors, and hold the organization accountable; helping create the Traditional Games Championships, a tournament that provides youth aged 10-12 the opportunity to learn the history and culture of Arctic Sports and Dene Games, which is now going into its 8th year; and helping to develop three separate territorial sport organizations: Archery NT, Northern Games NT, and Dene Games NT.
Recreation and sport in the NWT have benefitted immensely from Joanne’s passion, dedication, and hard work. Quana, Joanne.
The NWTRPA accepts nominations for the awards program annually in July. For more information about current awards and nomination guidelines, visit http://www.nwtrpa.org/awards.htm.