Canada Council for the Arts Announces 2023 Honorary Recognition of Cultural Carriers
Ottawa, September 28, 2023—Today the Canada Council for the Arts awarded an Honorary Recognition of Cultural Carriers to four people whose artistic and cultural endeavours further the use and promotion of Indigenous languages.
Cultural carriers are people—including Elders, knowledge keepers and traditional educators—whose role in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities supports the preservation and sharing of Indigenous worldviews, cultural practices and traditions through art and creative practice.
The Honorary Recognition was made possible by an anonymous donation to support Indigenous artists living in Canada and by an additional contribution from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, as part of its support for the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages.
The recipients—already selected by the Canada Council for the Arts through other funding programs and chosen based on reviews done by external assessors—are each receiving $10,000 for their remarkable contributions to the arts, culture and language.
“The Canada Council is honoured to recognize the achievements of these four cultural carriers, whose work is fundamental to the preservation of the artistic and cultural expression of Indigenous people. Today, there is increasing awareness that many Indigenous languages around the world are facing a critical moment. The Canada Council supports the revitalization of these languages and is committed to building appreciation for Indigenous expressions, arts and cultures in Canada.”
— Michelle Chawla, Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts
“The International Decade of Indigenous Languages provides a unique opportunity for mobilization in the maintenance and promotion of Indigenous languages. Revitalization initiatives require sustained efforts that will echo beyond the Decade. These distinctions recognize the crucial work being done in Canada and honour the people doing it.”
— Yves-Gérard Méhou-Loko, Secretary-General, Canadian Commission for UNESCO
About the recipients
Celestine Twigg is an educator and Blackfoot language consultant who has been active in efforts toward the sustainment of Siksikaitsitapi in innovative and engaging ways. She recently worked on a Blackfoot language animation project and continues to be committed to Blackfoot language revitalization. Her hope is that this animation project will serve as the foundation to build capacity in language and culture by creating pathways for new language learners to be interested in learning the Blackfoot language.
Daisy Sewid-Smith is the third daughter of Chief James Ol Sewid and an expert on the history of her Kwakwaka’wakw people. She worked as a linguist at the University of Victoria and translated the memoirs of her grandmother, Agnes Alfred, a community matriarch and non-literate storyteller and historian. “I’ve had a long and successful career with numerous publications and collaborations within the academic world, even earning an honorary PhD, but I’m most proud of the work I have done in Kwak̓wala. I’ve spent my life teaching our language and supporting those in our community who seek to learn it.”
Rose Meuse is a musician, cultural interpreter, craftsperson and Mi’kmaw language instructor in L’sitkuk (Bear River First Nation, Atlantic Canada). “My arts and cultural practices come from the language itself. I often focus on a root word I’ve learned in our language and then create a story around that teaching. As a cultural teacher, I share stories within my community as well as with the public. Sometimes those are stories from long ago, and yet other times they are newer or from my own life. It is my passion to carry on the tradition of oral storytelling as a method of teaching, relaying cultural practices, history lessons, and inspiring our youth and others about living in a good way.”
Sheldon First Rider, of the Blood Nation in southern Alberta, is a residential school survivor and speaker about abuse and the healing process. A handgame player, tipi maker, language instructor and cultural interpreter, he is currently working to capture oral stories traditionally used to teach children in an interactive and written form. “I have focused much of my life on promoting the Blackfoot way of life and being socially active for my people. My goal is to educate and teach all people, revitalize the Blackfoot language and reconnect to the Blackfoot way of life.”
About the Canada Council for the Arts
The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to “foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts.” The Council’s grants, services, initiatives, prizes, and payments contribute to the vibrancy of a creative and diverse arts and literary scene and support its presence across Canada and abroad. The Council’s investments foster greater engagement in the arts among Canadians and international audiences.
About the Canadian Commission for UNESCO
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) serves as a bridge between Canadians and the vital work of UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Through its networks and partners, the Commission promotes UNESCO’s values, priorities and programs in Canada, including the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, and brings the voices of Canadian experts to the international stage.
Its activities are guided by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other UNESCO priorities. The CCUNESCO operates under the authority of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Media relations contacts
For media requests, please contact:
Canada Council for the Arts
Communications and Engagement
1-800-263-5588, ext. 5151