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Celebration affirms both our knowledge keepers and the institute

Article by Karon Shmon, GDI Director of Culture & Heritage.

Apr 12, 2024

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The celebration held on March 22, 2024, to honour five Métis invested into the Order of Gabriel Dumont was a joy to behold. The awards ceremony celebrated all five Métis women: Grace Zoldy (Gold), Christi Belcourt (Gold), Irma Klyne (Gold), Evelyn Johnston (Silver), Patricia LaFontaine (Silver), for their contribution to the Métis community. Full recipient biographies can be found online at https://gdins.org/gabriel-dumont-institute-to-invest-five-into-the-order-of-gabriel-dumont.

Silver medal recipient, Trish LaFontaine receiving her award from Acting Executive Director Brett Vandale and board members Jackie Kennedy, Deanna Belhumeur, Marilyn Fazakas, and Minister Wendy Gervais

The ceremony opened with a prayer from Elder and Senator Nora Cummings. An Elder’s prayer is our traditional way of starting a gathering in a good way. It sets the tone for the gathering, often asking the Creator for help and guidance and calling on all of us to work together for the betterment of our people. Senator Cummings extoled the contributions of the recipients and reminded all of us in attendance of the significant role that GDI has in clearing the path and nurturing what people have to offer in our community through their hard work and dedication.

Evelyn Johnston, silver medal recipient, and her family pose for a photo after the ceremony

Each recipient’s biography was a testament to the significant impact each has made, and continues to make. Each humbly accepted their award noting the help and support they had received from others — our traditional value of sharing the credit for what we accomplish together, even when one is the leader or catalyst.

Grace Zoldy receives the gold medal with her daughter from Brett Vandale and board members Viola Bell, Buckley Belanger, and Minister Wendy Gervais

The feeling of pride in the room was palpable and each recipient received a standing ovation. It is hard to describe the emotional impact felt when we acknowledge, celebrate, and give thanks to those truly deserving of the honour. As in past ceremonies, recipients often share what a heartfelt honour it is to receive recognition from their own people. All those in attendance received the honour of witnessing the awards ceremony. We left our work behind us for a few hours knowing it would be there on our return, but out of respect and honour for the recipients and ceremony itself, the work could wait. 

Gold medal recipient, Irma Klyne poses for a photo after the ceremony with SUNTEP Regina staff and a faculty.

In good Métis fashion, the event segued into one with fiddle music, a meal, and the enjoyment of visiting with friends and colleagues. Many made their way to personally congratulate the recipients. I was never more proud of our community and it reminded me of the provincial motto, a fitting phrase that aligns closely with Métis values, “From Many Peoples Strength.”


GDI Staff Table Left to Right: Sheila Pocha, Karon Shmon, David Morin, Ryan Nordmarken, George Gingras.

Photography by Juli Labrecque. 

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

GDI is a Saskatchewan-based educational, employment and cultural institute serving Métis across the province

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