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Over the past few weeks, Canadians have seen many prominent Indigenous women be honoured by prominent national arts establishments honouring their distinguished careers and the talent they bring to Canada’s vibrant arts community. From actresses to visual artists these women have forged exceptional careers that enrich Canada’s diversity and increase positive Indigenous representation. MUSKRAT Magazine congratulates these seven women for the art they create, for giving a voice to Indigenous women in mainstream media, and for being honoured and recognized by the 2021 Governor General Awards and 2021 ACTRA Toronto Awards. Congratulations to these trailblazers who’ve created much needed space for all Indigenous women artists!

Jani Lauzon (Métis) was awarded the ACTRA Toronto 2021 Award of Excellence for her distinguished career not only as a performer in music and acting but also for her work in promoting diversity by helping forge partnerships between ACTRA Toronto, imagineNATIVE, Reelworld, and Reel Asian film festivals. She is an award-winning screen actress, a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, a multi-award-winning stage actress, a director and filmmaker. Over her long career, she has produced many theatre and film projects with her company Paper Canoe Projects, including A Side of Dreams, Prophecy Fog and I Call myself Princess, Just One Word, and “eu·tha·na·sia”. She continues to work in theatre as the Associate Director of the Acting Program at National Theatre School.

Jani Lauzon
Jani Lauzon by Helen Tansey

Tamara Podemski (Anishinaabe/Ashkenazi) won the 19th Annual ACTRA Award for Outstanding Female Performance for her role as Alison Trent in the television series Coroner. Her career spans 25 years as an actress with roles in The Rez, North of 60, Dance Me Outside, Rabbit Fall, Heartland, Cracked, and The Lesser Blessed while appearing in numerous plays including the Canadian production of Rent. This isn’t her first award. In 2007 she won the Special Jury Prize for Acting at the Sundance Film Festival where she starred in Sterlin Harjo’s Four Sheets to the Wind. While still maintaining a career on screen with CBC’s Coroner, she works as the writer and story producer for the television documentary series Future History.

Andrea Menard (Métis) was named ACTRA’s National Woman of the Year. Over her career, Andrea has won numerous awards including three Saskatchewan Showcase Awards, a Gemini nomination and an American Indian Film Festival Best Actress Award for her role in her self-penned performance, The Velvet Devil. She has also been nominated for several Leo Awards, American Indian Film Festival Awards, Gemini Awards for her many roles in A Windigo Tale, Moccasin Flats, Rabbit Fall, and Sparkle. Andrea has also appeared on The Switch, Hard Rock Medical, Arctic Air and Supernatural.

Lori Blondeau (Cree/Saulteaux/Métis) is known as a decisive figure in the contemporary art community for her innovative and transformative art, activism, and curatorial work. This year she was awarded the Governor General Artistic Achievement Award in Visual Art. She works primarily in performance and photography mediums with themes of representation of Indigenous women in pop culture and media. Her work confronts the violent imagery of Indigenous women that is too often seen and normalized by settler culture.

Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree) is a multidisciplinary media artist, performer and award-winning musician who won the Governor General Artistic Achievement Award in Media Arts this year. She has been awarded numerous awards through the imagineNATIVE Media Awards and the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. As a songwriter, she proudly focuses on sharing nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) and Indigenous contemporary song-forms.

Cheryl L'Hirondelle | Image source: APTN
Cheryl L’Hirondelle | Image source: APTN

Bonnie Devine (Anishinaabe/Ojibwa) has been honoured with this year’s Governor General Awards for Artistic Achievement in Visual Arts. She is a multi-media artist that produces work in installation, performance, sculptor, curator, and writing. Devine’s work as a conceptual artist explores the history of her descendants and the land around her home territory of Serpent River First Nation in north-central Ontario.

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About The Author

Erica Commanda

Born in Toronto, Erica Commanda (Algonquin/Ojibwe) grew up in the small community of Pikwakanagan. From there she moved across Canada living in Ottawa, Vancouver and now Toronto, working in the bar/hospitality industry, mastering the art of listening to stories from her regulars while slinging and spilling drinks (at them or to them). And now through a series of random decisions and events in life she is on a journey discovering and mastering her own knack for storytelling as Associate Editor for MUSKRAT Magazine.

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