Stone wins Honouring Spirit Award

Prairie River Junior High School student Olianna Stone, second from left, was the winner of the Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Award for northern Alberta in the Grade 10-12 division. Left-right, are High Prairie School Division – High Prairie trustee Tammy Henkel, Stone, Sucker Creek First Nation education director Helen Willier and education assistant Emily Callliou.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Prairie River Junior High School student Olianna Stone was a winner in the provincial Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Awards for 2023.

The Grade 9 student attending the High Prairie school won the award for northern Alberta for the Grades 10-12 division in the program of the Alberta School Boards Association.

Stone was more than honoured to receive the award.

“I was ecstatic, albeit nervous as I had never won a prestigious award like the Honouring Spirit Award,” Stone says.

The provincial award recognizes students who display exemplary leadership, courage and commitment to their culture and educational paths.

Nominated by teacher Cheyenne Simms, she received the award April 15 at Government House in Edmonton as one of 12 winners from among 224 nominees.

Each of the major winners received a unique hand-crafted Star blanket, a $2,500 scholarship sponsored by Keyara, an award certificate and congratulatory letter.

Stone is the daughter of Dominic and Sandy Stone, of Sucker Creek First Nation.

“I am proud to promote my culture as an Indigenous person because it is such an important piece of my identity,” Stone says.

“Learning about my culture and sharing it with others makes my heart sing.”

She says she is blessed to have a family that has a deep knowledge of the culture.

“I know lot of other kids may not have the privilege, so I want to share the knowledge as much as I can,” Stone says.

She was delighted some of her family were with her when she was presented the award.

“I am glad that my Mosom, Joe Ronald Badger, who is a residential school survivor, was there to see me receive my award,” Stone says.

“He always encourages me to keep up with my school work and since I was a little girl, he has taught me Cree.”

She is also grateful for other family members, who gave her the passion for her heritage.

“I am also thankful to my auntie, Carla Badger, who often brought Cree cultural learning resources to my Mom for her to teach me,” Stone says.

“My aunt and my Mosom both inspired my interest in my culture and I would not have been nominated for this award in the first place if not for their influence.”

She also holds equality and justice as important.

“It is my hope that the reconciliation of our relationship with schools will create equality with others,” Stone says.

She has a deep heart for her culture.

“What I do allows me to learn more about my culture and identity,” Stone says.

“Advocating for reconciliation and Indigenous representation within local schools is important because my Mom and other family members never had these opportunities nor were they able to participate in cultural activities.”

She was also honoured at the school year-end awards assembly June 14 when she was congratulated by High Prairie School Division.

“Olianna, we are so very proud to have you as one of the exemplary role models for your fellow students,” High Prairie trustee Tammy Henkel said.

“You are an inspiration within our division and we could not be happier to see you receive this honour.”

Henkel read her nomination.

“Olianna is an active member of the school’s Youth Council for Reconciliation, assisting in the organization of activities for school honour days, such as Orange Shirt Day, the nomination states.

“Olianna also took a very active role in creating her personal land acknowledgement and during morning announcements will often read the weekly land acknowledgements written by other students.

“Another one of her ideas was to design matching ribbon hoodies for her hand games teammates.

“She assisted in designing and creating these hoodies, which feature the team mascot and ‘we play hand game’ in Cree syllabics.

“Olianna also developed a logo for the Prairie River Mathlete Minions, a club she is a member of.

“Olianna is a star student in our school. Her work is always done to the highest standard in all core subjects.

“She says only kind words and encouragement to everyone she meets.

“She is a strong academic student and is always willing to help people reach their academic goals.”

The school’s Indigenous education coach, Connie Sabo, supported the nomination.

“This young leader always carries herself in a kind and gentle way,” Sabo said.

“She encourages her fellow members of the YCR and makes everyone feel their ideas are important and valid and supports them in making their ideas a reality.

“Olianna has a bright future in front of her and takes on these things, not because she wants recognition, but because she sees how improvements can be made and works to get them done.

“She does this because she knows it is the right thing to do.”

Stone says she was inspired to create hoodies for the hand games team after the team discussed team outfits.

“Inspired by an Indigenous artist named Deeanne Sutherland, who is known for her beautiful ribbon hoodies, “I brought forth the idea for the hand games team to sport ribbon hoodies for the division tournament last year.

“My parents and Cheyenne Simms, our hand games coach, helped me with the project.

“Everyone on the team got a hoodie, even our coach.”

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