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Two gifted SJASD students receive Manitoba Indigenous Youth Achievement Awards

December 05, 2022

​On November 23, 2022, two outstanding SJASD students were recognized at the 28th annual Manitoba Indigenous Youth Achievement Awards. The award celebrates outstanding Indigenous youth achievements in many fields ranging from arts to academics and employment in a traditional field.

Russel_Ariana_Instagram.jpgAriana DeDam, a grade 12 student from John Taylor Collegiate, received an award in the Artistic Visual category for her paintings.

Russel Linklater, a grade 12 student from Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, was recognized in the field of Athletics for his achievements in Tae Kwon Do.

Along with 16 other award recipients, both Ariana and Russel were wrapped in star blankets in recognition of their achievements.

Ariana's Art

Ariana DeDam is an Ojibwe and Inuit woman born in Winnipeg. Growing up, doodling helped her focus her thoughts and ideas. A childhood friend who was a talented artist encouraged her to develop her artistic skills.

At 14, she moved across the city. Despite feeling out of place and lonely, she started taking graphic arts classes. “I found I really enjoyed learning about design. When I drew, I liked using eye catching, bright colours with contrast and painting with bold lines. I realized I had a knack for it, so I continued creating and painting," she said.

At 16, her father became sick. “During this time, I painted woodland inspired paintings for him to hang in his home while he was sick because he loved having these pieces surround him as he said they reminded him of me."

When Ariana's father unexpected passed away, the teen struggled. While drawing helped her remember the time she spent with her dad, her schooling suffered.

After months of seeing doctors and psychiatrists, she was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was prescribed medication.

“I was happy because…I realized why I am the way I am, and I can learn ways to maneuver around the difficulties I experience," she said.

Ariana is better able to focus now and finds school less stressful.

bear_arianaDeDam.jpgLast school year, she painted a bear in a woodlands style, inspired by both Ojibwe and Mikmaq themes. “My teacher praised my drawings and urged me to paint using a large canvas, which I did. As I was creating the painting over the rough draft, I felt serene knowing my dad would be proud of my progress. This makes me feel at peace because I feel a part of him is still with me."

Ariana will graduate this year. While she isn't sure what tomorrow will bring, she knows that she will continue developing her gifts.

“I will continue to paint and create as that is where I feel most 'me,'" she said.

Russel's Athletics

Russel Linklater is from the First Nations of Garden Hill and Sandy Lake. In his acceptance speech, featured in the Winnipeg Free Press by former SJASD Indigenous Scholar in Residence Niigaan Sinclair, Russel described being born with heart problems, and ending up in the care of Child and Family Services after the passing of his parents.

Now he has a black belt and black stripe in Tae Kwon Do and takes care of his siblings and grandmother. He is also an actor with a recurring role on the CTV series Acting Good.

russel_ariana_blanket_Instagram.jpg“My mom once told me to be strong – not in your muscles but in your heart," he was quoted as saying in the Winnipeg Free Press article to gala attendees.

When Russel graduates in 2023, he plans on attending Red River College Polytechnic to study a trade.

Every year, youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are selected for their achievements by a planning committee representing Indigenous organizations, representatives from school divisions and past award recipients.

Congratulations Ariana and Russel!


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