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News Release: FMPSD Students Win Prestigious Honouring Spirit Awards

News Release: FMPSD Students Win Prestigious Honouring Spirit Awards

(Fort McMurray, AB, June 25, 2021) Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) congratulates Savannah Graves and Sawyer Mercredi on receiving the Alberta School Board Association’s (ASBA) prestigious Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student awards. They are the only students from Fort McMurray to be honoured; and only 12 awards were given across the province. The announcement was made on June 21, 2021.

These awards “celebrate exceptional First Nations, Métis and Inuit students nominated by members of their education communities, based on their exemplary leadership, courage and commitment to their cultures and educational paths.” This year ASBA received 204 nominations. 

Sawyer, 8, (photo below with his Honouring Spirit Award Blanket and Certificate) who is in grade 3 at Westview Public School was excited to get the news.


“I would like to thank my dad, my mom, my sisters and my teacher. I was super surprised when I won, and never thought I would get one. I try to take my friends to learn how to do powwow dances. I feel so proud dancing, and I love wearing my regalia,” said Sawyer, who is Dene from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation - Fort Chipewyan.

Jeff Porter, Principal, Westview Public School congratulated Sawyer.

“Sawyer is a bright and happy student. He is so proud of his Indigenous culture and is always delighted to share his culture and traditions with others. He shines when he dances and is a leader in sharing and teaching others. We are so proud of Sawyer and all that he brings to Westview School.”

Savannah, 18 recently graduated from Fort McMurray Composite High School, and will be pursuing a hairstyle program in Edmonton. She is from Mikisew Cree First Nation - Fort Chipewyan. 

"I want to thank Mrs. McDougall for nominating me for the Honouring Spirit Award. She’s helped me to learn and love my culture. I’m thankful for my parents' love and support, they’ve always wanted me to be more involved in cultural activities, and ceremonies. My mom always likes to take pictures of me standing next to a teepee or a totem pole, and other Indigenous statues. My dad always wanted me to make moccasins, bead work, dreamcatchers. I love my family. I know my dad is proud of me and I know he’s watching over me; I miss him so much. Composite High School is a great school, and one big family. They like to be involved in culture, music and sports. I’m proud to be a Composite High grad.”


                                                                                                                     Savannah with Julia McDougall

Dan Tulk, Composite Principal, congratulated Savannah.

“The entire Fort McMurray Composite High School family could not be more proud of Savannah. She is an amazing young lady and we have watched her grow into such an amazing person over the past years.”

“Savannah is the epitome of a great student. She is polite, dedicated, and always pushes to do her best regardless of the challenges. She can be found helping her fellow classmates, playing sports, working hard in class, and just being a great ambassador of the school and community. We are all so proud of her and excited for her future. She is most definitely deserving of this amazing honour. Congratulations!” enthused Tulk. 

Julia McDougall, Indigenous Student Services Cultural teacher, FMPSD nominated both students. She was overjoyed with the news.

“Savannah and Sawyer are so very deserving of these awards. Savannah has always been proud of her Indigenous culture, starting in elementary school at Dr. Clark Public when she joined the Indigneous drumming group. She is an inspiration for everyone - volunteering for the food bank, and helping when downtown was flooded. She has a giving heart and a beautiful spirit. Sawyer is passionate about life. He is proud of his culture, and always willing to share it with others. He is a Grass dancer, and proudly dances in local Indigenous events, has performed in national events and at powwows in BC and the United States. Sawyer makes everyone his friend, and is especially concerned about and generous to the homeless population, giving them toiletries, gift cards and more to bring them unexpected joy. Congratulations to both of these amazing young people.”

Jennifer Turner, Superintendent, FMPSD congratulated both winners.

“Thank you Savannah and Sawyer for sharing your beautiful Indigneous cultures with us. We are grateful to you. I have seen Sawyer do the Grass dance, and it is pure joy to watch him. He truly cherishes his Indigenous background, and we are fortunate to have him at FMPSD to benefit from his gifts. Congratulations both. Please continue to share and teach us.”

Congratulations Savannah and Sawyer!

ABSA’s virtual celebration for the winners can be seen here

For more information, please contact:

Kiran Malik-Khan

Communications Manager          

Fort McMurray Public School Division