2023 Esquao Award Recipients

Amplifying the spirit, strength, and resiliency of Indigenous Women in Alberta

Co-founded by Marggo Pariseau and Muriel Stanley Venne, the Esquao Awards highlight the significant role Indigenous women hold in their home, in the healing and development of their communities, and in the building of Alberta.

This year’s honoured Esquao Award recipients include leaders in trades and technology, education, and business; teachers of traditional Indigenous culture and holistic health; and advocates seeking justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Joyce Beaver, Edmonton – Lifetime Achievement
Joyce is a strong, beautiful Métis woman from Wabasca, Alberta who continues to serve the community at the young age of 81. A community builder, storyteller, knowledge keeper, Métis artisan and Cree language keeper—she has been both a teacher and a counsellor, and now teaches Indigenous Arts to anyone wishing to learn. Joyce embodies the preservation of culture with her kind, genuine and youthful spirit.

Melissa-Jo Belcourt Moses, Edmonton – Culture
A driving force in the Indigenous artist community in Edmonton, Melissa-Jo is a kind, knowledgeable teacher who holds her Elders’ teachings and knowledge at the core of her artistic journey. Her traditional artwork has been exhibited far and wide, from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to the Art Gallery of Alberta where she serves as Adjunct Curator of Indigenous Art.

Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, Calgary – Justice & Human Rights
Cheryle is a proud Nehiyaw Esquao (Cree Woman) and member of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, Treaty 6. Cheryle has been an Indigenous activist within Calgary and area for the past two decades, speaking, marching, singing and drumming for women—MMIWG2S+, Sisters in Spirit, Justice for Jackie Crazybull, Indigenous Justice—championing the environment and equality, and speaking up for those who cannot.

Audra Foggin (Moyah), Calgary – Education
A member of Frog Lake First Nation, Audra is a strong Indigenous woman who positively contributes to society through honouring respect, dignity, equality, sharing, and cooperation. Her role as a social work practitioner in the field and as a faculty member in the Department of Child Studies and Social Work at Mount Royal University—combined with her lived experience as a Sixties Scoop survivor—has allowed her to share her hard-earned wisdom and knowledge for others to learn.

Louise Gadwa, Bonnyville – Health & Medicine
A member of Kehewin Cree Nation, Louise has worked in the health field for over 25 years. Along the way she earned three degrees, including her Masters Degree in Social Work. Throughout her career, Louise has tirelessly collaborated with First Nations communities and Alberta Health Services stakeholders, and currently heads up the Maternal Child Health Program for Kehewin Health Services.

Deborah Green (Gopher), Calgary – Justice & Human Rights
Deborah (kâkike manitohkân iskwew – Forever Spirit Woman) is a Nehiyaw (Cree) woman from the Piapot and Kawacatoose First Nations. Those familiar with her advocacy work refer to her a fierce ‘Warrior Woman’ who works tirelessly for social change, using her voice for those unable to raise their own voice. She can be found at the front lines of many MMIWG2S+ events, advocating for justice for her murdered sister and so many others.

Marni Hope, Lethbridge – Community Involvement
Marni (Miisomii’kitsikaakii – Long Time Offering) is a proud Siksikaitsitapi woman who, in her role as Student Support and Events Coordinator in the Indigenous Services Department at Lethbridge College, develops and delivers cultural workshops and programs that emphasize Indigenous culture, language and history as a means of creating self-worth and confidence. Marni sits on the board of the Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA), representing the Kainai Nation and Southern Alberta.

Lori Anne Houle, Calgary – Community Involvement
As founder and CEO of Métis Calgary Family Services, Lori has devoted her life to supporting the healthy development of urban Indigenous parents and children. She has shared her courage, cultural accountability, and tenacity with Indigenous children, youth and the community for over 35 years, and her influence has stretched across Métis communities in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Echo Kehewin, Edmonton – Culture
Echo is a member of the Kehewin Cree Nation who takes great pride in her Indigenous heritage. Despite being subjected to abuses that were sadly a common byproduct of the Residential School System, Echo found her culture to be the true path to healing and she lives and walks that road daily. Reconnecting with her love of traditional dancing, she has become a champion dancer in Canada and the U.S.

Rebecca Kragnes, St. Albert – Trades & Technology
A proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Rebecca grew up on a trapline in northern Alberta. She is a Red Seal Electrician with many years of experience working in the construction industry and a strong advocate for Indigenous women in the trades. Rebecca is currently the Manager of Indigenous Business Relations at Bird Construction, and serves on the boards of Women Building Futures and the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.

Karen MacKenzie, Edmonton – Business
Karen, whose family hails from Grouard, Alberta, is a proud Cree-Métis woman, member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and Co-Founder and President of the Indigenous-owned international consulting company, MacKintosh Canada. Having held numerous academic and senior management positions, she is a proven leader, skilled consultant, and empowering coach—bringing traditional knowledge of Indigenous ways into the contemporary workplace. Karen is a highly respected authority on individual, team, organizational and community change, as well as the development of strategic alliances, governance and strategic planning.

Savannah Poirier Hollander, Calgary – Education
A spirited, determined woman, and member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Savannah (Amisk Ospwakan Iskwew) encourages her Métis students to know and take pride in their culture. Earning bachelor degrees in both science and education, she actively pursues both her passions—working at the University of Calgary Biogeoscience Centre in Kananaskis and teaching Science to Grades 7-12 students. Together with Exshaw School and Stoney Elders, Savannah developed a unique curriculum linking natural science and traditional ways.

Lori Pritchard, Calgary – Education
Lori is a proud Métis woman who serves as Education Director of Indigenous Education for the Calgary Board of Education. Lori helped establish the Board’s Chief Superintendent Elder Advisory Council in 2010 with Elders representing all Nations in Treaty 7. Her actions, presence and leadership have certainly advanced the field of education within the province of Alberta.

Margaret Quintal, Conklin – Community Involvement
Margaret is successful Métis businesswoman committed to her community of Conklin. After 32 years as a Teacher’s Aide, she started Quintal Contracting. Shortly thereafter, her potable water hauling business expanded to include janitorial services contracts for various energy companies, employing as many as 72 people. Margaret is a role model for Indigenous entrepreneurs and is committed to improving local employment opportunities and ensuring education, housing, and economic growth are at the forefront of community priorities.

Karen Turner, Leduc County – Business
A member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Karen has committed her life to creating environments for children and families to thrive. Working in the childcare field for almost 30 years, Karen spreads her knowledge and experience across the province as an early childhood coach and consultant, bringing to life the theories and hands-on knowledge of best practices.

Regena Crowchild, Tsuut’ina Nation – Circle of Honour Inductee, Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award

Regena was the first woman ever elected to the Tsuut’ina Nation Council, going on to serve multiple terms beginning in the 1970s and most recently being re-elected in 2022. A tireless promoter of Nationhood, she has been instrumental in the development of the Tsuut’ina Nations’ laws, policies, and regulations.

As a child she attended residential school on the Blood Tribe lands and finished high school at St. Mary’s in Calgary. Regena earned her diploma in Business Management at Henderson’s Business College in Calgary and went on to work in the business sector, First Nation governments, Indian organizations, and the provincial and federal governments.

Regena’s passion has always been the Inherent Rights and Treaty Rights of Indigenous peoples. She has advocated on Indigenous issues regionally, nationally and internationally, and has been to the UN twice to lobby for Indigenous rights. Over the years she has sat on numerous boards and committees. Regena served as Vice President of the Indian Association of Alberta, representing people from Treaties 6, 7 and 8, and in 1990 became the first woman elected as President of the Association.

Each year, the Esquao, Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW), Board selects an Indigenous woman in a leadership position to honour with the Muriel Stanley Venne Leadership Award. This award celebrates the accomplishments of a truly deserving recipient, as well as recognizes Muriel’s legacy and her contribution in making the organization the success it is today.

For more information on Esquao, the 2023 Esquao Awards, or to coordinate an interview with one of the recipients, please contact:

Erica Gladue, 780-264-2951 or 1-877-471-2171

Esquao is the stylized version of the Cree word for woman.



Friday, May 12, 2023
Grey Eagle Resort and Casino
Calgary, Alberta

Join us in honouring Indigenous women
from across Alberta.
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