IAAW has coordinated and hosted the Esquao Awards Gala since 1996.


The Esquao Awards ceremony is regarded as one of the most prestigious events in Alberta for recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of Aboriginal women. The Awards has grown to be the single largest recognition event of Aboriginal women in the country. Over the years it has inspired Aboriginal women from all across the province to get actively involved in their own communities.

The Esquao Awards are unique because there is no competition between nominees. The nomination form is distributed widely and is available by calling the IAAW toll-free number or accessing the website. When the community nominates an Aboriginal woman and provides the necessary documentation, she is deemed to be a ‘Community Champion’ in one of the categories and is subsequently honoured with an Esquao Award. This policy has worked miraculously to reduce the division between women, and recognizes our women as ‘Angels Among Us’.

The Esquao Awards promotes the self-determination of Aboriginal Women who contribute to the well-being of their communities.

Awards Night

On the evening of the Awards Gala, a dignitary such as a Chief, a Métis leader, a Minister (MLA or MP), and a Mayor or a representative from a major corporate sponsor will present the recipient with the Esquao Award. This is a very touching part of the event when sponsors and community leaders gain insight into the obstacles overcome by the recipient and can congratulate them personally for their work. The event also features local and national Aboriginal entertainers, including comedians, hypnotists, musicians, and dancers.

Nominate someone in your community for the Esquao Awards today!

Benefits & Outcomes of Event

  • Corporations and government leaders participate in recognizing positive work in the Aboriginal communities
  • Connections are made to women who can be consulted on upcoming policies and/or community involvement activities, thereby increasing their social inclusion
  • A negative stereotype of Aboriginal women is counteracted with positive examples of how women play an important role in building strong communities
  • Women and girls are inspired to make positive changes in their lives
  • The Aboriginal community comes together to recognize the accomplishments of local women
  • An opportunity for communities to showcase, celebrate and embrace their beautiful cultures and traditions

Nomination Categories


Excellence in the visual arts, including writers, actors, or musicians

Tantoo Cardinal (2002) & Cynthia Smallboy (2004)


Success in business development or ownership

Vina Roberts-Marten (2008) & Karen Young (2010)

Children’s Future

Integrating a child’s perspective in planning and promoting services to children or to help children live their dreams.

Ruby Lacombe (2007) & Shelly Hamlin (2009)

Community Involvement

Those striving for community wellness, ensuring community engagement, or community development.

Clara Woodbridge (1996) & Nora Flett (2001)


Practicing and preserving cultural practices and way of life.

Madge McRee (2000) & Rose Auger (2005)


Achievement in the educational system

Karen Telford (2011) & Ileen Nepoose (2014)

Health & Medicine

Advocates, staff, or administration in the health system.

Leona Beaulieu (2001) & Marlene Arcand (2006)


Pursuit of international relationship with Indigenous women around the world

Florence Large (2010) & Linda Bull (2003)

Justice and Human Rights

Courage and determination in pursuing justice or advocating for human rights

Denise L. Lightning (2003) & Grace Auger (2009)

Lifetime Achievement

A lifetime commitment of helping others in their community

Annie Bear Shin Bone (2005) & Rose Findlay (2006)

Service to Country & Community

Those serving or have served in the Canadian Forces, Police, Fire, or Emergency Services

Bertha Clark-Jones (1996) & Cst. Sharon Bourque (2008)


Achievement in organized sports including rodeo, hockey, water sports, or boxing

Crystal Arcand (2000)

Trades and Technology

Success in trades and/or technology, including construction, engineering, and environmental management

Carla Saunders (2009) & Elaine Cardinal (2012)