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Sask. women named to Order of Gabriel Dumont

Five individuals to be honoured in Saskatoon March 2.

SASKATOON — Three Saskatchewan residents are among five individuals to be honoured with the Order of Gabriel Dumont at a special awards event on March 22 in Saskatoon.

Irma Klyne of Balcarres, Evelyn Johnston of Saskatoon and Patricia (Trish) LaFontaine are being recognized for their contributions to Métis organizations and community.

Also to be honoured are Grace Zoldy of Camperville, Man. and Christi Belcourt of Espanola, Ont.

The Order of Gabriel Dumont is bestowed by the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (GDI), a Métis-owned post-secondary and cultural institution based in Saskatoon with campuses across Saskatchewan.

The award is among the Métis Nation’s highest civilian honours. It is awarded by GDI to Métis and non-Métis individuals who have served or continue to serve the Métis of Canada with distinction. This year, three gold medals and two silver medals will be awarded.

“The contributions of these five recipients are truly remarkable. We are proud of their unwavering commitment to the Métis community and the generational legacies that they have bestowed on us. Congratulations on behalf of the Métis Nation,” said Wendy Gervais, Chair of the GDI Board of Governors.

Irma Klyne (Gold)

Irma Klyne was born in Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Her Métis family lived on the road allowance in the Qu’Appelle Valley east of Katepwa. She attended Fort Qu’Appelle School and later moved to Regina to work for various Indigenous organizations. Klyne is passionate about preserving her Michif language and shares her pride in reclaiming her first language. Her dedication to language learning and revitalization is exemplary. Klyne is now one of a handful of sought-after Michif speakers, teachers, and translators. Working with her partner Larry Fayant, she has contributed to Michif-language banking and preservation efforts, including translating storybooks. Klyne has been instrumental in teaching teachers and language learners for many years. Klyne retired from working with the Gabriel Dumont Institute after 32 years of service. She has always been the student’s biggest champion, sharing cultural values, teachings, and experiences and helping many reconnect with their Michif identity and community. Her philosophy of life is “Pahpi tou lee jour akwa kawya waneehkay tanday ka oohtoohtayen” (“laugh every day and never forget where you come from!”)

Evelyn Johnston (Silver)

Evelyn Johnston was born on July 7, 1950, in Edmonton, Alta., to Métis parents, Mary Caron and Gilbert Cunningham. She has three children and 10 grandchildren with her late husband, Grant Johnston. She instils in them the desire to be proud Métis people. Johnston has proved herself a tireless volunteer in the Métis community. For over 30 years, she has been an active member of Métis Local 165, Central Urban Metis Federation Inc. During her tenure, she has been an enthusiastic ambassador representing the community at conferences and events and has consistently advocated for the Métis education agenda.

Recently, she has worked to establish an annual Michif Language Camp for educators at Back to Batoche. Johnston has been a significant advocate in developing and promoting educational partnerships with both school divisions in Saskatoon. She has been a member of boards, governance groups, and working groups, providing a strong voice in terms of vision and implementation. These long-standing partnerships have impacted the lives of thousands of Métis and non-Métis youth as they learn about Métis history, culture, and the Michif language.


Patricia (Trish) LaFontaine (Silver)

Trish Lafontaine, from Regina, has familial ties to Lebret, through her grandparents, Marion Amyotte and Joseph Welsh. She's a mother and grandmother and is the daughter of Norma Welsh, a 2020 Order of Gabriel Dumont Silver Medal recipient.

Lafontaine graduated from the Gabriel Dumont Institute’s Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program in 1991, became an educator, and earned a Master's degree. Thereafter, Lafontaine was employed by the Government of Saskatchewan as a senior policy analyst, Superintendent, and Program Manager. During her career with the government, she wrote cabinet and legislative items, the high school Cree curriculum, and the Native Studies curriculum, which is still being used today. Lafontaine has served as a volunteer board member for Gabriel Housing and the Métis Cultural Development Fund and as the lead for First Nations and Métis Women’s Initiatives and Indigenous Knowledge Professional Development. She’s been awarded the Premier’s Award for her work on the Sixties Scoop Apology and the Deputy Minister’s Role Model Award. In addition to Lafontaine’s employment, educational and volunteer accomplishments, she is a respected role model representing the best of what it means to be Métis.

 “It is important to us to recognize the sacrifice and dedication of our Métis Elders, Knowledge Keepers, educators, artists and advocates who work hard to preserve Métis culture and language. Maarsii (thank you) to this year’s recipients for their years of important community work,” said Brett Vandale, acting executive director, GDI.