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Order of Merit bestowed on Indigenous storyteller

Floyd Favel of Poundmaker First Nation was one of 10 recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.

POUNDMAKER FIRST NATION – A formal ceremony was held in Regina June 19 to honour the 10 recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for 2024. Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty presented each recipient with a medal, including Indigenous storyteller, Floyd Favel.

Favel was nominated for the prestigious award by the Allan Sapp Gallery in North Battleford. While Favel admits he was in disbelief when he first heard the news, he felt good to be recognized.

“I didn’t expect to be recognized and I never thought I was worthy enough to be nominated for something like this. It was such an honour to sit and listen to the Lieutenant Governor, Brad Wall and Scott Moe,” said Favel.

As Favel spoke about the awards ceremony, he recalled a quote from Justice Paul Favel,

“Our ancestors, who were great warriors, would have been proud to be recognized by the Crown.”

Favel grew up on Poundmaker First Nation, located north of Cut Knife. There, he learned at an early age the Cree language from the non-English speaking elders. While visiting with family and elders over the years, Favel gained knowledge of his family’s genealogy and a good understanding of oral storytelling by the time he was in junior high school.

After high school, Favel’s interest in storytelling led him to Saskatoon, working as a backstage hand at the Persephone Theatre. He later travelled to Toronto, Ont. for a summer theatre program for Indigenous students, then in 1984 made his way to an Indigenous theatre school located in Denmark. With his background in the performing arts, Favel expanded his craft, becoming an autodidactic with writing.

“My primary interest was in reading and listening to the stories from family and community members. I felt gravitated to literary works and sharing those stories,” said Favel.

The connection to storytelling also led Favel to having a keen interest in history. In the fall of 2016, Poundmaker First Nation Council member Milton Tootoosis contacted Favel to see if there was any interest in re-establishing the local museum.

“The curator at the time was an elderly woman and the building had been abandoned, falling into disrepair. There were 10 volunteers who started to work on the building with me into the winter,” said Favel.

The hard work put into the Poundmaker Museum was unveiled for the summer of 2017 at the grand re-opening. Fort Battleford loaned Chief Poundmaker’s gun and staff for the event.

“It was great to have some of Chief Poundmaker’s items on display,” added Favel.

In 1994, Chief Blaine Favel had asked the federal government to exonerate Chief Poundmaker of his crimes, which was denied at the time. Another petition for the exoneration was finally accepted in 2019 by the Canadian government.

“Our history is the centre of our identity. It should not be abandoned; it needs to be living and alive,” said Favel in his interview with SaskToday.ca.

Favel continues to volunteer his time with the Poundmaker Museum, with projects lined up year-round. Once the tourist season has ended, the volunteers have ongoing youth programs for the younger members of the Poundmaker First Nation community.

“We have volunteers with knowledge in creating regalia for dancing and storytelling throughout the winter months,” said Favel.

In the summer months, the museum has hosted the Poundmaker Indigenous Performance Festival, which also includes a Plains Indian sign language workshop. Favel, who orchestrated the event, still oversees the project and is excited to see the festival travelling to Poland next year in June.

Since receiving the Order of Merit, Favel says he is planning to relax a bit.

“This is allowing me to think in alternative ways and focusing on projects I had to put on the back burner for a bit.”