Two Winnipeggers are among the Canadians to be honoured with awards from the Governor General at Rideau Hall for work linked to aboriginal issues.
Nahanni Fontaine, a special adviser on aboriginal women's issues for the province, was named one of five recipients of the 2013 Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Person's Cases.
Matt Henderson, a teacher at St. John's-Ravenscourt School, is one of six Canadians named as a 2013 recipient of the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching.
An Ojibway from Sagkeeng First Nation, Fontaine was named for her work to advance recognition of, and action on, the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women. "I'm really honoured and humbled by this," Fontaine said.
She said the award is a testament to the importance of building relationships between the victims' families, the government and the police investigating the murders and disappearances.
Henderson claimed the honour for his work into the Idle No More movement in 2012 and how the events of history shaped its progression. With his Grade 11 class of 20 students, Henderson's guidance led to an examination of the key moments in the early fur trade and subsequent government legislation in the following decades.
This work resulted in a published book of short historical fiction titled Because of a Hat, a collection based around the development of the Red River region, the rise of the Hudson's Bay Company and Northwest Company and the birth of a Métis nation between 1738 and 1869.
Henderson said the credit is shared with his class. "I'm excited," he said, adding the award names him, but it's really for the work his students did to research and publish the book.
"I feel a little silly about it; that's what teachers are supposed to do and the kids did all the work," Henderson said.
Henderson's award is presented by the Governor General, but award recipients are chosen by the national, Winnipeg-based Canada's History Society. Using its role to popularize Canada's history, the society publishes the magazine Canada's History.
Deborah Morrison, CEO of the society, said the award is the country's top history honour and it encourages teachers to help students find their place in Canadian history.
In an interview, she said Henderson took his class to the Manitoba Archives at the height of the Idle No More rallies last winter and urged them to look at the Hudson Bay Archives and private journals there to explore the roots of the relationship between Canada's indigenous people and the fur traders in Western Canada.
"He's a brilliant teacher and he recognized the (significance) of the records and with the book the rest of us can benefit from it," Morrison said.
Fontaine will be presented with her award at a ceremony Tuesday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Henderson will get an awards certificate from Canada's History Society on Friday at Kildonan East Collegiate, followed by a formal presentation at Rideau Hall on Nov. 19.