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`Quiet dignity' of MP cited in making award (1996 National Aboriginal Achievement Award).

Elijah Harper really needs no introduction. He's one of the bestknown and most widely respected of Aboriginal Canadians. The parliamentarian was presented with the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service.

Harper was relatively unknown even 10 years ago. From Red Sucker Lake First Nation in Manitoba, he became its chief at 29 years of age. In 1981, he was first elected to the Manitoba legislature, where he was to serve 11 years.

His journey towards fame began with his appointment, in 1986, to the post of cabinet minister without portfolio responsible for Native Affairs. In 1987, he became Manitoba's minister of Northern Affairs.

As with others at the awards, Harper was involved in the constitutional sessions at the end of the 1980s and into the '90s. He blocked passage of the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord in the Manitoba legislature in 1990, a sole negative vote when unanimous consent was required for passage.

Eagle feather in hand, Harper cited the lack of adequate participation by Aboriginal people in Canada's political process -- and more specifically Canada's constitutional process -- as his reason for blocking the accord. His stand exemplified the growing influence and power of First Nations across Canada.

The next step in Harper's career seemed to be a national profile, when he was elected in 1993 as Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Churchill, Canada's third largest electoral division. He now sits on the House standing committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

He has been unable to do all that might have been expected of him due to a widely publicized and debilitating illness, which has plagued the quiet man from manitoba's north. In recent months, however, Harper seems to have effected something of a recovery, and he is again working effectively as one of the few Aboriginal voices within the political system.

In December last year, he brought 3,000 people together in Hull, Que., in a sacred assembly. They met to find a spiritual process for resolving political problems.

Harper was presented with the National Aboriginal Achievement Award "for his example and dedication to resolving the political and social problems of First Nations."

One of three winners in the large public service category, other nominees included Remy Bastien of Moisie, Que.; Margaret Commodore of Whitehorse; Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell of Glenburnie, Ont.; Sonny Joe Cross of Kahnawake, Que.; Billyjo DeLaRonde of Winnipeg and Grant Dokis of Hanmer, Ont. The other winners were the Hon. W. Yvon Dumont and Grand Chief Phil Fontaine, both of Winnipeg.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:May 1, 1996
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