Credit: Great Lakes Cultural Camps
This image is from a 3-year stewardship project developed by Great Lakes Cultural Camps in Wikwemikon in conjunction with youth from Teme-Augama First Nation on Bear Island. The bark canoe was also built by Anishinaabe youth that took part in this program covering over 1,000 km paddling throughout N’dakimenan, the Dumoine River and the Missinaibi River.

Canada is a nation of rivers, so it flows that people who go above and beyond to preserve Canada’s river heritage should be celebrated. In 1994, the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, created the Bill Mason National River Conservation Award to do just that. The inaugural recipient was Canadian Canoe Museum founder Kirk Wipper. Since then, other recipients have been: Haida artist, Bill Reid (1998); former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (2000); Algonquin Elder William Commanda (2004); artist, author and outfitter Hap Wilson (2007); paddler, author and river advocate Max Finkelstein (2009); river conservation advocate and long-time CHRS manager Don Gibson (2013); and wilderness advocates and educators Carol and Bruce Hodgins (2017).

In 2020, the board of the Canadian Heritage River System reached out to The Canadian Canoe Museum to explore possibilities for building a partnership to update and renew this recognition to broaden its reach and appeal and to update award criteria to honour a broader range of activities associated with river heritage and conservation. With the full support of the Mason family, one of the changes to the award structure is to retain Bill Mason’s spirit of river love and advocacy but to name the recognition The Canadian River Heritage Award. The Canadian Canoe Museum, where the Canadian River Heritage Award will be housed and awarded on a triannual basis, is delighted to join with the Canadian Heritage River System in calling for nominees for the first Canadian Heritage River Award!

The Award is intended to recognize outstanding individual contributions of national significance to river heritage and conservation rather than those of a group or organization. More than one individual can be nominated for a single award in cases where individual contributions are interrelated and complementary to the shared nomination. Any individual who is a present or former long-term resident of Canada is eligible for nomination, except elected or appointed public officials who may not be nominated while in office. The Award may be granted posthumously if the person is nominated within one year of their death or was nominated at any point prior to their death. Nominations will also be assessed regarding the degree to which the nominee’s accomplishments embrace diversity and advance inclusion. Questions about the Award or the nomination process to [email protected].

Guidelines, procedures, and criteria of the Award are available on the Canadian Heritage River Systems website. We would love to have your help in nominating someone or sharing this call for nominations with any people or organizations who might have suggestions for nominees or might be able to help spread the word. Nominations must be submitted by June 30, 2021, to be considered for the 2021 Award.