Two Winnipeg School Division students were virtually honoured by the Manitoba Indigenous Youth Achievement Awards on March 25.
St. John’s High School graduate Holly Missyabit and Elmwood High School Grade 12 student Isaiah Binns received awards in the Artistic Performance and Personal Achievement Junior categories, respectively.
The MIYAAs are annually presented to Indigenous youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who have excelled in a variety of categories, from cultural to academic. Each MIYAA winner receives a $1,000 cheque.
Missyabit is a student in WSD’s Build From Within teacher development program. She is currently in her first-year at the University of Winnipeg.
The St. John’s alum received an MIYAA for her commitment to cheerleading. A member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Cheer and Dance team, Missyabit started cheerleading in Grade 9 while attending Technical Vocational High School.
Missyabit continued cheerleading at St. John’s, where she started a recreational cheer team.
“I just started doing it in my first year of high school and I really liked it,” Missyabit said.
“It was the athletic side of it that attracted me to it. Before I started doing cheer, I played hockey, but I ended up dropping hockey for cheerleading. I really like fitness and being athletic and cheer gives you the best of both worlds. You get to dance, have fun and be athletic at the same time.”
Missyabit started cheerleading for the Bombers in 2019. That season the football club won the 107th Grey Cup, ending a 28-year drought.
“That was my first year,” Missyabit said. “It was pretty fun. There was a lot of craziness happening.”
Missyabit is Ojibway and a member of Lake Manitoba First Nation. Her traditional Indigenous name is Minoikwezens, which translates to “good girl.”
Mino, as her family affectionately calls her, wants to spread the artistic/athletic activity of cheerleading to First Nations in Manitoba.
“Cheerleading is not that well-known, but I think if I can spread the word in different communities, then we can possibly create teams to compete against each other,” Missyabit said.
Binns has been the beneficiary of a good cheer or two. A star linebacker for the Elmwood Giants football team, Binns served as team captain during the 2018 season and was named to the Division 3 all-star team.
Binns, who has also participated in freestyle wrestling at Elmwood, said he likes the grittiness of the gridiron sport.
“If I’m being honest, I love the physicality, the toughness, the hitting,” Binns said. “But, I also like the comradery of it too, everyone coming together.”
“Also, there’s a mental toughness aspect. It makes you a stronger person.”
Binns has had to be strong, having lost his mother to cancer in 2015. He’s persevered and now has aspirations of going into business and starting his own clothing line.
He might want to take up writing as well. In his submission to the MIYAAs, Binns, a member of Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, wrote the following:
“As Indigenous people, the odds are against us, but we cannot let it take us. We were born warriors and survivors of the land beneath us. Follow your heart, block out all the negativity and remove it. Don’t listen to anyone who thinks differently of you. Don’t embrace the hate or you will become a part of that negative outlook. At the end of the day, we are the artists of our own world and we get to paint whatever picture we want, in any colour, even if it appears ugly to everyone else. It is ours. As long as we find beauty in what we’re painting, we will be smiling and that, is worth it.”
The 26th annual MIYAAs are being held in five online sessions on Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25 April 29 and May 27. The 2020 award ceremony was scheduled for the fall, but was postponed due to the pandemic.
In January, Technical Vocational High School student Sasha Houle received an MIYAA in the Academic Junior category.
In February, Children of the Earth High School grad Sondra Flett and St. John’s High School grad Rylee Nepinak received awards in the Cultural Female and Community/Volunteer Senior categories, respectively.