The first-ever Saskatchewan Indigenous Music Awards honoured prominent Prince Albert citizen Lawrence Joseph with their first-ever lifetime achievement award, called the Willard Ahenakew Award.
Joseph received the award during a ceremony on Sunday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. This was one of 10 awards handed out on the evening. The event recognized the work of Indigenous artists and was hosted by the newly formed Saskatchewan Indigenous Music Association (SIMA).
Joseph was honoured to be recognized with an award named after a prominent artist like Ahenakew.
“I know Willard, went to school with him when I was at the Residential School and I know he’s a very talented person, a very committed artist in the area, drawings and all that,” Joseph said.
“I have great respect for him. To receive a legacy with his name on it is something I never would have ever dreamt of. I think that’s beyond a great honour, a blessing.”
“I am actually flattered and surprised,” he added. “The thing is I didn’t even know there was such an award. To be the first, it’s quite the deal.”
Joseph said he was grateful to be the SIMA’s first lifetime achievement award winner. He was also glad to see the organization host the awards show to begin with.
“It is something that is long overdue because a lot of indigenous entertainers are very qualified, but because of their location in the province or wherever the people don’t get to see them or hear them,” he explained. “It is a real blessing to have to have this award.”
SIMA President Donny Parenteau presented the award on Sunday. Parenteau said the board chose Joseph in a unanimous decision.
He also introduced Willard’s son, Lee Ahenakew, who took his father’s place after Willard couldn’t attend due to a fall on Sunday morning.
Lee outlined his father’s life from growing up on Ahtakekoop Cree Nation to walking into CKBI and taking a drawing test and becoming a prominent Indigenous journalist, photographer and cartoonist. Ahenekew also organized the Saskatchewan and the National Indian Arts and Crafts Corporations.
Joseph’s daughter, Trina, then presented a biography before Joseph gave his acceptance speech.
Joseph has family in the arts including SIMA Vice President Sheryl Kimbley, LJ Kimbley, Trina Joseph, Richard Ahenakew and bassist Kevin Joseph just to name a few. Joseph’s grandson, Colton Kimbley, also during the show as part of the band.
Joseph has been an advocate for performing without using alcohol or drugs his whole life.
“What I’m most proud of is that is that none of them are into alcohol or drugs including my grandchildren. Yes, my grandson, LJ, Kimbley is doing national and international work, songwriting, singing, (and) entertaining. He’s been a radio host, and of course, his little brothers are into that. That’s the best part.”
Joseph was elected Chief of the FSIN in 1997 after spending more than a decade as Vice-Chief. Prior to that, however, he was well known in Prince Albert politics for serving as a city councillor.
Outside of politics, he volunteered his time singing at care homes and seniors lodges, bringing music to people who couldn’t go out on their own, and helped entertain residents every year by helping host Canada Day celebrations down at the river bank.
He said he came to love music while he lived on reserve and would sing in his brother’s empty house because of the acoustics. Music then became a hobby, but Jospeh also became a noted emcee.
“I didn’t really learn to be an emcee. It just came about because in the political area, you’re required to do a lot of public speaking, so I learned how to use the microphone,” he explained. “I used to speak in public and I became an emcee with Don Mitchell.”
Joseph hosted two Saskatchewan Country Music Awards, and first hosted Indigenous Circle when it was based in Prince Albert. He also hosted The Number One West Show, which was also produced in Prince Albert, and the show Funny Farm. He also served as a host on three Telemiracles.
“Being an emcee and entertainer, it’s been just a natural thing for me,” Joseph said.
The Willard Ahenakew Award is the latest in a long line of awards Joseph has received. He credited his wife and family for sticking by him through thick and thin.
“All the years that I left her alone with the children, out there playing music and out there traveling as a chief public service, it takes you away from family,” Joseph said.
“I was very blessed to still have her and my family following in our footsteps in what we do,” he added.
The first Emerging Artist of the Year award was Brindan. The winner of the Gospel Recording of the Year Award was Sundance and Sunshine Brass. The Song of the Year Award was presented to Shawn Adams. The Country/Roots Performer of the Year Award was presented to Jarrid Lee. Nige B won back-to-back awards claiming both the Instrumentalist of the Year Award and Rock/Heavy Metal/Rap Person of the Year Award.
Falynn Baptiste was named Female Vocalist of the Year while JJ Lavallee took home the Male Vocalist of the Year award.
The Fan Choice Entertainer of the Year Award was presented to Donny Corrigal.
Performances throughout the evening included Donny Parenteau, his daughter and Emerging Artist Nominee Julianna Parenteau, hip hop artist The Journalist, Yvonne St. Germaine, Roland Corrigal, the Strong Sisters and crowd-pleasing opener Teagan Littlechief.
The evening was emceed by Ken Landers of Missnippi Broadcasting.