‘It’s such a precious thing to have’: Former Muskeg Lake chief humbled to receive Saskatchewan Order of Merit

Harry Lafond -- Courtesy of the University of Saskatchewan

The Prince Albert area’s only recipient of the 2022 Saskatchewan Order of Merit, Harry Lafond, says the win gives his family “an opportunity to have a good time, to tell stories, to remember things, and enjoy eachothers company.”

“It’s such a precious thing to have, especially after COVID,” Lafond said. “To just appreciate people. This gives us a chance to do that.”

On June 28, Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty announced the eight newest recipients of the province’s highest honour, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. 

They will join the 258 individuals who were previously invested during a ceremony in September. 

“This group of recipients has shown an extraordinary commitment to making the Province of Saskatchewan a better place for everyone,” Mirasty said. “I congratulate each of these exceptional individuals and I thank them for the positive impact they have made on our province and its people.”

Lafond, the former Chief of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, says this is his confirmation that other’s appreciate the work that he does. 

“It feels good,” he said. “It tells me people appreciate the effort I put into reconciliation, activities, projects, helping people out, helping organizations wherever I can, [and] helping my community.”

Lafond is an Indigenous leader and academic who used his opportunities to advance reconciliation through his teachings. 

His many accomplishments include teaching all levels of education — from primary school to post-secondary courses, successfully lobbying for a new school for the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, and holding the position of Indigenous Education Scholar at St. Thomas Moore College in the University of Saskatchewan. 

During his ten years as Chief of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Lafond was instrumental in negotiating and establishing an urban reserve in Saskatoon — the first ever in Canada. He also developed a custom election code, strengthening his community’s Indigenous laws and practices.

Lafond held the position of Executive Director in the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, served as a councillor on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Council for 15 years, and is a Catholic deacon. 

He is currently serving on the Saskatoon Roman Catholic Diocese’s Council on Truth and Reconciliation and is an advisor to the Bishop of the Prince Albert Roman Catholic Diocese. 

The Saskatchewan Order of Merit was established in 1985 to recognize excellence and achievement from outstanding Saskatchewan citizens that have made significant contributions in areas such as art, community leadership, public service and volunteer service.