Alert Bay’s Dr. Gloria Cranmer Webster received a lifetime achievement award at the 2018 Indspire awards held in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The March 23 ceremony recognized Indigenous professionals and youth who have demonstrated outstanding career achievement.
“It was unbelievable — it was totally unexpected and quite wonderful,” said Webster about receiving the lifetime achievement award, in a phone interview with the Gazette from her home in Alert Bay.
Webster was recognized for her work in cultural reclamation, artefact repatriation, and language revitalization.
In 1921, federal government confiscated masks and regalia at her father Dan Cranmer’s potlatch ceremony held on Village Island.
At the time, potlatches had been banned by the Canadian government since 1884.
Years later, Webster worked as an assistant curator at UBC’s Museum of anthropology and worked to help repatriate the collection, which eventually became known as the potlatch collection.
She returned to Alert Bay in 1975 to lead the design and construction of the U’mista Cultural Centre, which would house the potlatch collection.
“U’mista in Kwak’wala means the return of something important — The return of the potlatch collection was a kind of U’mista. What I hope today is that the young people will continue their own U’mista, their return to the old ways,” said Webster, as quoted on the Indspire website.
Webster, along with elders and Dr. J. Powell, a linguist from the University of BC, also worked together to develop an orthography and a series of 12 language books, which helped preserve language and culture.
She was also in the company of Dr. Evelyn Voyager, from Kingcome Inlet, who received the 2018 Indspire award for health. Voyager was cited as being a trailblazer in indigenous health, as she has spent more than five decades in the nursing profession focusing on a holistic approach to emotional, physical, and mental health.
“There were two of us there from our territory, which was very nice,” said Webster.
This is not the first major award Webster has received honouring her life’s work — back in August she was appointed an officer of the order of Canada, which is the country’s highest award.
“It’s been a busy time for awards,” laughed Webster, adding, “Both of them very unexpected and both of them truly appreciated.”
The Indspire Awards were created in 1993, in conjunction with the United Nation’s International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. They promote self-esteem and pride for Indigenous communities and provide outstanding role models for Indigenous youth.
– with files from Indspire.ca