jo-anne-youngJo Anne Young North American indigenous cultures have always highly venerated the Eagle, a bird that is synonymous with strength, courage, wisdom, honesty, power and freedom. Métis culture contains this symbolic association, the Eagle being considered sacred in our traditions and acting as the messenger to the Creator, carrying thoughts, prayers, and desires towards Him. Considering the spiritual significance and honour attributed to the Eagle, receiving an Eagle feather is amongst the highest honour that can be awarded in Aboriginal circles. The giving of the Eagle feather acknowledges the hard work and achievements of the recipient, and today is used to pay tribute to individuals who greatly impact their surrounding Aboriginal community.

On June 21st in Hamilton Ontario, Jo Anne Young, President of the Hamilton-Wentworth Métis Council, received such an honour, being given an Eagle feather in a special ceremony run by the Hamilton Executive Directors’ Aboriginal Coalition (HEDAC) on behalf of the local Aboriginal community. The ceremony marked the start of Aboriginal Days festivities for the day, and showcased those who continually strive to serve Métis and First Nation people in the area.

Jo Anne is a 61-year-old mother of two, born in Alberta, raised in British Columbia, and whose traditional homeland is in the Meadow Lake/Green Lake/Isle à La Crosse area of Saskatchewan. Aspects of Métis life including hunting, fishing, and preserving were taught to Jo Anne from a young age, along with an understanding of the importance of education and life-long learning. As a young girl, Jo Anne was diagnosed with Scoliosis; as a teenager this condition required surgery and she was hospitalized for nine months. However this did not prevent Jo Anne from graduating with her own high school class and pursuing a career in Nursing at the Ottawa General Hospital – where she met her husband. With the completion of additional courses Jo Anne began working with emotionally disturbed children until the birth of her first child.

At this point in her life Jo Anne switched careers, becoming first a Certified General Accountant (CGA) and then a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). It was during this time she had her second child and first became involved with the Métis Nation of Ontario, serving as the Financial Controller while the MNO Head Office was still located in Toronto. The MNO’s move to Ottawa coupled with the onset of type two diabetes of her husband and type one diabetes of her son again prompted her to change careers. Jo Anne enrolled at George Brown College in Toronto, graduating with a diploma in Culinary Management, allowing her to complete a post-graduate course in Food and Nutrition Management along with her Red Seal certification. This has lead Jo Anne to a position as the Food Service Supervisor at Iroquois Lodge, a long-term care facility on the Six Nations Reserve.

During this time, Jo Anne’s commitment to the Métis community has never stopped. Jo Anne has served as a Council member, Treasurer, and for the last several years President of the Hamilton-Wentworth Métis Council. She has also served as an ambassador to the surrounding community, attending local meetings and events put on by other indigenous organizations, participating in land use and sustainable energy meetings with Conservation Authorities and the Provincial Government, and visiting local schools with Métis veterans – all as a volunteer. Jo Anne perfectly demonstrates the traits needed for a recipient of an Eagle feather. The kindness, honesty, wisdom, and determination she shows day after day and year after year serves as inspiration for all those around her, and provides a role model for all Métis citizens throughout the MNO.