Raymond Ahenakew receives Sask. Order of Merit
by Phil Ambroziak
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Raymond Ahenakew.
The Ahtahkakoop First Nation member, who began his professional career at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT), currently serves as acting president of that institution.
“I was here in 1976 when they turned the sod, and now I’m back again – it’s a small world,” Ahenakew said.
His contributions to SIIT, combined with everything else he’s accomplished in the last 30-plus years, have not gone unnoticed. Recently, Ahenakew was presented with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit – an award given in recognition of excellence, achievement and contributions to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the province and its residents. The award also recognizes individuals who have made their mark in such areas as the arts, agriculture, business and industry, community leadership, the occupations or professions, public service, research, and volunteer service. It takes precedence over all other provincial honours and awards.
“I found out I was receiving the award about a week beforehand,” Ahenakew said. “I was surprised, but also overwhelmed by the honour bestowed on me. It was a humbling experience.”
Throughout his career, Ahenakew has also chaired the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, as well as the National Labour Training Market Board of Human Resources Development Canada. He was a member of the University of Regina’s board of governors, the National Advisory Panel on Skill Development Leave, the president’s provincial image team of Tourism Saskatchewan, the provincial Uranium Development Panel and the national advisory board to the Auditor General of Canada. Locally, Ahenakew is remembered for his time as Meadow Lake Tribal Council chief executive officer. During this period, he led self-government negotiations with Ottawa and secured a $40 million bank loan to purchase Norsask Forest Products.
“My time as CEO was probably my longest stint anywhere,” he said. “I don’t remember exact dates, but I was there for 18-20 years. I remember the discussions we had, the friendships I made and the chiefs I worked with.”
According to Ray Mitsuing, former Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation chief, Ahenakew’s time with the MLTC was second to none.
“He did a tremendous job with the MLTC,” Mitsuing said. “He was our key person when all the progress here happened – he looked after the whole operation. He is most deserving of this award and I congratulate him for getting it. He has done so much for every organization he has been a part of.”
Ahenakew went on to credit his time in the Meadow Lake area as contributing greatly to his success.
“Meadow Lake opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” he said.
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