James Bartleman Award winner Ava Morin and Native-as-a Second Language Teacher Tory Fisher supplied by Nipissing Parry-Sound Catholic District School Board.

By Kelly Anne Smith

A bright Grade six student from St. Alexander has been given the James Bartleman award by the former Lieutenant Governor himself.

Ava Morin was one of six recipients picked for excellence in Indigenous Youth Creative Writing and given a cash prize of $2500 in the Toronto ceremony.

Affiliated with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai First Nation, Ava’s mother Barbara Chartrand says the family is delighted and surprised with the big news. “We had forgotten that it was all under way. She had submitted that piece in May so it wasn’t really on our radar.”

Ava, her mom and sister Phoebe travelled to Toronto to the awards ceremony, leaving a day early to visit Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower and the ROM.

Chartrand enrolled Ava in Native-as-a Second Language so that she can learn Anishinaabemowin, “Our cultural heritage language. I only know bits and pieces I learned from my family growing up. So when this opportunity came for my daughters to do that through their school, I jumped all over that opportunity for them because I’m not able to pass that on and the Elders in our family unfortunately aren’t around to do that anymore either. So this was a way to keep that alive.” Chartrand says it’s gratifying and fun that her daughters in turn are teaching the language to her.

The award was presented to Ava by the current lieutenant governor, the Honorable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Chartrand had the Kleenex out during the ceremony. “It was a very touching moment. And it was equally moving to hear the words from the other children as well, from their perspective. The topics that all the kids choose to write about were very powerful. They were all brave to talk about these things. It’s not easy for anyone to do, let alone children.”

Ava wrote in a journal style about courage and finding faith within. Asked how she could inspire other children, Ava explained it is in the writing. “Writing is one of the things that makes me feel confident about myself. I let out feelings.”

I just think about myself and how other children can be confident like me. If I can do it, they can do it.” Ava added that she gains confidence from her relationships with her friends and the support of her family.

The young writer thought the experience to be educational after hearing the entries of the other winners. “I learned that people have different styles and think about different things than I do.”

Morin also discovered that Toronto is a big city. “It was a little bit overwhelming with all the people walking around. But it was really fun.”

Ava talked about Native-as-a Second Language, her favorite subject along with writing, and Teacher Tory Fisher. “I got to learn a little bit of my language from him, and was able to write some of my language in my essay.”

Ava says learning her language is also helping to make her more confident. “Now I have more knowledge about the language and can respect it more.”