A coach who’s a “huge motivating factor” in the lives of Ndilo kids and a teacher who reinvigorated basketball in Fort Smith were among six people honoured by Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT on Saturday.
Aaron Plotner, who works at Ndilo’s K’alemi Dene School, took the Aboriginal Sports Circle’s coach award. Allie McDonald, who has taught in Fort Smith for the past six years, won the teachers’ award.
“It’s been just wonderful working with that school and the kids there,” said Plotner on receiving his award.
McDonald said: “I feel very humbled. This award goes far beyond what I have accomplished, it’s the work of many and the perfect example of how small communities have the ability to welcome new faces with open arms.”
Bronwyn Rutherford-Simon, a teenager also from Fort Smith, won the 2019 sport award. The Aboriginal Sports Circle said she was “the perfect example of a fantastic athlete … who also gives back to her community.”
Bayleigh Chaplin, from Fort Resolution, won a language and culture award for her work helping youth “to do more activities that connect them to their culture and the old ways of life.”
Yellowknife’s Dianna Beck won the community builder award. Her efforts for the sport of dog mushing, such as a key role in coordinating the annual Canadian Championship dog derby, “often go unnoticed,” the Aboriginal Sports Circle said. “It takes a lot of hard work to be able to do what Dianna does,” a tribute to Beck read.
Constable Steve Beck was given a community sports award by Jamie Zettler, NWT RCMP’s commanding officer. Beck, a Hay River resident, has run on-the-land camps in the South Slave for decades, teaching hunting, trapping, and respect for the land. Around 150 youth go through the camps each year.
“To see the way it’s organized and run, and the youth that go out and engage and enjoy it, it’s a very positive relationship,” said Zettler. “Steve is a leader in the community. The values he brings are nothing but positive.”
The Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT’s annual ceremony recognizes, in its words, “the difference-makers across the NWT who are working hard to provide services to communities through sport, recreation, and culture.”
Three scholarship winners were also announced: Inuvik’s Chloe Larocque, Fort Providence’s Mikaela Vandell, and Yellowknife’s Sahara Lafferty.
Below, you can read the full tributes the Aboriginal Sports Circle provided to its winners.
In her final year of high school, Bronwyn Rutherford-Simon is a successful student, strong athlete, and outstanding teenager. She is quiet, poised and an unassuming leader who always tries her best on and off the field. She is looked up to by younger athletes on her high school teams and she always tries to create an atmosphere of fair play for her teammates. Bronwyn has been representing her community and Team NT for years, in more than one sport. She has competed in swimming, soccer and biathlon at the North American Indigenous Games, Canada Summer Games, Western Canada Summer Games, and Arctic Winter Games.
Bronwyn is an exceptional role model in her community as she spends her free time volunteering at the local animal shelter, helping her parents with their new up-and-coming dog team, and coaching younger athletes. She has a natural aptitude to work with and coach children. These successes speak volumes of her perseverance, determination, and selflessness as an athlete and community member.
Bronwyn is the perfect example of a fantastic athlete that works hard on the field and in school and who also gives back to her community – the trifecta of attributes that we would love all of our young people to have at such an age. The younger athletes that she coaches will miss her a great deal when she leaves for school, as will her teammates. Bronwyn is deserving of the ASCNWT Sport Award for her tremendous work ethic, athleticism, and kindness off and on the field.
Bayleigh Chaplin is a young role model who puts a lot of effort into staying connected with and preserving her culture. To her, it is interesting to learn about the previous generations and how they lived their lives. She thinks it is important that future generations understand where they come from. In order to pass on the knowledge of our elders, she preaches that we must be active in learning the knowledge ourselves first.
Bayleigh is always willing to lend a helping hand and despite hard times in life, she always puts on a strong face and takes part in cultural activities and events. This kind of effort does not go unnoticed. Bayleigh is a shining example for younger generations. When she isn’t on the field or training for her own sports and activities, such as archery and Dene Games, she is constantly making an effort to be out on the land. On top of this, Bayleigh continuously influences youth to do more activities that connect them to their culture and the old ways of life by bringing them out on the land with her. Her love of art and her creativity have carried her traditional sewing, and she has a lot of pieces to show for it. Her other cultural hobbies include hunting and trapping with her father, playing Handgames, and competing in Dene Games and archery, which gave her the opportunities to represent Team NT at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (archery) and the 2018 Arctic Winter Games (Dene Games).
She also loves to participate in cultural events such as bannock making, assembling fish nets, cultural crafts, making dry meat, and story-telling. Her willingness to learn and her humble attitude make for the perfect person to transfer knowledge on to future generations.
Dianna Beck is well known in the Dog Mushing community. She is recognized for her hard work, dedication, and active involvement with the Canadian Championship Dog Derby in Yellowknife. This traditional sporting event, which covers 150 miles on the Great Slave Lake, brings together family and friends from around the NWT to watch such a spectacular race. Because of Dianna’s diligence, the Canadian Championship Dog Derby is known world-wide as a premier sled dog race that attracts mushers from across Canada and the United States.
Dianna does a lot of work with the Dog Derby, namely her efforts behind the scenes, that often go unnoticed. Year-round she is looking for partners and sponsors in order to create a world-class event, as well as incorporate more sled dog races to include new and young mushers to the sport. Dianna organizes all fundraising events over the year, as well as keeps social media and online information up to date and accurate for the public. On top of all this, she facilitates workshops for youth to teach and promote the sport of dog mushing.
The Canadian Championship Dog Derby reflects the evolution of dogsledding from the heritage of the trapline to a modern-day world-class sporting event. This event is a celebration of the heritage of sled dogs, northern culture, Indigenous values and beliefs – a Yellowknife tradition dating back over 60 years. Dianna’s effort keeps this tradition alive! All of her success and accomplishments are a result of her incredible compassion and love for the sport. It takes a lot of hard work to be able to do what Dianna does.
Aaron Plotner works at K’alemi Dene School (KDS) and plays a huge role in the after-school activities by coaching a variety of sports teams. He recognizes the importance of building relationships with students and encouraging them to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. He takes the time to get to know his students and helps them develop their athletic abilities as well. For a number of students, participating in sports and working with Aaron has been a huge motivating factor in their lives.
Aaron attends every day with a goal to make a difference for the students at KDS. He makes the effort to spend quality time with them, showing through his actions that they really matter. Aaron is passionate about sports. He loves seeing kids learn new skills and improving their technique. Not only does he preach a healthy lifestyle, but he leads by example. Aaron often rides his bike to work (he lives in Dettah!), works out regularly and plays on several sports teams during his own time.
Aaron is an outstanding coach and a fantastic role model through his actions and encouragement for students to live their best and healthiest lives.
Alexandra (Allie) McDonald moved to Fort Smith from Ottawa in 2013 when she was hired to teach Core French at PWK high school. Allie is the oldest of five children and, as her mother reports, is a natural born leader. From a young age, she was heavily involved in sports and extracurricular activities, which helped to shape her into an engaged community member.
Allie received a degree in English Literature and French from Concordia University in Montreal. After graduating from Concordia in 2011, Allie spent four months in Gulu, Uganda working for non-profit organizations and teaching English. After returning to Canada, she knew that teaching was her calling and returned to school to complete her Bachelor of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.
From the time that Allie arrived in Fort Smith, it was, and continues to be evident that she had a passion for sports. She has coached everything from outdoor/indoor soccer to volleyball to track. She has really done it all! She worked hard to reinvigorate basketball in Fort Smith by starting the Steve Nash basketball program in 2015 for children aged six to eleven. This helped spark interest in the now popular sport and has demonstrated the importance of grassroots programs in small communities.
Allie didn’t stop at sports in the school, she immersed herself in the community and quickly became a key organizer for our Sweetgrass and Winter Camp programs for students. She worked hard to get involved and was able to build relationships with community members that go far beyond the walls of her classroom. She values the importance of being on the land and strives to be inclusive of what cultural teachings have to offer in and outside of the classroom.
Note: No prepared tribute was provided for Constable Steve Beck, who received the Commanding Officer’s Community Sports Award.