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2022 Esquao Awards Gala

Press Release


The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) is a non-profit organization that recognizes the role, value and achievement of Aboriginal women in society and raises awareness about the challenges and obstacles they face. IAAW projects, services and programs are developed by and for Alberta’s Aboriginal women and are open to all First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and their families.


Esquao is the stylized version for the Cree word for woman and is copyrighted.

The Esquao Awards is the largest gathering to honour Aboriginal Women in Canada. It is unique because it the community nominates the women, and the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) coordinates the ceremony to honour them.  The Esquao Awards highlight the significant role Aboriginal women hold in their home, in the healing and development of their city/town/hamlet/reserve/settlement and in the building of Alberta. To date 493 women have received Esquao Awards, from over 90 communities.

The Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women (IAAW) is a non-profit organization that delivers programs and advocates for systemic changes that support the inclusion, skill development and recognition of Aboriginal women in Alberta. Current programs include financial literacy, healthy relationships, employment, training and supports to women coming out of correctional institutions.The Esquao Awards is an integral part of outreach and support to Aboriginal women across Alberta. IAAW is based in Edmonton with reach to several outlying communities to provide training, host gatherings and action planning.

This year we are expecting approximately 350 people from across Alberta. Many corporations, government departments and Aboriginal organizations support these awards to recognize the accomplishments of Aboriginal Women. This is the 26th annual event. We are expecting Ministers, Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Métis and First Nation leaders, other dignitaries and media to attend.

The Esquao Awards are unique in that there is no competition between nominees.  When communities submit a nomination with three letters of support, the nominee is then deemed to be a ‘community champion’ in one of the categories below and presented with an Esquao Award.

Nominees may be placed in one of the following categories:

  • Arts – excellence in the performing or visual arts
  • Business – success in business development or ownership
  • Children’s Future – planning and promoting services for children to help them live their dreams
  • Community Involvement – striving for community wellness
  • Culture – practicing and preserving cultural practices and way of life
  • Education – achievement in the education system
  • Health and Medicine – advocating for staff or administrators in the health system
  • International – development of relationships with Indigenous women around the world
  • Justice and Human Rights – courage and determination in pursuing justice or advocating for human rights
  • Lifetime Achievement – lifetime commitment of helping others in their community
  • Service to Country and Community – those serving in the Canadian Forces, Police, Fire or Emergency Services
  • Sports – achievement in organized sports
  • Trades and Technology – success in trades and/or technology

IAAW is based in Edmonton with reach to several outlying communities to provide training, host gatherings and action planning. If you have meal requirements or have any other ticket questions, please email e[email protected]

Doors open at 4:30pm

Opening ceremony starts promptly at 5:00pm in the Entertainment Centre, as the event is recorded. Presentations are given in groups with entertainment intertwined throughout the night. Event concludes at 9:30pm.


Local media are expected to cover the event. If you don’t want to be in promotional pictures, please identify yourself at the main reception.

Gifts/Door Prizes/Silent Auction/Artisans

Recipients will receive a gift bag of donated items and door prizes are drawn during the event.  There will also be a silent auction and 50-50. Women from our programs will sell their crafts at the event as well.


The River Cree Casino has parking in the rear of the building close to the arena. The closest door is on the west side of the hotel. Click here to view map of area.


River Cree Resort is offering special rates for room bookings made before April 12, 2022 for those attending the awards. Please call River Cree for all room reservations at 1-844-425-2733.


Tickets $149/each or $1200/table (+GST) and are available with credit cards here. Payment is possible by cheque or e-transfer prior to the event. Refunds are possible until April 13, 2022, less a $50 administration fee. Tickets are mailed out for those purchased prior to April 15, 2022. Tickets purchased after April 15, will be available for pickup at the River Cree Entertainment Centre, starting at 4pm.

Sponsorship Opportunities

The Esquao Awards would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. IAAW directs all proceeds raised through the 26th Annual Esquao Awards to support our programs. Learn more about Sponsorship Opportunities here.
Thank you to our Sponsors for you support!
For further information, please contact Rachelle Venne, Chief Executive Officer
at 780-479-8195 | [email protected]


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