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By Costa Maragos Posted: March 21, 2018 6:00 a.m.

Tracie Léost, a second year social work student, shown here taking part in the recent 'Have a Heart' campaign in support of First Nations children. She will receive the Indspire Award March 23.
Tracie Léost, a second year social work student, shown here taking part in the recent 'Have a Heart' campaign in support of First Nations children. She will receive the Indspire Award March 23. Photo by Costa Maragos - External Relations

A journey by social work student Tracie Léost, to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, is about to hit the national stage.

Léost is one of the youth recipients of the 2018 Indspire Awards on March 23 held in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The ceremony, which also features performances from some of the biggest names in Indigenous entertainment, will be broadcast on APTN and CBC at a later date. Created in 1993, the awards have celebrated Indigenous successes and achievements.

In 2016, an Indspire Award was given to Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew, Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre and professor of English at First Nations University of Canada. Dr. Episkenew passed away shortly before the awards ceremony.

This year, 13 people are being honoured. Léost is one of three to receive the Indspire Award in the Youth category. The others are Dr. Donna May Kimmaliaradjuk, the first Inuk to become a heart surgeon and Ashley Callingbull, the first Canadian and first First Nations woman to be crowned Mrs. Universe.
 
“I am super-honoured,” says Léost. “I am kind of blown away that people feel I am deserving.”

Tracie Leost
Tracie Léost ran 115 km to raise money and awareness for missing and
murdered Indigenous women and girls. Photo by Pamela Léost.


Léost, 19, is Métis from Treaty One Territory in Manitoba and a second-year student in the Faculty of Social Work.

The Indspire Awards recognize Léost for her 115 km run from her hometown of Oak Point, Manitoba to downtown Winnipeg in the summer of 2015 to raise money and awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  

She undertook the run at a time when she felt little was being done to deal with missing and murdered Indigenous women.

“That was disgusting to me. I felt like I had the ability to give this issue another voice, and that’s what I did,” she says.

Tracie Leost 2
Léost says she found support from people along her route.
Photo courtesy of Pamela Léost.


The run took place in the summer of 2015.

“The run itself had incredible support. People would be honking their horns, taking pictures, donating money and offering water. All from people, I didn’t even know,” recalls Léost, who also produced a blog recounting her experiences.

But the run did not end there. Months later, Léost was contacted by American musician Cass McCombs, to produce a video about the run. The video, Run Sister Run, was followed by articles in Vogue magazine and the online music magazine Pitchfork.



Léost has always been close to her Métis roots.

“I was jigging and square dancing at the age of three. I picked up a fiddle in grade four. I am doing everything I can to reclaim my language and culture,” she says.

Léost first set eyes on the U of R campus in 2014, as a member of Team Manitoba’s long distance track and field team at the North American Indigenous Summer Games in Regina. She earned three bronze medals.

Some of the competitions took place at the U of R.  

“I felt comfortable here. The culture is accepting here,” says Léost. “Since the games, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. The (Social Work) program is great and I am still close to home.”  

Léost feels her Indspire Award can inspire other Indigenous youth.  

“I feel I have a positive message I can share with youth,” says Léost. “I just hope I can make a difference in their lives.”

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