Mary John Award of Excellence

Nominate an Indigenous Student Today.


Mary John's Legacy

Dr. Mary John was born in Lheidli in 1913 and grew up in Saik’uz after her mother’s marriage. At age sixteen, she married Lazare John and they raised a large family. Mary became involved in the community early on, starting with the promotion of traditional arts and crafts. Mary was involved with the BC Homemakers Association, eventually becoming the district president. Through this work she advocated for the creation of home-based craft sales to support families. Later Mary promoted language revitalization, including songs and dances. She taught these in schools and was a founding director of the Yinka Dene Language Institute.

Mary was also a champion of social justice and served on many committees regarding child welfare, education, economic development and First Nations rights and title. Mary was a regular guest speaker in the Aboriginal Studies classes at CNC where her wisdom had lasting impact on every student.

Mary built bridges of understanding between cultures. In the 1980s, she began liaison work with the RCMP, hosting an RCMP staff barbecue each summer and teaching many cross-cultural workshops. She eventually helped to found a provincial Aboriginal advisory committee for the RCMP.


Mary was a devoted mother, grandmother, and friend who never turned anyone away -- even in her later years, people continued to sit in her living room, drink tea, and learn from her as she worked tirelessly on her beautiful crafting and beading.  

In 1996 Mary was granted an honorary doctorate from UNBC, in 1997 she received the Order of Canada for outstanding service to her community, and in 2003 the Queen’s Jubilee medal - a fitting legacy for someone who championed everything from cultural preservation to First Nations rights.

Most fittingly, a book Stoney Creek Woman was written about her life, documenting her community service, and her struggles against poverty and racism with unfailing grace and courage. All northern communities have benefited in some way from her brave and selfless efforts and she remains an exceptional role model in First Nations communities.

Mary John 1

What is the award?

In recognition of her achievements, the Mary John Award of Excellence is presented annually to a CNC student who exemplifies Mary’s community service and dedication to language and cultural revitalization. The Award is open to all Indigenous students of the College of New Caledonia. 

The award recipient will be presented with a ring, commissioned specifically for the Mary John Award. In addition, they will be given a $500 bursary for CNC and will be publicly acknowledged at Convocation. 

Each year, the recipient's name is placed on a plaque for a shadow box containing a collage of Dr. Mary John's legacy.

Who can qualify?

The award recipient must be a CNC student of Aboriginal ancestry, and must demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Mentoring and supporting others.
  • Acting as a role model and/ or serving their local community.
  • Able to cross cultural and social boundaries, furthering reconciliation.

What is the process?

Step 1: Get Nominated.

Complete the form below to nominate a student. Nominations can come from:

  • students
  • faculty
  • staff
  • administrators
  • advisory committee members


Step 2: Complete the Student Application.

After your nomination is submitted, you will receive an email with a link to the Nominee Form. This is to be completed by the nominated student.

Both the Nominator Form, as well as the Nominee Form, are due by March 31st at 4:00pm.

Step 3:  Selection.

A selection committee comprised of a representative from Mary John’s family, a CNC representative, and a representative of the Saik’uz First Nation, will complete the student selection process.

The student will be notified if selected.

Nominator Information

Student Information

Please explain, with examples, how the nominated student meets the following criteria for the Mary John Award of Excellence. 

I have notified the student of this nomination and they are prepared to complete step 2 of the nomination process.