Lands Advisory Board Awards of Excellence

The Lands Advisory Board honours remarkable individuals with Framework Agreement Awards for their tremendous efforts to further the success of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management and for supporting signatory First Nations in achieving their land governance goals.  The following recipients have been acknowledged with these awards:

Framework Agreement Legacy Award

The Framework Agreement Champion Award, or “Legacy Award,” serves as recognition for foundational work that has contributed to the success of the Framework Agreement and, in turn, First Nation lands governance. The Lands Advisory Board strongly believes that leadership is derived from service to others, and leaders have the capacity, vision and faith to leave a long-lasting impact on those who have worked alongside or benefited from their efforts. The Lands Advisory Board recognizes the following award winner as a key champion of the Framework Agreement.

Austin Bear

Retired Chief of Muskoday First Nation 

2019 Legacy Award Recipient

Prior to stepping down in 2018, Austin served 14 consecutive terms as Chief of his community, the MuskodayFirst Nation.

It was shortly after becoming Chief that Austin was introduced to the Framework Agreement. He recognized that the Agreement had the ability to help to re-establish much of what had been lost to his community and other communities.

Austin was a part of the original group of 6 Chiefs that strongly advocated for the Framework Agreement option back in the early 90s. As a continuous LAB director, and as the Chair of the First Nations Lands Management Resource Centre Inc., he has consistently remained an essential and significant influence on the establishment and implementation of the Framework Agreement for almost 30 years now.

MuskodayFirst Nation was one of the first 3 communities in Canada to ratify their land code in the late 90s. Muskodayhas since dramatically improved social programs, regained cultural independence, protected sensitive environmental and sacred lands, expanded its reserve base and created numerous economic opportunities for its members.

Austin is truly a great leader and visionary whose support and advocacy has made an indelible impact on the land governance of First Nations.

Philip Goulais

Former Chief of Nipissing First Nation 

2019 Legacy Award Recipient

Philip Goulais served as Chief of the Nipissing First Nation (NFN) for 14 years. Phil is one of the original, influential leaders that advocated for and established the Framework Agreement in the early 90s and has been integral to its success.

He was also vital to the development and implementation of the Nipissing First Nation Land Code and to the many social, environmental, and economic successes NFN has experienced since its ratification.

Among Phil’s other major accomplishments includes his contributions to the finalization of the 1994 Mississauga First Nation Land Claim Settlement Agreement.

He has always been a staunch advocate of First Nation Inherent Rights through his position as the Indian Commissioner of Ontario for eight years and as Grand Chief of Robinson-Huron Territory for six. Equally, he has held positions on numerous boards and committees, including the LAB, Nipissing First Nation’s Nursing Home Project, and the Ontario Elder Assisted Parole Hearing Program.

Phil is an extraordinary person, leader, advocate and friend to First Nations and the Framework Agreement.

Councillor William McCue

Retired Chief of Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation 

2019 Legacy Award Recipient

William (Bill) McCue was Chief of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (GIFN) for over 12 years. Now retired from his position as Chief, he continues to serve his First Nation as Councillor.

Bill has also been a longstanding proponent of the Framework Agreement. His significant efforts contributed to the historic signing of the Framework Agreement at GIFN on February 12, 1996. Following that, his commitment to ensuring extensive community discussions prompted GIFN’s intense support of their land code, which was ratified on March 11, 1997, becoming the first community in Canada to do so.

As another continuous LAB member since the early 90s, Bill is an unwavering ally of the Framework Agreement. In addition to these many achievements, he has been a longstanding board member of the First Nations Tax Commission, as well as the chairman of the OgemawahjTribal Council Economic Development Board and a member of the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre Board and LAB Finance Committee.

Bill is a devoted and respected leader and a significant contributor to the success of First Nations Lands Governance through the Framework Agreement.

Al Gross

Independent Verifier

2022 Legacy Award Recipient

Al Gross has extensive experience working with Indigenous People in Canada and vast corporate knowledge concerning Canada’s programs and policies related to Indigenous People and their communities. From 1965 to 1996, he worked for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada at the local, regional and headquarters levels. His positions included Saskatchewan positions as Regional Resource Development Officer, Superintendent of Economic Development, Regional Intergovernmental Relations Manager, Director of Reserves and Trusts,  as well as Director of Lands Revenues and Trusts in British Columbia. He also held the senior position of Director of Specific Claims West and Treaty Land Entitlement. During this period, Al was involved with the settlement of many First Nations’ claims in Western and Northern Canada, including the Saskatchewan and Manitoba treaty land entitlement settlement agreements.

Over the last sixteen years, Al has been the independent verifier for more than fifty (50) land code ratification votes by signatories First Nations of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.

Framework Agreement Architect Award

This award is established to honour the original advisors, writers, support staff, and negotiators of the Framework Agreement from the early 1990s. The Lands Advisory Board recognizes the following award winners for exceptional contributions towards the Framework Agreement from the early 1990’s, and dedication to First Nations Communities and the Lands Advisory Board.

Steven Aronson

2019 FA Architect Award Recipient

Stephen Aronson has devoted his life to the practice of Indigenous Law, working with First Nations and First Nation organizations across Canada in a broad range of areas, including governance, land claims, Aboriginal and treaty rights, constitutional and international issues, reserve lands and economic development.

Steve became involved with the Framework Agreement in 1991 and has been continuously essential to its success and continued evolution.

Among other significant achievements, Steve’s tireless efforts are credited with the overturning of the wrongful murder conviction of Donald Marshall Jr in 1983.

Prior to retiring in 2015, Steve was a practicing member of the Law Society of Upper Canada.  Today, he continues his involvement as an esteemed and respected legal advisor to the LAB.

William (Bill) Henderson

2019 FA Architect Award Recipient

Bill Henderson is a Toronto-based sole practitioner whose law practice supports several First Nations across Canada.  Bill has represented First Nations in matters ranging from land claims, economic development projects, governance and litigation at all levels of the Canadian judicial system since his call to the Ontario Bar in 1982.

​For the past 26 years, Bill has been the foremost legal authority, defender and lead advisor to the LAB for the Framework Agreement and its subsequent amendments and numerous implementation matters.

His passion and counsel for the Framework Agreement and its implementation have guided this historic agreement for over the last three decades.

Framework Agreement Exemplary Service Award

This award is established to honour those individuals who have significantly contributed to the progression and support of Framework Agreement Signatory First Nations in the advancement of their land governance systems. Dedicated and passionate about their work, these award winners have exceeded expectations in their support of Framework Agreement Signatory First Nations. Their efforts have had a significant, positive and progressive effect on their colleagues and the projects and services provided by the LAB and RC.

Eugene Louie

LAB Elder

2022 Exemplary Service Award Recipient

Former Chief Eugene Louie is from Tla’amin First Nation, B.C., where he has lived his whole life. His ancestral name is pelachiewtwx. He is currently retired from the Tla’amin First Nation Band office after many years of service, where he most recently held the position of Capital Manager for infrastructure. He is the Lands Advisory Board Elder and an Elder in residence for Vancouver Island University and a faculty member for its Powell River campus.

Eugene Louie was instrumental in guiding his community to a land code vote in 2004, when the community decided to establish their land code as part of an incremental step to full self-governance. One of his proudest achievements was when the T’la’amin Nation attained self-government. Elder Louie was Chief when his community entered into the Made-in-BC treaty.

The Lands Advisory Board would like to extend its great respect and appreciation to Elder Eugene Louie for his prayers, blessings and continued guidance over the years. We are forever thankful to him for joining us on this journey.

Tania Bigstone


2022 Exemplary Service Award Recipient

Tania is the country’s first indigenous female Canada Lands Surveyor. Her paternal heritage runs through the Bigstone Cree First Nation in northern Alberta. Tania is a past president of the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS) and is the only person to hold this position for two consecutive years. She continues to serve on several ACLS Committees and working groups, such as the Indigenous Relations Steering Committee and Registry Working Group. In April 2021, the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS) presented Tania with the prestigious Tim Koepke Award, recognizing individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution to the ACLS.

Tania worked for the Resource Centre as its Surveys Advisor from 2009-2022. During this time, she was integral in helping signatory First Nations complete projects providing for the identification, review and resolution of survey-related issues. Her tireless work ethic helped many communities progress in internal and external boundary identification, property-related environmental issues, traditional land-holdings and traditional-use mapping, road issues, and more.

Tania recently accepted the position of Senior Advisor, Indigenous Surveys, for the Surveyor General Branch of Natural Resources Canada. The Resource Centre is grateful to Tania for her years of hard work, innovation, and dedication in assisting First Nation communities as they rebuild their land governance systems. Her efforts have greatly assisted many First Nation communities on their path to regained self-governance.

Framework Agreement Trailblazer Award

The Trailblazer Award recognizes First Nations Lands Staff and/or Lands Governance Directors who are innovators, risk takers and/or Framework Agreement promoters for excellence in lands governance.  Through working creatively with the Framework Agreement in mind, the following award winners have provided consistent leadership and vision for others and are exceptional examples to follow.

Dean Bear

Land Manager, Muskoday First Nation

2019 Trailblazer Award Recipient

Dean Bear has been Muskoday First Nation’s Land Manager since 2002, with a small break between 2015 and 2017. With his guidance, the community has pioneered land governance processes, permits, regulations and laws that many other communities have come to emulate. Under his direction, Muskoday First Nation was awarded a national prize by the Canadian Institute of Planners for the integration of its land use plan with its land code.

Dean has been an ambassador for the Framework Agreement and the benefits of governing lands with land codes.  His insight and experience have made him a popular expert at LABRC workshops and conferences. He has acted on numerous advisory committees that included the early development of the current Training, Mentorship and Professional Development strategy and the LAB and RC’s new websites.

Rhonda Coppaway

Scugog Island First Nation

2022 Trailblazer Award Recipient

(Provided by Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation)

Rhonda Coppaway is a proud member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. Rhonda grew up in our small Anishinabek community watching both of her parents, Ronnie and Yvonne, serve as Chief, and her brother Ricky serve as an elected member of Council. Rhonda’s mother was the first female elected Chief at MSIFN. After her schooling, Rhonda married Teddy Coppaway, who is a member and former leader at Curve Lake First Nation.  Rhonda and Teddy have raised two amazing sons Clayton and Evan John, who went on to have careers in land planning and EMS services. Rhonda is also surrounded by the love of her most cherished grand babies.

Surrounded by leaders all her life, Rhonda is no stranger to the issues which face our communities.  Rhonda has an attachment to land that is second to none, revering our ancestors, understanding our medicines, and holding the stories upon which our community is based. For Scugog, Rhonda represents a key to our community’s past that is critical for our leadership and for our young people today who are hungry for community knowledge. Rhonda has been a steadfast supporter of lands management and has witnessed all the runway that it paved for Scugog, up and until the conclusion of our amended land code. A champion for self-government, no one than Rhonda is better situated to guide Scugog’s land use process that is currently underway. Rhonda has worked for well over 15 years in serving her community. A true Ogimaa-Kwe, Rhonda most definitely “stands in front” when it comes to our people. She comes by it honestly. Congratulations to Rhonda on giving Scugog a firm foundation in lands, and for always supporting your community in its past, present, and future. Gchi-Miigwech!

Juliette Peters

Lands Manager, Soowahlie First Nation

2022 Trailblazer Award Recipient

(Provided by Soowahlie First Nation)

Juliette is the Lands Manager for Soowahlie First Nation in Chilliwack BC and she has been working in lands for over six years, starting out as a developmental Land Code Coordinator, to her current position as Lands Manager. Juliette is an excellent choice for the Lands Advisory Board Framework Agreement Trailblazer Awards because of her extensive professional growth, resilience and contributions to establishing a lands governance system at Soowahlie First Nation.

She has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills as a Lands Manager and continues to expand her overall knowledge and experience in land governance. Over the last few years Juliette has taken on multiple substantial projects, such as Land Use Planning, Solid Waste Management and Legacy Issues.  She has meticulously worked through each project with perseverance and success. She has also shown that she has become proficient in the First Nation Lands Registry System, has lead the Lands Committee and Council through the process of developing numerous laws, and has assisted with resolving complicated issues as a result of Canada’s land management era.  Juliette is actively involved in all projects related to lands and lands activities within the community.  She is also engaged with her staff in the lands department, Lands Committee, Chief and Council and the community members.

Councillor Sam Roberts

Lac La Ronge Indian Band

2022 Trailblazer Award Recipient

(Provided by Lac La Ronge Indian Band)

Councillor Sam Roberts was elected to office in 2008 and continues to serve the membership of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. Councillor Roberts works collaboratively on several projects through participation in LLRIB Lands & Resources programs; providing professional advice and support; managing, leading and directing Lands and Resources staff; ensuring all programs and services are effectively and efficiently delivered. Councillor Roberts continues to build on initiatives for our communities in areas of Land development, workforce development, community investments, and community engagement. Councillor Roberts has made it possible for LLRIB to pursue the highest levels and standards of environmental protection, education, health and public safety programs; as well as cultural activities.

Councillor Roberts provides guidance from experience gained through our partnerships with LLRIB Stakeholders has increased: the technical skills and knowledge to protect the environment, satisfy regulatory requirements, benefit our membership, and support LLRIB communities. With the Lands Advisory Board Framework Agreement; LLRIB is creating new community-based initiatives, activities, employment and programs for the six (6) LLRIB communities.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band is proud of the work being done by Councillor Roberts and his efforts towards lands management. It is important that we maximize Indigenous community involvement in projects, including integrating traditional knowledge, engaging, and employing local people in environmental programs, and creating employment and education opportunities. Increasing awareness and developing new community initiatives that support lands projects will help reach the objectives of the lands advisory board framework agreement process; as well as helping LLRIB reach their goal of managing their own lands.

Through the band’s participation in collaborative projects; Councillor Roberts practices community engagement and utilizes his skills and experience while ensuring that the LLRIB communities are informed and issues raised by the communities are addressed. Operational information continues to be shared with LLRIB on how he strives on making the best efforts to avoid and minimize environmental impacts. Councillor Roberts ensures that LLRIB are involved with project activities and that community members’ concerns are heard. Their focus on community engagement and environmental stewardship builds capacity in our communities.

Councillor Roberts has built long-standing relationship with the band and its membership and LLRIB fully supports all his efforts and believe he is an ideal candidate for the 2022 Lands Advisory Board Framework Agreement Trailblazer Award.

Ty Roberts

Lands Manager, Lac La Ronge Indian Band

2022 Trailblazer Award Recipient

(Provided by Lac La Ronge Indian Band)

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band Is the largest First Nation in Saskatchewan by population and land base and currently has 19 reserves with several properties in consideration to become ATRs (Additions To Reserve). Our Lands department is a busy, growing entity that requires good management and governance to properly serve our six major communities and four administrations. Ty Roberts works for the Lac La Ronge Indian Band as our Lands Manager. He has excelled at this position as he works tirelessly for the Band with the intention of helping members with Individual land requests, issues and concerns and Improving our overall land governance with the LLRlB Lands Department.

Ty has demonstrated leadership within his department and in Chief and Council and Advisory board meetings by advancing policy and promoting better governance with the help and direction of the Lands Advisory Board. Ty has been approachable and accessible to our members and colleagues. He has taken on further personal and professional development and formal training to improve his knowledge base and increase his own capacity of services that he can offer LLRIB members, staff and committees through the work that he does in our Lands Department.

Tania Solonas, Land Management Officer at McLeod Lake Indian Band speaks to LAB

Tania Solonas

Land Management Officer, Tse’Khene Nation (McLeod Lake)

2022 Trailblazer Award Recipient

(Provided by Tse’Khene Nation (McLeod Lake).

Tania Solonas has continually shown progressive leadership when it comes to land governance for our Tse’Khene Nation (McLeod Lake). She consistently faces issues within the community head-on and does not accept things just as they are. She is driven to find solutions and advocate for our Nation’s members as a whole.

When dealing with an issue that is near and dear to our people, Tania will not take things as the status quo and will always seek to find answers that align with what our members want as a majority. Our Nation has been dealing with ongoing issues of drug dealing on reserve, which has taken its toll on our member’s health and well-being. We have also seen poaching and dumping on band land on numerous occasions. When it comes to enforcement, Tania has been increasing measures that our Band can utilize to ensure that the rights of our people are protected, whether it be when dealing with outside people, administration or leadership. She has been increasing awareness of the very issues that matter to our members and helps figure out ways with our people on how to tackle them.

When it comes to community planning and ensuring that economic development keeps environmental sustainability at the forefront, Tania is a leader. She will put our environment first to ensure that we truly are Stewards of the Land and “Making sure the footprints we leave behind are ones that our children will be proud to walk in” (Deborah Prince). She takes being a Steward of the Land as a way of life and not merely a motto to stand by.

As a teenager, she stood by our people when we blockaded to stop the clearcutting of our land against the big logging companies on our homeland. She also stood up against corruption in leadership when she was a young adult, going to court to ensure that the voice of our people was heard, along with making it possible for our band members off reserve to have the right to vote in our Chief & Council elections. She was a signatory to our ‘Treaty No. 8 Adhesion & Settlement Agreement’, along with our ‘MLIB Land Code,’ and works hard to make certain that our members on and off reserve were treated equally when it comes to community engagement and input on major issues.

When Tania first started working in land management in 2015, she immediately saw the need for a recycling program. By 2017 our Nation had a recycling station set up with composting. By 2018 we had a Recycling Champion, which grew into the Environmental Champion who works on both recycling and hydro power-saving initiatives.

Frances (Fran) Guerin

Lands Governance Director, Musqueam Indian Band

2023 Trailblazer Award Recipient

The LAB would like to honor Frances Guerin of Musqueam Indian Band posthumously.  Her dedication and strength made important contributions to the Musqueam Land Code and Land Governance under the Framework Agreement.

Frances Guerin – Biography

Frances ‘Fran’ Guerin (nee Point) was born to Francis Point of Musqueam and Minnie Point (nee Thomas) formerly of Tsleil-Waututh (Burrard Band) on October 7, 1941.

Fran often spoke of her sisters learning from her mother how to make blankets, feather pillows and mattresses, etc. However, from a very early age Fran took an interest in her father’s activity. She often spoke of the first time she asked her father if he’d allow her to go with him on his fishing boat. She said that he asked her “So, you want to come with me?” “Please Daddy.” She pleaded. “Hmmph, ok if you come with me you behave. I don’t have time to babysit.” “I will.” She promised.

Thus was the beginning of many years travelling with her Dad from prior to her fifth year to her late teenage years. Her father was employed by one of the canneries as a hiring agent for Indigenous fishermen. Each year he was responsible for hiring and firing fishermen. He hired local Indigenous people as well as Indigenous people from Vancouver Island.

He operated his gillnetter on the North and South Arms of the Fraser River as well as travelling north to Rivers Inlet every summer.

Due to his standing in the Indigenous community as well as his position with the cannery Francis Point commanded respect in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Fran often spoke of accompanying her father when he went to acquire supplies for his fishing operation as well as his household. In those days it was difficult for most Indigenous people to acquire credit, but Francis Point made it look easy and Fran was always at his side to observe how he went about such activity. She said he’d be putting on his coat and hat and she would ask “Where are you going Daddy?” He’d always answer “I’m going to take care of business.” She’d always accompany him.

In her teen years Fran took a job working in a restaurant in Rivers Inlet. She’d work in the restaurant each summer while her Dad was fishing in the inlet.

Such experiences helped Fran develop the transferable skills she needed later when she took a job as band secretary for the Musqueam Administration in the 1960s.

In April 1960, Fran Married Delbert Guerin. She wished for them to move away from Musqueam and live in mainstream society, but Delbert wished to live at Musqueam. So, Fran said to herself “Alright, if we’re going to live here at Musqueam then I’m going to work to make it a better place to live.” And she did just that. At the time she began working for Musqueam the only programs that existed were those assigned by the Department of Indian Affairs (The Department): a Lands Program and a Membership Program.

Fran set out to change that; during her time working for Musqueam the band began taking control of many different programs that were previously administered by the Department beginning with starting an on-site pre-school. Fran proposed the idea of a community pre-school to the ladies in the village, but unfortunately the idea wasn’t well received. Realizing that a majority of the ladies in the community were married in from the Fraser Valley she came up with a strategy. She approached N. Rose Point who originated from the Seabird Island Band and asked her to propose the idea to the rest of the ladies. Once the ladies heard the proposition from one of their own they were more amenable to the idea. So, N. Rose Point was credited with the idea for starting a community pre-school at Musqueam and Fran was okay with that because she was always more interested in accomplishing the objective than in receiving credit for her efforts.

All of this activity working for Musqueam helped Fran to develop further skills related to band operations enabling her to successfully take on the position of Land Claims Coordinator for Musqueam in 1974.

From 1973 to 1980, Fran’s husband Delbert was elected Chief of the Musqueam Band and they worked very well together as a team. People across BC and Canada recognized Delbert as the leader of the Musqueam people. However, as is well known about leaders, much of Delbert’s success could be attributed to the administrative team working for him in the background under Fran’s tutelage. Delbert was the public face of the success that Musqueam enjoyed while Fran and her team worked in the background to ensure that he had everything he needed to present that face of success.

In 1979, an election was held at Musqueam and a new chief was elected whose political agenda didn’t agree with Fran and most of her team. A number of them resigned their positions and some of them, including Fran, enrolled at in a Real Estate Appraisal course at Langara College. The course was sponsored by Public Works Canada with the proviso that upon successful graduation they would work for Public Works. Fran worked at Public Works for a number of years and later moved over to work at the Department of Indian Affairs.

After leaving the Department in the early 1990s Fran went back to work at Musqueam. She worked part-time as an assistant in the Musqueam Language Program (a program she had started back in the 1970s) and when a new full-time position came available she took it and began work as manager of the Musqueam Lands Department. In that role she initiated the program that would embark on the development of the Musqueam Land Code.

She continued as manager of the Lands Department until her retirement in 2020.

Russ Letica

Land Management Officer, Madawaska Maliseet First Nation

2023 Trailblazer Award Recipient

The LAB would like to honor Russ Letica of the Madawaska Maliseet Nation in New Brunswick posthumously.  Sadly, Russ passed on September 1st, 2023.

Russ, along with Mario Peltier and Chief Patricia Bernard, was critical to the development and ratification of the Madawaska Land Code.  The vote was held on November 2nd, 2017 and Madawaska Maliseet became the first in New Brunswick to approve a Land Code.

Russ was a constant advocate and participant for the rights and advancement of First Nations.  He cared greatly for his people and was well known for his kind heartedness and helping nature.  Staff at the Resource Centre enjoyed their time with him and the good people of the Madawaska Maliseet Nation.  He will be missed.