Turtle Awards honour aboriginal youths

It was nighttime when Tyrone Cattleman’s ranking officer told him and the other recruits to start to dig.

It was nighttime when Tyrone Cattleman’s ranking officer told him and the other recruits to start to dig.

They were learning about trench warfare and the officer felt the best way for them to learn was to dig their own trench. It was April and the cold wind cut through Cattleman’s light army fatigues. He thought they’d be sleeping in a tent so he wasn’t concerned he’d forgotten his heavier gear. After four hours the trench was done and the officer told them they’d be sleeping in it.

“It was the coldest night I’d ever experienced,” Cattleman said.

Cattleman, 18, has taken this and many other obstacles in stride. His positive attitude and community involvement were honoured at the first Turtle Awards in Red Deer earlier this month.

He was given the male youth award and Hunting Hills student Meghan Louis was recognized with the female youth award.

To keep him going during hard training Cattleman thinks of his grandfather’s songs. “My culture keeps me strong. I pray. I remember the sweat songs and sing them in my head and I feel better,” he said.

Cattleman is from the Montana Band and now lives in Red Deer, where he just graduated from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

He grew up in foster care in Red Deer. As a young man he longed to know more about his culture and eventually in 2006 he was able to live in Hobbema and spend time with his relatives. He took part in sweats and feasts and learned the songs of his culture.

But he wanted to pursue a career in the military so he returned to Red Deer, attending Notre Dame High School in Grade 11 and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School for his Grade 12 year.

His great attitude has kept him going. Cattleman said he gets up every day and thinks of the most positive thing he can.

“I’ve been taught that for every negative thought put two positive thoughts with that,” he said. “I start with a smile every day.”

Cattleman has been a member of the Hobbema Community Cadet Corps, the Red Deer Army Cadets and took part in the Bold Eagle program for First Nations youth. Now he is heading to Kingston, Ont., as a private in the 749 Communication Squadron, to so a linesman course. In September, he hopes to study Social Work at Red Deer College. In his spare time he studies karate.

Hunting Hills graduate Meghan Louis is just as driven. The 17-year-old gymnast from the Samson Reserve has been doing somersaults and cartwheels since she was three years old.

Asked what she likes about gymnastics, she is quick to answer: “Everything.”

“It’s fun and exciting and it’s challenging,” said Louis, who trains 20 plus hours a week with Exelta Gymnastics Club.

She is proudest of her win at the Canadian National Championships in the all around category for highest altogether score in 2006. But her list of medals over the past few years fills a page.

Although her accomplishments are many Louis said she doesn’t think of herself as a role model. However, she does like to pass on her skills to the younger gymnasts and has just received her coaching certification. In the future, she may study kinesiology at Red Deer College or look into working with the Cirque du Soleil.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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