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Inspired by Jana Headrick, the Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Award is presented to Indigenous youth age 15-25 who have demonstrated strong leadership in the areas of sport, culture, and community. Applicants must identify as an Indigenous women or girl and reside or be studying within Atlantic Canada. Applicants do not need to be enrolled in post-secondary education to be eligible. 


The creation of the award was in recognition of the North American Indigenous Games being hosted in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and surrounding areas in July 2023. The award came together in partnership with the 2023 North American Indigenous Games Host Society Red Dress Committee. This years award is made possible through the generosity of Dan & Dorothy Gibson. 

To apply, individuals are asked to share about the role sport and culture has played in their own journey towards a greater understanding of themselves and their community. Individuals are welcome to use inspiration from the prompts listed below for their submission:


  • Personal reflection on how the influence of sport and culture has shaped your personal identity and connection to community. 


  • Personal reflection on how you utilized sport and/or culture to create a connection to community or for personal leadership growth.


  • Personal reflection on how you demonstrated leadership in your life in a sport or cultural setting.

Stories can be submitted by essay (500 words or less), video, or photography. Applications that incorporate creative expression (i.e.: art, dance, etc.) in their submission are encouraged but not mandatory.


As a part of this legacy, four awards of $1,027 CAD will be given to a selected applicants annually. The award is provided to recipients to utilize for educational purposes. Applications open on August 12th, 2024 and close at 11:59pm AST on September 27th, 2024.


2023 Award Winners

Left to right: Kennah Brant, Angelina Taylor, Ally Martin, Erin Denny


January 23, 2024 (Millbrook, NS) – The inaugural Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Awards have been presented to four female Indigenous youth leaders in sport. This award recognizes Indigenous women and girls who demonstrate strong leadership in sport, culture, and community in Atlantic Canada.


The Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Award was established as part of the legacy of the 2023 North American Indigenous Games and was made possible by a partnership between the Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund and the 2023 North American Indigenous Games Host Society Red Dress Committee. “Nikanus” (nig-ah-noos) means “youth ambassador” in Mi’kmaq.


“The Red Dress Committee's goal was not only about bringing awareness to the realities Indigenous women face, but to empower women and girls in sport and culture. The legacy of NAIG lives far beyond the memories of the 2023 Games, this award is a genuine testament to the lasting impact.” – Laura Seaboyer, Director of People, NAIG 2023


The Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund, established in 2022 through the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, was created by Ryan Francis (Acadia First Nation) after he was recognized for his work related to the Indigenous Girls Hockey Program. Dedicated to the memory of Ryan's grandmother, the fund is named in her honour. The fund aims to provide support to sport, recreation, and physical activity opportunities for Indigenous women and girls in Atlantic Canada.


“The Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund is pleased to honour these four incredible young women whose stories inspire us all, and most importantly, pave ways forward for Indigenous girls to follow in their footsteps.” – Ryan Francis, Founder of Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund


The Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Award’s inspiration, Jana Headrick, a former women’s hockey player for the UNB REDS, has spent her career supporting her community and Indigenous youth through her love of sport.


“Sport plays such a crucial role in our relationships to culture, community and overall well-being. The best way to inspire Indigenous women and girls’ participation in sport, is to celebrate those stories of success, achievement, and resiliency. The Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Award allows us to not only share these stories and acknowledge these inspiring leaders but also provide some support towards future endeavours.” Jana Headrick, former UNB Reds player


Award recipients receive $1,027, an acknowledgement of Jana’s number 27 which she wore while playing for UNB, to be used for educational purposes. The four recipients of the Nikanus Red Dress Leadership Award share Jana and Ryan’s passion for using sport as a way to connect with their cultures and communities, and to encourage other youth to get involved with sport.

Kennah, Erin, Allison, and Angelina stand out not only for their exceptional achievements but also for their dedication to preserving and sharing their Indigenous heritage through their respective pursuits. As they receive this well-deserved recognition, their stories resonate as powerful examples of the transformative impact of sports on personal growth and we know their achievements will continue to inspire others.

The Genevieve Francis Memorial Fund, alongside its dedicated partners, congratulates these outstanding young leaders and remains committed to fostering opportunities for Indigenous women and girls in Atlantic Canada.

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