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“The 13-year-old who
captured our hearts”

Hockey Night in Canada usually contains enough exciting moments during the three periods. Intermissions are there for fans and players to catch their breath. Not this time.

During intermission at a Calgary Flames-Vancouver Canucks game in Calgary on Feb. 3, 2007, a 13-year-old Cree girl, Akina Shirt of Edmonton, surrounded by an RCMP honour guard and Canadian flags, walked out to centre ice clutching a microphone. She proceeded to capture the hearts of millions as she sang "Kakanatahk", the Cree version of O Canada, in her native Cree language.

Everyone in the arena stood spellbound as she sang. No one will ever forget as Akina Shirt stood there singing her proud little heart out. The stadium erupted with thunderous applause while I, and likely several million people watching the telecast, also joined in applauding her. It was a moment of Canadian heritage that was frozen in time.

Chief Eddy Edbynakos of the Saddle Lake Cree nation proposed the idea of Akina singing Kakanatahk at a televised home game to Calgary Flames general manager Ken King. To the chief's knowledge, Kakanatahk had never been sung in public to a large audience. King liked the idea, and the rest is history.

A lot has been happening to this Grade 8 honours student since that memorable night. "Mr. Drew, I have been receiving many letters and e-mails from natives and others from across Canada telling me they are so proud of me. I have also been invited to sing it at events around Edmonton." Not surprising that Akina wants her career path to lead to life as a professional entertainer: "I am teaching myself to play acoustic guitar." Her mother, Jean Cardinal, told me that Akina has been singing since age two and began singing Kakanatahk when she was 11.

When we read of the achievements of our confident young Canadians we can all rest easy knowing that Canada's future is in good hands. Akina Shirt is another Canadian Achiever who makes us feel so very proud to be Canadian. Read more about her at

Next week read about a lawyer achieving great heights with both feet on the ground.

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