The recipient of Creative Nova Scotia's first Indigenous artist award hopes it's a sign the province is doing more to recognize Indigenous artists who are quietly creating work.

Todd Labrador, one of Canada's only traditional Mi'kmaq canoe builders, accepted the $5,000 award at a ceremony in Halifax on Saturday. 

Labrador said it's an honour he'll share with the many people who've helped him along the way.

"It's endless who I can thank, and I look at it as we won because I didn't do this alone. We won this award and I have everyone to thank," he said. 

Todd Labrador

Todd Labrador builds traditional birch bark canoes . (CBC)

The 57 year old from the Wildcat community in southwestern Nova Scotia spent the summer teaching a group of apprentices how to build a birch bark canoe. He's also shared his craft at exhibits and workshops across the region.

Labrador spends part of the year on Vancouver Island, where he says there's a strong group of Indigenous artists.

"In Nova Scotia we're sort of behind," he said, "But it's nice to see that we're starting to grow and we're starting to be recognized now ... It benefits First Nations communities, it benefits our youth and all our people, but it benefits the province, it benefits Canada."

New emerging artist award

Halifax filmmaker Heather Young and producer and composer Jay Crocker from Crousetown, N.S., were the first recipients of another new award for emerging artists.

Visual artist and curator Susan Gibson Garvey of Canning, N.S., took home the Portia White Prize that recognizes an artist whose attained professional status in their chosen discipline. 

In a statement, Gibson Garvey thanked the community for its support.

"I am deeply grateful to those who nominated me, and proud to be a part of the wonderfully collaborative and supportive artistic community here in Nova Scotia," she said. 

95K in awards

The awards are given out by Arts Nova Scotia, which is funded by the province. A total of $95,000 was handed out on Saturday. 

Here's a full list of the 2017 recipients:

  • Susan Gibson Garvey won the Portia White Prize.
  • The Prix Grand Pre award, which recognizes work that reflects Acadian culture, was given to songwriter Ronald Bourgeois.
  • Todd Labrador earned the Indigenous Artist Award.
  • The Emerging Artist Recognition Awards went to Halifax filmmaker Heather Young and composer and producer Jay Crocker from Crousetown.
  • The Established Artist Recognition award went to Dalhousie professor Jerome Blais, visual artist Kim Morgan and multidisciplinary artist William Robinson.
  • Composer Dinuk Wijeratne won the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for his piece Polyphonic Lively.
  • Parrsboro received the Community Arts and Culture Recognition Award.