An artist from Red Rock First Nation says she's still feeling "overwhelmed" at being named the recipient of an award that recognizes emerging, female Indigenous artists.

Janelle Wawia, who resides in Thunder Bay, is the 2016 recipient of the Barbara Laronde Award, which is handed out by Native Women in the Arts (NWIA).

"I feel very overwhelmed," Wawia said. "Overwhelmed in a good way."

"I think it'll just help other youth, or other young women, who want to pursue something like this [and] go after the same kind of dream."

Wawia is a painter and fashion designer who incorporates contemporary and traditional influences into her work.

With her artwork Wawia uses fur, leather, porcupine quills, beadwork and acrylic paint.

"I have a strong representation of women, and just their connection to the land," Wawia said of her work. "I feel like it's kind of like a little autobiography of my life."

"I create because I need to create. My body tells me to create, my heart tells me to create, my spirit tells me to create."

She said an award that recognizes Northern Ontario-based female Indigenous artists — and takes into account the geographic and economic barriers they face — is important.

"It allows for women, or young Indigenous artists, to develop the ability to express themselves," Wawia said. "There's not a lot of access to art galleries or art programs."

Award commemorates founder's legacy

The Barbara Laronde Award was created to commemorate the legacy of NWIA founder Sandra Laronde. It's named after her mother, Barbara.

The $1500 award will be presented to Wawia later this month at the Deepwater Music Festival, which takes place from July 15-17 in Temagami.