By Shari Narine
Sweetgrass Contributing Editor
ENOCH CREE NATION
July 5, 2016.
One simple statement says it all about Alberta Venture magazine naming Ashley Callingbull-Burnham among the province’s 50 most influential people.
“I believe they’re correct,” said Lisa Ground, Callingbull-Burnham’s mother. “I’m not surprised. I always knew that with her drive and stamina and how she affects and impacts people that I knew she would be influential somehow.”
On Monday, the publication’s annual list of the province’s “movers, shakers and difference-makers” included the 26-year-old beauty queen and actor from Enoch Cree Nation. She was listed in the company of Premier Rachel Notley, Fort McMurray fire chief and hero Darby Allen, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake.
“Just being in the same list, just even being compared is amazing, but I wasn’t even thinking about that. Just her being acknowledged and recognized is all I was caring about,” said Ground. “Her father and I are so proud of her everyday of her life for everything.”
In describing Callingbull-Burnham, Alberta Venture staff wrote that she “took over the Twittersphere last year after competing in the Mrs. Universe pageant – not because she won, but because she immediately began speaking out against injustice. …. The actress and titleholder used her spike in popularity to urge First Nations people to vote in the federal election. Though she faced backlash, Callingbull-Burnham was quick to defend her right to speak as an Indigenous woman.”
Ground says her daughter’s fearlessness is one reason why she is influential.
“She speaks for others. She says the truth and she speaks where things that need to be said and heard have always been said, but now, because of her platform, her strength and her voice and her conviction, people are now listening to what has been said (already) for a long time,” said Ground. “(Her father and I) are so proud of her for standing up to that (backlash) and not letting that get a hold of her at all.”
Ground isn’t surprised that her daughter, only 26 years of age and the only Indigenous person on the list of 50 and among the youngest, has been included.
“The thing is, she’s relatable,” said Ground. “Everything she’s gone thorough – her life, her trauma, her successes – that’s what makes her all relatable.”
That trait is evident in last week’s debut of season four’s The Amazing Race Canada. Callingbull-Burnham and her father Joel Ground were among the 10 teams chosen to compete this year. Hanging underneath a skytram in Jasper National Park as one of the challenges, Callingbull-Burnham made it clear that she wasn’t having fun. But she conquered her fear and moved on.
“In The Amazing Race, every emotion you see and her feelings, everything is real and it’s under stressful conditions,” said Ground.
Even at the launch party for The Amazing Race on June 28 at Callingbull-Burnham’s home, Ground says neither her daughter nor Joel Ground divulged the slightest hint of what is to come.
“I’m seeing it all for the first time, so it’s a nail biter for me. “Nobody other than them knows what’s happening. Her family is in the dark,” she said.
“Ashley has got a very kind hear, but she’s a very strong woman and she will tell you what she thinks,” said Ground. “She’ll say she’s brutally honest and it is true.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ashley Callingbull-Burnham talk about education and language in June. “I'm happy the Prime Minister took the time to listen to my thoughts about what the Nation to Nation relationship means for our people,” said Callingbull-Burnham in her Facebook post. (Photo: Ashley Callingbull Facebook)