The Cree word for fire is iskotew. It is made up of two words: iskwew, which means ‘woman’; and miteh, which means ‘heart’. The stories of Creation go on to tell of the fire at the core of Mother Earth.”

-—Wisdom of the Elders

Tantoo Cardinal

2020 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Broadcasting and Film)

Film, television and stage actor, and activist

In a career spanning 50 years and more than 120 film, television and theatre roles, Métis actor Tantoo Cardinal has helped transform the face of film and television when it comes to portraying Indigenous people and stories. One of the most widely recognized First Nations actors of her generation, she has portrayed complex and diverse characters and challenged negative stereotypes of Indigenous culture and communities. As a performer, mentor, and cultural and environmental activist, she has blazed a trail with her talent, widening and improving the path for others to follow.
 
Tantoo Cardinal was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, in 1950 and raised in the rural town of Anzac. A self-taught actor, she was drawn to the profession by her desire to share and support the authentic stories and experiences of Indigenous people.
 
Her film credits include the Oscar-winning Dances With Wolves (with Kevin Costner and Graham Greene), Legends of the Fall (with Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt), Black Robe, Smoke Signals, Wind River, and the lead role in Falls Around Her. Throughout her career, she has mentored young Indigenous filmmakers, helping them find their voice and be heard.
 
She currently appears in the hit ABC TV series “Stumptown,” and has held recurring and guest roles in such TV series as “Street Legal,” “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “North of 60,” “Moccasin Flats,” “Mohawk Girls,” “Longmire” and “Outlander.”
 
“I have chosen my path from where I hope to be able to make some change,” she says. “It’s tied into what I completely believe in: the stream of life force, and salvaging enough of our stories and ceremonies to start building again. I see it as a responsibility.”
 
Tantoo Cardinal is a Member of the Order of Canada. Her other awards and honours include a Gemini Award, the Earle Grey Award (Canadian Screen Award) for lifetime achievement, the ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence, the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award (Toronto Film Critics Association), the Birks Diamond Women in Film Award, and honorary doctorates from four universities.