“Whenever I stop doing Indian activities,
Happy times will be no more.
The dancing men say this,
‘There will be hard times.’”
Richard Lyons was appointed a member of the Order of Canada earlier this month for his work preserving native culture—and he couldn’t be happier.
“It was really nice. I knew these people were going to nominate me but I didn’t expect it to go through,” Lyons said this week. “I was really surprised because I received some awards from the provincial government’s solicitor general, and an honorary degree from Lakehead [University], but not nationally.
“What an honour!”
Lyons originally is from Couchiching and his wife, Marjory (née Walker), is from Manitou Rapids. He was one of 12 children born to Edward and Mary Lyons.
“My father was an interpreter in the early 1920s for Indian Affairs and used to travel. He worked there for a great number of years,” Lyons recalled.
“My grandfather before that was an interpreter. My family goes back quite a ways [in Fort Frances].”
Lyons moved from the area in 1946 but still returns to visit three or four times a year.
“I went up to Atikokan for about 11 years and then came to Thunder Bay in 1957,” said the 77-year-old. “I’ve been here ever since.”
In 1969, he formed the Dick Lyons Dance Troupe while he working at the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre. Director and chief dancer, he organized, supported, and delivered countless performances for 16 years throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
In 1983, in recognition of his distinguished contribution to community life, he received the City of Thunder Bay Achievement Award.
Then in 1989, he was the recipient of two awards—the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Ministry of Culture and Communications and a Good Citizenship Award from the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
He received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Lakehead University in 1992.
As an aboriginal veteran, Lyons has been the head veteran dancer carrying the veterans’ staff at the Toronto Canadian Aboriginal Festival for the past eight years.
He continues to this day to accept invitations as the lead dancer and Eagle Staff carrier for numerous pow-wows and cultural functions.
Lyons said he’s planning to travel to Ottawa in October or next spring to receive the award.