Stephen Kakfwi

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Stephen Kakfwi
9th Premier of the Northwest Territories
In office
January 17, 2000 – December 10, 2003
CommissionerDaniel Joseph Marion
Glenna Hansen
Preceded byJim Antoine
Succeeded byJoe Handley
MLA for Sahtu
In office
October 5, 1987 – November 24, 2003
Preceded byJohn T'Seleie
Succeeded byNorman Yakeleya
Personal details
Born1950 (age 70–71)
Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories
Political partyIndependent
Spouse(s)Marie Wilson

Stephen Kakfwi (born 1950 in Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories[1]) is a Canadian politician, who was the ninth premier of the Northwest Territories. His sixteen-year tenure in the cabinet of the Northwest Territories is the longest in the Territories' history.[2]

Early life[edit]

Stephen Kakfwi was born on 1950 in a traditional Dene bush camp at Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories to full-blooded Slavey parents. His parents were non-status Slavey due to his grandfather waiving his treaty rights in order to own property and run a fur-trading business. At an early age, Kakfwi was sent away to residential schools in Inuvik, Yellowknife and Fort Smith. During the 1970s, Kakfwi attended the University of Alberta to complete a teacher's degree, but early in that decade he returned to his Fort Good Hope community during a time in which many Aboriginal Canadians were beginning to organize politically to demand recognition of their land and self-government rights.[3][4]

Political career[edit]

In the 1970s the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline was proposed. Kakfwi identified the danger this proposal posed to his community's homeland, and fought tirelessly against the proposal, organizing groups of Dene and Métis. Eventually, the Government of Canada established the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, commissioned by Justice Thomas R. Berger. The 1977-8 recommendations against building a pipeline through the Northwest Territories for the time being were considered by Kakfwi as a "political badge of honour".[4]

In 1980 Kakfwi ran against Georges Erasmus for the Dene leadership, but lost. In 1983, Kakfwi again ran for the position of President of the Dene Nation and won, as Erasmus, his 1980 opponent, had been elected grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. As President of the Dene Nation, Kakfwi established both the Northwest Territories Dene Cultural Institute and Indigenous Survival International (the latter was focused on hunting rights, particularly in the Arctic). He also aided in land rights efforts and helped to develop a framework for land claim negotiations. In 1984 and 1987, Pope John Paul II had scheduled visits to the Northwest Territories, an effort made possible by the work of Kakfwi. Although the 1984 visit was subsequently cancelled due to poor weather, Kakfwi continued to campaign for a visit in 1987.[3][4]

In 1987, Kakfwi was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, representing the constituency of Sahtu, of 254,000 square kilometres in area. During his sixteen-year tenure in the Legislative Assembly, ending in 2003, Kakfwi played key roles in initiatives ranging from economic development by encouraging the creation of diamond cutting and polishing industries in close proximity to local diamond mines, through to his promotion of Aboriginal rights, especially during his term as Premier of the Northwest Territories from 2000 to 2003. His sixteen-year tenure in the cabinet of the Northwest Territories is the longest in the Territories' history.[5] Kakfwi continues to play an active role in the development of the Northwest Territories through his advisory position to WWF Canada.

In 2014, he founded Canadians for a New Partnership, a coalition with a goal to build a new partnership between First Peoples and all Canadians.[6]

In July 2017, he was appointed to the Supreme Court Advisory Board by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.[7] The board's mandate is to provide an independent, merit-based recommendation to fill the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.[8][9]


In 1997, Kakfwi was awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for public service for his leadership role in Northern Canada.[10][11]

In October 2013, he was awarded the Governor General's Northern Medal by David Johnston.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Kakfwi is married to Marie Wilson and has three children and four grandchildren.[1][3][2]


  1. ^ a b "Stephen Kakfwi". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Biographical notes - Stephen Kakfwi, Member". Government of Canada. July 17, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Stephen Kakfwi - Biography - Kakfwi and Associates (accessed 2010-01-08).
  4. ^ a b c In Depth: Stephen Kakfwi - Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (accessed 2015-08-04).
  5. ^ Stephen Kakfwi: The Public Government Politician - Kakfwi and Associates (accessed 2010-01-08).
  6. ^ "Canadians for a New Partnership - Vision and Mission". Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  7. ^ "Prime Minister announces Advisory Board to select next Supreme Court Justice" (Press release). Government of Canada. July 17, 2017.
  8. ^ MacCharles, Tonda (June 12, 2017). "Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin to retire from Supreme Court of Canada". Toronto Star.
  9. ^ "Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada - Terms of Reference of the Advisory Board". Government of Canada. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  10. ^ "Stephen Kakfwi - Dene leader guides Western Arctic to new constitutional existence". Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  11. ^ "Indspire | Stephen Kakfwi". Indspire. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "Stephen Kakfwi receives Governor General's Northern Medal". CBC News. October 4, 2013.
Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories
Preceded by MLA Sahtu
Succeeded by
Preceded by Premier of Northwest Territories
Succeeded by