George Kurszewski

Seize the day. While many dream they will someday find that ability, Northwest Territories Métis leader George Kurszewski did just that in the early 1970s. He did it again in the 1980s and 90s. He’s still doing it today. As the famous Aboriginal political awakening took place in the North under the shadow of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline 30 years ago, the Northern Métis were in danger of being left behind. Mr. Kurszewski quickly got involved. He rallied the Dene and Métis of the NWT to testify at the Berger Inquiry, which brought the Aboriginal land claim issues to national attention. Mr. Kurszewski documented traditional Dene and Métis land use. This information proved crucial in the final settlement of land claims in his area. Along the way, he served three terms as the president of the Fort Smith Métis Local, the largest Métis community in the NWT and was the founding father of the South Slave Métis Tribal Council, an Aboriginal government that represents the majority of the indigenous NWT Métis. In 1996, Mr. Kurszewski won a great victory for all Métis people when he convinced Ottawa to open a negotiations process for the South Slave Métis. It marked the first time in Canadian history that Métis anywhere in Canada were permitted to enter lands and resources negotiations as a distinct people. Now, he is one of the driving forces behind the constitutional evolution in the NWT. In between, this proud family man was one of the founding members of an annual inter-racial music festival that brings all Northern people together. George Kurszewski has spent his life, building a community.