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Richard Nerysoo

Public Service (2001)

To say Richard Nerysoo has had a political career full of historic milestones, would be an understatement. A veteran political leader in the Indian Brotherhood, Dene Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories, Mr. Nerysoo made history in 1983 when he became the first Aboriginal person to become Premier of the North West Territories. He was also the youngest person in Canadian history to serve in the post. After holding that high office, and senior cabinet posts in between, it was time for Mr. Nerysoo to make history once again. He did so in 1989 when he became the first Aboriginal to be elected Speaker in the NWT legislative assembly. These firsts followed his election in 1979, when he became the youngest ever MLA in Northwest Territories’ history. His contributions have not only been felt North of 60. As a MLA in the early 1980s, Mr. Nerysoo played a crucial role in ensuring that the rights of Aboriginals were not ignored as Prime Minister Trudeau and the provincial premiers repatriated the Canadian Constitution from Great Britain. Stephen Kakfwi, an Aboriginal leader who has followed Mr. Nerysoo’s path all the way into the Premier’s Office in Yellowknife, argues his predecessor’s work on the Constitution was more than significant. “Mr. Nerysoo was instrumental in securing those amendments,” he says. Between 1996 and 2000, Mr. Nerysoo was President of the Gwich’in Tribal Council and was charged with the management and implementation of the historic Gwich’in Land Claims Agreement. He currently chairs the Gwich’in Council International, a non-profit collective striving towards securing environmental protection.