Public Service (1997)
There is a major difference between Stephen Kakfwi – the Northwest Territories’ Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development and the Minister Responsible for National Constitutional Affairs – and most politicians. Usually, politicians tell citizens what can’t be done, while Mr. Kakfwi talks about what can be accomplished when people work together. A Dene, Mr. Kakfwi was born in the North. He held a variety of jobs before he ran into an issue destined to forever change both him and the North: the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. He helped to organize the Dene Nation’s northern presentations to the Berger Inquiry as its commissioner traveled across the western territory to hear submissions. He also traveled across southern Canada speaking to the commission’s southern hearings. With the recommendations of the inquiry in hand, a call for a 10-year moratorium on the pipeline’s construction and a call for land claims and Aboriginal self-government issues to be resolved, Mr. Kakfwi ran successfully for the presidency of the Dene Nation. Under his leadership, the historic groundwork for the Dene Métis Comprehensive Claim negotiations was laid. In Territorial politics, Mr. Kakfwi has shown a passion for constitutional affairs. He is a strong supporter of the creation of Nunavut and recently challenged the people of the Western Arctic to come up with a name for the new western territory that will be created in 1999. Mr. Kakfwi has also worked hard to develop a model of public government for the new western territory that reflects and respects Aboriginal self-government. Nationally, he campaigned tirelessly for the Charlottetown Accord. Internationally, Mr. Kakfwi helped create Indigenous Survival International. Even His Holiness Pope John Paul II couldn’t say no to Mr. Kakfwi’s lobbying. Traveling to Rome, he personally convinced the Pontiff to make his famous return visit to the North. A visionary leader, called intensely poetic by some, Stephen Kakfwi received a 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the category of public service for the leadership role he has played for the people of the North.