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Nellie Cournoyea (1940 - )

Nellie Cournoyea (1940 - )

Nellie Cournoyea was the first female premier of a Canadian territory and the second female premier in Canadian history. She is the first native woman to lead a provincial or territorial government.

  • Prior to politics, Cournoyea worked as an announcer and station manager for CBC North Inuvik. She co-founded The Committee for Original People’s Entitlement (COPE), a political organization to speak for the Inuvialuit. In 1994, Cournoyea played a key role in negotiating the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
  • Cournoyea was first elected to the territorial Legislative Assembly in 1979, representing the electoral district of Western Arctic. This district was dissolved in 1983, and Cournoyea represented the new district of Nunakput for the remainder of her political career.
  • In 1991, Cournoyea was selected as Premier of the Northwest Territories and served as Premier until 1995 when she retired from politics.
  • Cournoyea was awarded honorary Doctorates in Law from Lakehead University, Carleton University and the University of Toronto. She received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1994, and in 2008 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and inducted into the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame.
  • Born in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, Cournoyea was raised in the traditional lifestyle of the Inuvialuit of the Mackenzie Delta. Cournoyea grew up traveling and hunting along the western Arctic coastline.
  • As a child, she ran away from a residential school, an experience that she retold before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
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