New Indigenous leadership award honours life of Kristine McLeod

·3 min read
A new award to honour Kritsine McLeod, the late deputy grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, will recognize Indigenous N.W.T. residents who have shown 'outstanding' leadership. (Submitted by Jessi McLeod - image credit)
A new award to honour Kritsine McLeod, the late deputy grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, will recognize Indigenous N.W.T. residents who have shown 'outstanding' leadership. (Submitted by Jessi McLeod - image credit)

A new Indigenous leadership award will honour the legacy of Kristine McLeod, the late deputy grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

The Kristine McLeod Emerging Indigenous Leader award will recognize Indigenous N.W.T. residents who have shown "outstanding" leadership, according to a news release from the territory.

The award was created by the government of the Northwest Territories with the support of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

It will also provide recipients with $5,000 to go toward supporting themselves as they pursue education, training or any other opportunities, it says.

"[It's for] those who exhibit similar values [to McLeod], where you have someone that is younger, that is looking to move into leadership roles," said Ken Kyikavichik, grand chief of Gwich'in Tribal Council.

'Inspiring young leader'

The 38-year-old McLeod died tragically in a car accident on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway on Aug. 8.

She was close to wrapping up her first year serving as deputy grand chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

Kyikavichik said McLeod was destined for even greater accomplishments, and that she was inspiring to other young people in the community.

He said that from a young age, if McLeod wasn't doing something with sports then she was serving her community in some way.

She served as a youth counselor of the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council and spent almost a decade at the Izhii K'aiik'it Tat Gwich'in Society in Yellowknife, which was formed as a non-governmental organization to provide support to Gwich'in participants.

"There certainly wasn't an individual more deserving of such an acknowledgement than Kristine for something like this. And if it does result in more people getting involved in elected office in the North, then I know Kristine for one would be incredibly happy," he said.

Submitted by Ken Kyikavichik
Submitted by Ken Kyikavichik

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said in the release that McLeod spent her life working for a better future for the Gwich'in people.

"She has left her mark on a generation of young women who saw a strong, Indigenous woman in an important leadership role in our territory," said Cochrane.

Family happy legacy will be honoured by award

McLeod's family said they are happy that Kristine's legacy is being honoured by the award that supports other Indigenous leaders with the same passion she had.

McLeod's sister, Jessi, wrote in an email to CBC news that she felt a lot of pride about the award.

"The relationship history between the GNWT [government of the Northwest Territories] and Indigenous government wasn't always a positive. So, to see the GNWT recognizing the value in investing in indigenous leadership, it's very honouring to the ideologies that Kristine stood for. "

Jessi wrote about how her sister was always a "type-A personality, over-achiever" who always knew she wanted to serve the Gwich'in people.

"Kristine was a selfless person … She definitely inspired me to find my passion and to strive to be great at it, and not just 'good enough,'" she wrote.

"My hope is that young Indigenous people will see and realize that yes, they do deserve to be heard, they do deserve a seat at the table, and especially for women in politics, to be brave enough to just go for it," wrote Jessi.

McLeod's cousin, Kim Campbell, wrote in an email to CBC News that McLeod's "passion to serve her community and her Gwich'in people always, and always will have, an impact on our community."

The award will be handed out in conjunction with Premier's Awards, beginning in 2022.

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