Fort Resolution's Nadine Delorme is running to represent the communities of Fort Resolution, Ndilo, Dettah and Łutselk'e in a byelection for the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh seat former MLA Steve Norn was forced to vacate in November.
Delorme, a Sixties Scoop survivor, returned to the Northwest Territories in 2014 after learning of her birth mother's community of origin.
She said it's the second time she's run to bring truth and reconciliation to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, and to push for reforms in education, justice and child welfare.
"To be an Indigenous woman who has gone through what I've gone through … I'm doing what I set out to do in the first place and that's to overcome the colonial barriers that were put in place so that I wouldn't succeed," she said.
Delorme ran against four other candidates in the 2019 election and placed fifth with nine votes. Steve Norn won the election with 206 votes while Richard Edjericon received 130 votes, Lila Fraser Erasmus got 117 and Paul Betsina received 103 votes.
Delorme said she will fight for other Sixties Scoop survivors who are "not being treated as citizens" and for the proper implementation of the Dene Kede curriculum in schools.
She plans to campaign for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, whether it's possible to visit constituents or not, through radio, TV programs and social media.
Sixties Scoop survivor
Delorme said her story as a Sixties Scoop survivor carries stigma because she didn't grow up here.
"I can only hope that people will open their hearts and minds to something new and something different," she said.
"I want to be able to bring that hope to people, that if I overcame it, I can help you overcome it and part of it is being in that role and saying, 'What are we going to do to help people, really?'" she said.
Delorme was in high school in Ontario when the province opened adoption disclosure files in 2011, allowing birth parents and adoptees to access information about one another. A Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto social worker told Delorme that her family is from the Northwest Territories.
She received her original birth certificate with the signature of her mother, Barbara Delorme.
She was at the Native Child and Family Services building in Toronto, and the receptionist who knew of Delorme's mother's place of origin, told her that Muriel Betsina, a Yellowknives Dene Elder, was in town.
Betsina contacted Richard Simon, then Fort Resolution's mayor, who put her in touch with relatives.
She was invited to a wedding in the N.W.T. and decided to move to Fort Resolution.
"2014 was the first time I stepped foot on my traditional lands of Denendeh. I fell in love with the North. I fell in love with the people, even if they're angry and don't like me or the change I represent, or the stigma of my adoption. I fell in love. It was so complete and absolute."
She called up Simon to thank him for connecting her to her family. They fell in love and got married.
Child welfare, housing
Of this week's announcement of $40 billion to compensate young people harmed by Canada's discriminatory child welfare system and reform the system that tore First Nations children from their communities for decades, Delorme said, "This is not applicable to Indigenous people in the N.W.T. This is wrong. Why?"
She said that as an MLA, she would ensure Dene, Inuit and Métis are not left out of future compensation agreements.
On housing, Delorme said many Deninu Kue First Nation members are dealing with housing issues, and that there is insufficient infrastructure.
"There are still too many gaps … and homeowners are falling through the cracks," she said.
Delorme said that she's had to go without running water at times.
Delorme was recently appointed as the Yellowknife Artist Co-operative's project manager "with hopes and dreams for an arts school and centre in the N.W.T."
"I've become very passionate about it," she said.
Delorme, adopted into a family in Toronto, went to Etobicoke School of the Arts.
"I gained some very unique skills … and I suffer from survivor's remorse," she said. "I know if my people didn't get tortured in residential school [and could have accessed the arts] maybe they wouldn't have hurt so much … they would have a chance."
During the campaign, Delorme said she plans to walk 20 kilometres every day in recognition of MMIWG, Sixties Scoop survivors, all the children who died at residential schools, and for her mother Barbara, whom she hopes to lay to rest in Rocher River or Yellowknife.
"I walk for my ancestors," she said. "I wanna let people know, never give up, never back down, work hard, pray and be patient. I'm coming to help."
Nominations for the Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh seat close on Jan. 14, 2022. The election by mail-in ballot is set for Feb. 8, 2022.