Ethel Blondin-Andrew, OC, public servant, politician (born 25 March 1951 at Fort Norman [Tulita], NT). She was the first Indigenous woman elected to Parliament when she won the Western Arctic seat for the Liberals in the federal election of 1988. During her parliamentary career, from 1988 to 2006, Blondin-Andrew worked to protect Indigenous languages, cultures and peoples. She was appointed an Officer to the Order of Canada in 2022.
Early Life and Education
Ethel Blondin-Andrew was born into a Dene family in Tulita, Northwest Territories. As a young girl, in 1959, she was sent to Grollier Hall residential school in Inuvik. She fled the school, living in a “tent town” with other runaway children until finding her way back home a few months later. At 12, she was hospitalized for back problems and tuberculosis.
An excellent student, Blondin-Andrew graduated from the University of Alberta (BEd, 1974). She taught school at several Northwest Territories communities from 1974 to 1981. Blondin-Andrew then joined the territorial department of education in Yellowknife as a language specialist until 1984. In Yellowknife, she became involved in policy development for the preservation of Indigenous languages and culture in the Northwest Territories.
During the years 1984-86, Ethel Blondin-Andrew was manager and then acting director of the Public Service Commission of Canada. For the next two years, she was assistant deputy minister of culture and communications at Yellowknife.
In the 1988 federal election, she became the first Indigenous woman elected to Parliament when she won the Western Arctic seat for the Liberals. She served as Opposition critic for Aboriginal Affairs (see Federal Departments of Indigenous and Northern Affairs). She was re-elected in 1993, as the Liberals came to power, and was appointed Secretary of State, Training and Youth. Blondin-Andrew was re-elected in 1997, 2000, and 2003, serving as Minister of State for Northern Development from 2004 to 2006. However, she was defeated in the federal election of 2006.
Blondin-Andrew returned to the Northwest Territories in 2006, helping the Dene Nation implement their 1993 land claim settlement with the federal government.
Honours and Awards
- Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, 2012.
- Lifetime Achievement Award for former Members of Parliament, Maclean’s, 2019.
- Officer, Order of Canada, 2022.