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Deskaheh

Deskaheh (also known as Levi General), Cayuga chief and speaker of the Six Nations Hereditary Council (born on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario in 1873; died at the Tuscarora Reservation, New York, on 25 June 1925).

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John Callihoo

John Callihoo, politician, Indigenous-rights leader (born on Michel First Nation, Alberta 1882; died in St Albert, Alberta 11 Aug 1957). Of Haudenosaunee-Cree descent and self-educated, he was a freighter and then a farmer, but his leadership capabilities soon made him a rallying point for Indigenous causes.

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James McKay

James McKay, Manitoba Métis politician, interpreter, guide, fur trader, Hudson’s Bay Company clerk and postmaster (born 5 February 1828 in Edmonton House, Alberta; died 2 December 1879 at St. James, Manitoba). A member of the Council of Assiniboia (1868–69), James McKay played a moderating role during the Red River Rebellion. He also served Manitoba as president of the Executive Council, Speaker of the Legislative Council and Minister of Agriculture, and was on the Council of the North-West Territories from 1873–75. Fluent in various Indigenous languages, McKay helped negotiate Treaties 1, 2 and 3 in the early 1870s. As a treaty commissioner for Treaties 5 and 6, he added provisions to help Indigenous peoples with medical supplies in the event of an epidemic, with famine relief and with their new life on reserves. McKay’s life and career exemplified attempts by Métis leaders, both in commerce and politics, to adapt to rapid changes after Confederation.  

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Romeo Saganash

Romeo Saganash, lawyer, politician, advocate for Indigenous rights (born 28 October 1962 in Waswanipi, a Cree community southeast of James Bay in central Quebec). Saganash is Quebec’s first Indigenous Member of Parliament and the province’s first Cree person to receive an undergraduate law degree. He is believed to be the first Indigenous leader in Canada to run for the leadership of a major political party. For the last 20 years, Saganash has represented the Cree at numerous national and international forums concerning Indigenous issues. He spent 23 years helping to negotiate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — a resolution that provides a framework to implement treaty rights between First Peoples and Canada and to fulfill other obligations in international agreements. He has spent his life furthering the economic, environmental, legal and constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly the Cree in the James Bay region.

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Jody Wilson-Raybould

Jody Wilson-Raybould (“Puglaas” or “woman born of noble people” or “woman with integrity” in Kwak’wala), politician, lawyer (born 23 March 1971 in Vancouver, BC). Jody Wilson-Raybould is the independent MP for Vancouver Granville. She was federal minister of justice, attorney general and minister of veterans affairs in the government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Prior to her career in federal politics, she was a BC crown prosecutor, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and member of the BC Treaty Commission. As Canada’s first Indigenous justice minister, Wilson-Raybould introduced groundbreaking legislation, including Bill C-14 on medically assisted dying, C-16 on gender identity and human rights, and C-45, The Cannabis Act. She has helped to build bridges between First Nations communities and the Canadian government and is committed to helping Indigenous peoples seek self-government and gain equality in education, health care and legal rights.

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Peter Tomkins

Peter Tomkins Jr., Métis leader, political organizer, blacksmith (born 1 January 1899 in Poundmaker Reserve, SK; died June 1970 in High Prairie, AB). In the 1930s, he worked with Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris to build the Métis Association of Alberta (founded 1932, now the Métis Nation of Alberta) and the Indian Association of Alberta (1939). From health care to his work with the Métis settlements, Tomkins promoted improved living conditions for the Métis of Alberta and Saskatchewan. His diplomacy, lobbying and negotiating skills helped get the first Métis-specific legislation passed in Canada in 1938.

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Dekanahwideh

Dekanahwideh, "the Heavenly Messenger," reputed founder of the Five Nations Confederacy. He was said to have been born among the Huron of a virgin mother, and destined to bring peace and power to his people.

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Floyd Roland

Floyd Roland, mechanic, politician, premier of Northwest Territories 2007 to 2011, mayor of Inuvik 2012 to 2015 (born 23 November 1961 in Inuvik, NWT). Roland sat in the Northwest Territories legislature for 12 years before becoming premier on 18 October 2007. His premiership was marred by a scandal over an affair between Roland and a clerk of the legislature.

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Nellie J. Cournoyea

Nellie J. Cournoyea, OC, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 1991–95 (born on 4 March 1940 in Aklavik, NT). Cournoyea is the first Indigenous woman to lead a provincial or territorial government in Canada.

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Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson (Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla), Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) hereditary chief, politician, administrator (born in 1944 in Comox, British Columbia). A leading theorist in Indigenous politics in British Columbia, Wilson was influential in a successful proposal to amend the Constitution Act, 1982 to enshrine Indigenous rights. He is the father of Jody Wilson-Raybould, former Member of Cabinet in the Justin Trudeau government (2015 to 2019).

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Yvon Dumont

Yvon Dumont, CM, OM, Métis leader, lieutenant-governor of Manitoba (born 21 January 1951 at St. Laurent, Manitoba, a mostly Métis community northwest of Winnipeg). Dumont became involved in Indigenous politics as a teenager and, throughout his career, held senior positions in the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF), the Native Council of Canada (now the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples) and the Métis National Council (MNC). As MNC president in 1986, Dumont participated in the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord. On 5 March 1993, he was sworn in as the lieutenant-governor of Manitoba, the first Métis person in Canadian history to hold a vice-regal office. Yvon Dumont was a successful appellant in the 2013 Supreme Court of Canada land claims case Manitoba Métis Federation vs. Canada. This case helped bring about the signing of a memorandum of understanding in May 2016 between the Canadian government and the MMF to “advance exploratory talks on reconciliation.” Dumont remains a proponent of recognizing the Métis people as a distinct Indigenous population.

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Helen Mamayaok Maksagak

Helen Mamayaok Maksagak, CM, politician, public servant, community leader (born 15 April 1931 in Bernard Harbour, NT [NU]; died 23 January 2009 in Cambridge Bay, NU). Maksagak was the first woman and Inuk to serve as the commissioner of the Northwest Territories. A vocal and engaged advocate for Inuit affairs, she contributed to efforts to establish Nunavut as Canada’s third territory in the 1990s. In March of 1999, she was chosen as the first commissioner of the newly created Nunavut territory; her term lasted until March 2000. Maksagak returned to a formal political role in November 2005, when she was appointed deputy commissioner of Nunavut. In addition to her political career, Maksagak performed advocacy work, focusing on Inuit and, more broadly, Indigenous initiatives, such as improving access to social services.

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Harry Daniels

Harry Wilfred Daniels, politician, writer, actor (born 16 September 1940 in Regina Beach, SK; died 6 September 2004 in Regina Beach). Daniels was a celebrated Métis politician and activist who fought for the rights of Métis people. His greatest contribution to Indigenous rights in Canada was the Supreme Court case Daniels v. Canada, which guaranteed that Métis and Non-Status Indians are considered “Indian” under the Constitution Act, 1867.

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Daniel Paul

Daniel Nicholas Paul, CM, Mi’kmaq elder, author, social justice advocate (born 5 December 1938 on Indian Brook Reserve, NS). Paul is the author of We Were Not the Savages, one of Canada’s first history books from an Indigenous perspective. He had long campaigned for the removal of Halifax’s statue to its controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis, until its removal by Halifax's city council in January 2018.

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Henry Arthur Smitheram

Henry Arthur Smitheram, "Butch," politician, public servant (b at Penticton, BC 8 Jan 1918; d at Keremeos, BC 14 Mar 1982). Smitheram was a nonstatus Indian, his Okanagan mother having lost her status upon marrying his English father.

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Elijah Harper

Elijah Harper, Oji-Cree politician, consultant, policy analyst (born 3 March 1949 at Red Sucker Lake, MB; died 17 May 2013 in Ottawa, ON). Harper is best known for the role he played in scuttling the Meech Lake Accord, for which he was named the Canadian Press newsmaker of the year for 1990.