Indigenous activist Charlie Snowshoe dies at 88

Charlie Snowshoe, environmental activist and Gwich’in elder, died this week at his home in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, at the age of 88.

Snowshoe, like many Gwich’in in the Northwest Territories, was raised to live off the land as a hunter and trapper.

His daughter Shirley Peterson told CTV News that her father « always instilled in us to take care of the earth. »

Although he was forced to attend a boarding school in Fort McPherson, near the territory’s northwest border with the Yukon, Snowshoe never lost his identity.

Snowshoe would go on to become a strong voice for the North, serving as vice-president of the Indian Brotherhood and mayor of his home community at Fort McPherson.

Peterson, his daughter, says the family « always felt loved and always felt guided by him. »

Ken Kyikavichik, grand chief of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, says Snowshoe spoke out against climate change long before it became a global conversation.

“He has such a profound impact,” Kyikavichik told CTV News. « The more he heard about it, the more he was like, ‘It’s not climate change, it’s man-made change.' »

The self-made leader also brought the multimillion-dollar Gwich’in land claims to the fore with the federal government and united the people against the now abandoned Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Later in his life, he was rewarded for his leadership and always gave back to his community.

At 88, his daughter says his last wish has been granted: to spend his last moments at home with those he loved the most.

« I’m so honored to have him here with us and surrounded by his family, » Peterson said.


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