The Canadian Mountain Network (CMN) is honoured to announce that CMN Co-Research Director, Norma Kassi, has been awarded the prestigious 2020 Arctic Inspiration Prize for her training initiative in Northern Canada, where Indigenous youth will develop the skills to understand, work and care for the lands and waters within their traditional territories. The Arctic Inspiration Prize is the largest annual prize in Canada and provides seed-funding to initiatives by Northerners for Northerners. The prize recognizes Northern innovation and excellence and encourages teamwork for the betterment of life in Canada’s North.
Norma’s project, Youth Training in Ethical Knowledge Sharing and Co-production to Advance Northern, Indigenous-led Conservation and Stewardship, is co-funded by CMN and aims to train a generation of Indigenous youth in conservation and stewardship using Indigenous and community-based research methods, as well as ethical approaches to knowledge sharing between Indigenous and Western ways of knowing.
“We are so grateful for this gift from the AIP team,” says Norma, “We will ensure that we do our very best to honour the legacy of our past leaders and all Arctic peoples and build upon the resiliency of our youth, so they may become strong leaders within their regions.”
Please join us in congratulating Norma for her incredible work and for inspiring a new generation of guardians, who will help protect and manage our lands and waters, as well as Canada’s numerous Indigenous languages, cultures and communities.
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Norma was raised and educated in Old Crow, the most northerly community in the Yukon. She is a citizen of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation (People of the Lakes) and a member of the Wolf Clan. She gained her depth of traditional, scientific and ecological knowledge in Old Crow flats where her grandfather, mother and the land were the bearers of this invaluable, ancient knowledge, which was passed on to Norma at a very young age.
Encouraged by her Elders, Norma entered politics shortly after leaving school. In 1985, Norma was elected into Yukon’s Legislative Assembly as Member for Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation, a position she held until 1992. During this time, Norma was selected by the Elders of the Gwich’in Nation to act as a spokesperson on behalf of the Gwich’in people for the preservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.
From 1995 to 1998 Norma was the Environmental Manager for the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN). In this capacity, she headed the CYFN Northern Contaminants Program and was Chair of Centre for Indigenous People Nutrition and Environment – CINE at McGill University.
In 2007, Norma co-founded the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research and served as Director of Indigenous Collaboration to May 2019. The goal of AICBR is to promote community-based northern-led research aimed at improving the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of the north and promoting the health of their environments.
In addition to her role as CMN co-Research Director, Norma is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Science at McGill University in Montreal, where she has co-led community-based research and training initiatives focussed on climate change adaptation. She also serves as Senior Advisor to the Indigenous Leadership Initiative, which advocates for Indigenous-led land use planning, Guardians programs, and the creation of Indigenous Protected Areas.
Canadian Mountain Network
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Science
Indigenous Leadership Initiative