All Pages – Prime Leaderboard Banner
All Pages – Skyscraper Right
All Pages – Skyscraper Left

From residential school survivor to the Premier of the Northwest Territories, Stephen Kakfwi tells his story in Stoneface: A Defiant Dene

From residential school survivor to the Premier of the Northwest Territories, Stephen Kakfwi tells his story in Stoneface: A Defiant Dene

Stephen Kakfwi, former Premier of the Northwest Territories and respected Dene Elder offers a candid and deeply personal memoir in Stoneface: A Defiant Dene, shedding light on the traumatic legacy of residential schools and his rise into politics. With a remarkable memory for detail and a powerful storytelling voice, Kakfwi delivers an unforgettable account of his life and experiences, from surviving the horrors of residential school to blending traditional Dene practices with the demands of political office.

“These are difficult stories to tell, and I had an awful persistent headache throughout the writing of the book,” says Kakfwi, who explained that there are stories in Stoneface he hasn’t even been able to share with his wife. But creating a written record of his experiences at residential school for his children, grandchildren, and future generations felt incredibly important, he explains.

“I wanted to answer the question – ‘why can’t you get over it’ –  that so many residential school survivors are asked both indirectly and directly,” says Kakfwi. “This book is my attempt to say, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to tell you what it’s like to be traumatized as a child and then find that at the age of 69 you can’t sleep, that you’re still spooked by nightmares.”

Born in a bush camp on the edge of the Arctic Circle in 1950, Kakfwi’s early life was marked by the traumas endured by generations of Indigenous children in residential schools, as well as tuberculosis and alcoholism within his family. Despite these challenges, Kakfwi emerged as a leader and eventually became the Premier of the Northwest Territories.

The former Premier’s life has been a series of diverse endeavours—hunting moose one day and negotiating with European diamond merchants the next. Throughout his career, Kakfwi understood that he held the power to make change and dedicated himself to supporting fellow Indigenous leaders, including chiefs in their claims to land that had been taken from them. He embraced the power of storytelling to reshape the narrative of the North, leaving a lasting impact on Canadian history.

In Stoneface, Kakfwi transforms politics into philosophy and provides a powerful and personal guide to reconciliation. He urges readers to understand the impacts of residential schools on Indigenous peoples and work towards a better future for all Canadians.

Stoneface: A Defiant Dene (9781773861074) is published by Caitlin Press and distributed by the University of Toronto Press. It was released on March 24, 2023 and is available to order from bookstores across Canada.

Stephen Kakfwi, northern Dene, is a lifelong leader in Indigenous rights, environmental stewardship, and reconciliation. He served as Premier of the Northwest Territories, and as National Chief of the Dene Nation, representing Chiefs of Treaties 8 and 11. He led community consultations for the “Berger Inquiry” into a north-south gas pipeline proposal across the Dene homeland. He led and hosted the visit of Pope John Paul II to northern Canada. A husband, father and grandfather, he shares his heroes, homeland, and residential school experiences in his songs and stories.

All Pages – Content Banners – Top and Bottom

About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.