First stamp in second Indigenous leaders set honours first woman to lead provincial, territorial government in Canada

First issue honours Nellie Cournoyea, who fought for Indigenous self-determination while leading numerous organizations, including Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Committee for Original Peoples’ Entitlement.

Last night, Canada Post unveiled a stamp honouring the life and work of Nellie Cournoyea at a community event in Ulukhaktok, a small hamlet on Victoria Island’s west coast in the Northwest Territories’ Inuvik Region.

A champion of her people, the Inuvialuit of Canada’s western Arctic, Cournoyea is known for the “unwavering vision, work ethic and heart that have guided her fight for Indigenous self-determination and Inuit empowerment,” according to a statement issued today by Canada Post.

“She became the first Indigenous woman, and second woman, to head a provincial or territorial government in Canada, as Premier of the Northwest Territories (1991-95).”

The new issue is one of three 2023 Indigenous Leaders stamps slated for nationwide release on June 21. It marks the second set in Canada Post’s multi-year Indigenous Leaders series.

According to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the word Inuit is plural and means “the people” while the singular form is Inuk. Inuvialuit means “the real people” and is the term for Inuit who live in the western Canadian Arctic. The singular form is Inuvialuk.

Cournoyea is known for the ‘unwavering vision, work ethic and heart that have guided her fight for Indigenous self-determination and Inuit empowerment,’ according to a statement issued today by Canada Post. Here, she’s shown on an official first-day cover serviced with a cancel from Aklavik, her birthplace.


Cournoyea was born in Aklavik, N.W.T., and her father, an immigrant from Norway, worked as a trapper while her mother, an Inuvialuit (or Inupiaq) woman, came from Herschel Island, Yukon.

Cournoyea grew up living a traditional lifestyle, completing most of her education by correspondence courses sent to her family’s bush camp. She embarked on a career in radio and later as a land claims fieldworker.

As co-founder of the Committee for Original Peoples’ Entitlement, she helped negotiate the ground-breaking Inuvialuit Final Agreement, which included a land settlement of more than 90,000 square kilometres.

Cournoyea was elected to the legislature in 1979 and held many ministerial portfolios prior to her selection as premier. She played a significant role in the discussions leading to the creation of Nunavut and after leaving office headed the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for 20 years.

An Officer of the Order of Canada, Cournoyea is now in her 80s and remains active as the chair of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board and vice-chair of the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation.


The stamp features a photo of Cournoyea taken in 2022 by local photographer Peggy Jay.

Serviced with a cancel from Aklavik, Cournoyea’s birthplace, the official first-day cover and the inside of the booklet feature a photograph of Cournoyea taken in 1993 by Tessa Macintosh.

An award-winning northern photographer, Macintosh has for more than 20 years lived and worked north of the 60th parallel, the mainland boundary between the northern territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to the north plus the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the south. She has been the official government photographer for the Northwest Territories for more than a decade.

Her image is superimposed over a photograph taken at Trout Lake, N.W.T., by Robert Postma, a Canadian-born and internationally renowned master landscape, wildlife and abstract photographer.

Tania Willard, an Indigenous Canadian multidisciplinary artist, graphic designer, and curator, known for mixing traditional Indigenous arts practices with contemporary ideas, illustrated the cancellation mark, which shows an Arctic fox, one of the symbols on the Northwest Territories coat of arms.

Launched in 2022, the multi-year Indigenous Leaders series highlights the contributions of modern-day First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders.

“These extraordinary people dedicated their lives to preserving their cultures and improving the quality of life of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” today’s statement from Canada Post added.

This year, on National Indigenous Peoples Day – June 21 – Canada Post will issue the stamp honouring Cournoyea plus other stamps featuring George Manuel and Thelma Chalifoux.

The two other stamp unveilings this week include one paying tribute to George Manuel on June 12 to be revealed at an event in North Vancouver, B.C., plus a third one honouring Thelma Chalifoux a day later in St. Albert, Alta.

The new stamps and collectibles will be available at and select postal outlets across Canada beginning on June 21.

The above press release is available to read in Inuinnaqtun, an Inuit language spoken in the central Canadian Arctic closely related to Inuktitut, and Sallirmiutun (formerly Siglitun), the dialect of Inuvialuktun spoken by the Siglit, an Inuit group of the Northwest Territories.

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