Stephen Kakfwi was born in a bush camp on the edge of the Arctic Circle in 1950. In a family torn apart by tuberculosis, alcohol and the traumas endured by generations in residential school, he emerged as a respected Dene elder and eventually the Premier of the Northwest Territories.
Stephen belongs to a cohort of young northerners who survived the childhood abuses of residential school only to find themselves as teenagers in another residential school where one Oblate father saw them as the next generation of leaders, and gave them the skills they would need to succeed. Kakfwi, schooled on civil rights and 1960s protest songs, dedicated himself to supporting chiefs in their claim to land that had been taken away from them and in their determination to seize control of the colonial political system.
Kakfwi’s life has been a series of diverse endeavours, blending traditional Dene practices with the daily demands of political office—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—sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he did not. But he also embraced the power of story-telling, and has helped change the story of the North.
Kakfwi combines his remarkable memory for detail with his compelling raconteur’s skill in taking us through the incredible story of his life and one of the most transformative times in Canadian history. In his candid description of the loneliness of leadership and his embrace of Dene spirituality, Kakfwi’s Stoneface transforms politics into philosophy and an intensely personal guide to reconciliation.