MARCH 4, 1940


Born in Aklavik, Northwest Territories (NWT), Cournoyea attended an Aboriginal residential school, but ran away after a confrontation with a teacher. Nellie started her career as an announcer & station manager for CBC North in Inuvik, and a land claims worker for the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. First elected to the territorial Legislative Assembly in 1979, she represented the Western Arctic district and then the new district of Nunakput. On November 14, 1991, Nellie was chosen as NWT Premier–the first female premier of a Canadian territory & second female premier in Canadian history. Cournoyea served as premier until 1995. At that point, she became chair and CEO, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. Awards include: National Aboriginal Achievement Award (now, Indspire Awards), 1994; Officer of the Order of Canada, 2008; induction into the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame; and, in 2016, the Order of the NWT.

  “Ms. Nellie J. Cournoyea, The Governor General of Canada.  Retrieved 6/5/2021, Ms. Nellie J. Cournoyea | The Governor General of Canada (
“Nellie J. Cournoyea,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1/30/2008.  Retrieved 6/5/2021, Nellie J. Cournoyea | The Canadian Encyclopedia
Photo: U.S. Embassy, 9/2/2009.  Cournoyea (right) with U.S. Consul General Laura Lochman [cropped].  Public Domain. 

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