Always laughing, always a leader: Kristine McLeod remembered
Kind, generous, and a dedicated leader: this is how residents of the Beaufort Delta described the late deputy grand chief of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, Kristine McLeod.
The council announced Kristine had suddenly passed in a short statement on Facebook early on Sunday evening. RCMP later confirmed a car accident on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway had claimed the life of a 38-year-old woman.
Kelly McLeod, president of the Nihtat Gwich’in Council in Inuvik, was Kristine’s brother. Kelly described his sister as “a beautiful Gwich’in who loved her children and family beyond measure.”
“Kristine has touched so many souls that words cannot describe the loss we are feeling right now,” Kelly wrote. “She loved her two children, Alexis and Lennox, more than anything is this world.
“Kristine is the example of a leader we want to see. She cared so much for our people and made it her life’s work to give them a better future. She wanted to see our nation united and strong to provide a future for all that come after us.”
Setting an example
Kristine was elected as deputy grand chief of the Gwich’in Tribal Council last September.
At the time, she told Cabin Radio she was running not only to make a difference for the Gwich’in people – with education, employment, language, and culture being her priorities – but to inspire her daughter, nieces, and other Gwich’in women “to follow their dreams.”
For Jordan Peterson, who was the outgoing deputy grand chief at the time, her example is a powerful one.
“I think being able to show her daughter and other girls, within our nation and within the North, that there are so many women leaders we can look to… Kristine was definitely one of those people,” he said.
Peterson, who knew Kristine for many years both professionally and personally, remembers her as passionate, caring, and honest, and an active participant in the Gwich’in Nation from a young age.
She was always laughing, he said.
“I sat on the Gwich’in Settlement Corporation with her for my four-year term,” said Peterson. “Being able to learn and grow alongside her and … share a lot of laughs with her are definitely memories that I won’t forget.”
‘A leader for our people’
Inuvik Mayor Natasha Kulikowski offered her condolences in a news release on Monday, encouraging residents to “come together, lean on each other for support, and to please reach out to available resources should you need, during this difficult time.”
Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik describe Kristine as “well-humoured,” “very personable,” and “the best” colleague.
“Politics can be a very cruel world at times,” he said, “and to have a trusted confidante in your back corner, always backing you up on things and supporting decisions, but also challenging you when you need to be challenged and offering suggestions… you really couldn’t ask for a better team member and deputy grand chief for the Gwich’in Tribal Council.
“She really wasn’t politics-driven at all. It was with care and compassion at the forefront, ensuring that our people were doing well. She always accepted people for who they were and tried to work with them as best as she could.”
In a post on Facebook, Kyikavichik described the legacy Kristine leaves behind.
“Her family and our Nation should be tremendously proud of the person she was,” he wrote. “She did not need the title to be a leader for our people.
“We were incredibly fortunate to have seen this star shine so brightly for the time we did.”
The Gwich’in Tribal Council has organized a gathering to honour Kristine McLeod from 6:30pm to 8:30pm on Monday evening at Ingamo Hall in Inuvik.