Kristine McLeod was laid to rest Aug. 18 after a ceremony at the Igloo Church in Inuvik.
The much-loved Gwich’in Tribal Council deputy grand chief died in an early-morning car accident on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, Aug. 8.
She was 38.
During the funeral, which was broadcast live on the GTC’s Facebook page, Willard Hagen said McLeod was a strong and brave representative of the Gwich’in nation.
“Kristine had that special knack, she went out of her way to be kind,” he said. “She would say when they go low, we go high.
“She was courageous in everything she did. One is not necessarily born with courage, one is born with potential. But without courage, we cannot practice many of the virtues that Kristine displayed with consistency. To be kind, to be true, to be serious and to be honest.”
Hagen added McLeod made everything she did look easy with her demeanour and capablities.
GTC Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik said McLeod was both a skilled states-person and a humble and kind friend, though she had an air for the dramatic as well.
“I must admit, she liked a little bit of flamboyance,” he said. “She loved it, though she would never admit it. But that’s what we loved about her.
“We all looked up to her. We were such a great team. But like all great dreams, it doesn’t last forever, and that’s why we must all cherish each other.”
Following the funeral, McLeod was walked down Mackenzie Road by the congregation to the Inuvik Cemetery where she was buried.
Born Aug. 3, 1983 in Calgary, McLeod was the eldest of five children. Her father arranged a private jet to fly to Calgary from halfway across the country so he could be at her birth.
While she was raised in Inuvik, McLeod spent much of her high-school years in Bassano, Alberta. She returned to Inuvik before graduating and was valedictorian of her class. She went on to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree through the University of Calgary and Grant MacEwan and then began a career in finance with the GNWT as a budget analyst.
Eventually working her way up to manager of planning and budgeting, McLeod took the leap into politics in 2020 with the Gwich’in Tribal Council general election and was elected deputy grand chief on Sept. 4, with 551 votes.
A life-long volunteer in her community, McLeod was the youth representative with Inuvik Town Council as a teenager and later volunteered with the Yellowknife Figure Skating club. When not involved in that, she was often volunteering at the Yellowknife bingo to keep up with Elders.
McLeod is survived by her parents Vern and Sandra McLeod, grandmother Sarah McLeod-Firth, husband Leslie Semmler and her two children, Lennox and Alexis, her younger sister Molly, her younger sister Jessi, her older brother Jeremy and her brother Kelly, who is the current Nihtat Gwich’in Council president.
Gwich’in Tribal Council is offering mental health and counselling support to in each of the Gwich’in Settlement Area communities. In the meantime, anyone in need of counselling or mental health assistance is asked to contact GTC manager of human resources Chris Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (867)-777-7379 or GTC health and wellness manager Susan Keats at email@example.com or by phone at (867)-777-7939.