Tłı̨chǫ lose leader, teacher and visionary: former Grand Chief Edward Erasmus passes away

(CKLB file photo)

The Tłı̨chǫ Nation has lost a leader in former Grand Chief Edward ‘Ediiwa’ Erasmus.

The Tłı̨chǫ Government says he “will always be remembered for his role in negotiating and furthering rights for the Tłı̨chǫ and Indigenous people across the north, but also for his role in our self-government through his leadership as Grand Chief.”

Erasmus held many high-level positions prior to and after signing the Tłı̨chǫ Agreement.

He was part of the negotiating team starting in 1992 until the agreement was finalized in 2003. He then served as part of the transition team until 2005. He also helped establish the Tłı̨chǫ Constitution. After his work as Lands Negotiator, he also became the first director of the Tłı̨chǫ Government’s department of Lands Protection from 2005 to 2011, which completed the Tłı̨chǫ Land Use Plan in that time.

Finally in 2011, he became grand chief in a by-election; he ran again and won another term from 2013-2017. Erasmus was also a candidate in the latest election for Tłı̨chǫ grand chief, finishing second behind Jackson Lafferty.

“In every way, he embodied the wisdom of the elders and has been an integral part of helping the Tłı̨chǫ Nation get to where it is today,” reads a release from the Tłı̨chǫ Government. “He believed in the Tłı̨chǫ Government, the importance of self-government, and the right of all Tłı̨chǫ people to determine their own future on their own terms.”

Teacher and story-teller

While he served in several important roles, Erasmus was a family man first and foremost.

“He loved his family and they were his heart and soul,” says the Tłı̨chǫ Government. “He embodied being a teacher, leader and story teller… Ediiwa led us with humility, strength, and humour. Ediiwa loved sharing his knowledge, culture, and stories of the Tłı̨chǫ people.”

As a child, Erasmus was adopted by Alex and Elizabeth Charlo, after his mother struggled with tuberculosis.

His adoptive parents taught Erasmus traditional knowledge and the Tłı̨chǫ language.

He is survived by his wife Frances, or ‘Goolie’ as many people know her; their five children: Fay, Ian, Lillian, Jenny and Edie; and their 15 grandchildren.

Erasmus passed away on July 29, at 70-years old. The Tłı̨chǫ Flag will be at half mast this week in his honour.

His funeral will be held on Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Funeral in Behchokǫ̀.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com