On November 22, 2017, Premier Silver rose in the House to pay tribute to Mike Smith.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Elder and Yukon Regional Chief Mike Smith.
Although it has been a month since his passing, the loss of such a man is still a wound to many in our territory. This is inevitable with any person who leaves behind a legacy such as his. History and time ultimately determines who we remember as having shaped the destiny of our territory — but Regional Chief Mike Smith has forged a path forward for Yukon and we owe him a great gratitude for his over four decades of knowledge and leadership.
Already he is remembered as an extraordinary leader, as a father and grandfather, and as a friend to many. He is a man who worked with strength, grace and determination to secure a better future for all Yukoners. Those traits were notable at an early age. A residential school survivor, he became one of the first two Indigenous lawyers in Yukon in 1984 — encouraged by Elijah Smith – and much of his life’s work was focused on land claims and Aboriginal rights.
He became chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation for three terms, and at the time of his passing was on his second term as Yukon’s Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. It is his hand that signed the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Final and Self-government agreements in 2005, setting the First Nation on a course to self-determination. His work to ensure the priorities of Yukon First Nations were heard nationally earned him recognition and respect across Canada. And it is a part of his vision that graces the waterfront in Whitehorse — the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, which he described as an important symbol of how the Kwanlin Dün are strengthening their nation and culture for current and future generations.
To quote Chief Dan George’s Words to a Grandchild, “In the midst of a land without silence, you have to make a place for yourself. Those who have worn out their shoes many times know where to step. It is not their shoes you can wear; only their footsteps you may follow—if you can let it happen.”
Regional Chief Mike Smith took the steps of a giant and he prepared the generations behind him to carry forward in a similar stride. To leaders like him, we are all indebted — and thanks to leaders like him, we are all enriched.