Grand Chief Edward John

Class of 1978-1979

Grand Chief Edward John was born at Nak'al Bun (Stuart Lake), British Columbia in 1949. He was taken to the Lejac Residential School on Fraser Lake, but completed high school at Prince George College, where he was elected class president. He attended the University of Victoria, graduating in 1974 with a BA in Sociology. After a year as the executive director of the Prince George Indian Friendship Centre and a year as education director for the Tl'azt'en First Nation, he enrolled in the law school at the University of British Columbia.

After graduating with his LL. B. in 1979, Edward John articled at Bate & Company in Prince George. He was called to the bar and briefly continued working at Bate & Company, before starting his own practice in 1981, focusing on aboriginal rights and criminal defence work. His skillful work as a lawyer occupied whichever time was not taken with his work on aboriginal issues. In 1983 he was elected Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, and 1990 he was elected Chief of the Tl'azt'en. In these roles he worked to establish the Dene Law Centre in Fort St. James as well as the Yinka Dene Language Institute. The language institute seeks to retain and promote the Sekani language, as well as the Carrier language of which Mr. John is considered to be an eloquent speaker. In 1991 he helped found the First Nations Summit, an organization to represent BC First Nations involved in treaty negotiations with the government.

Grand Chief John has served extensively in elected office. He was elected to the Task Group of the First Nations Summit for 11 consecutive terms, dealing directly with the federal and provincial governments in the treaty process. He was chosen by British Columbia First Nations to be their representative in the constitutional process which concluded with the Charlottetown Accord. He has represented the Association of First Nations internationally at the Indigenous People's Summit of the Americas in Buenos Aires. He has also served as the North American representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Closer to home, he was the Minister for Children and Families in BC during 2000 - 2001.

Mr. John has received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Northern British Columbia, where he was appointed to the university's inaugural Board of Governors in 1992, as well as from the University of Victoria.