Vuntut Gwitchin Elder and former Yukon MLA Darius Elias has died.
Premier Sandy Silver, opposition leaders and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm all released statements remembering the leader.
“Darius had the heart of a giant, it had to be so, to fit all our lands and people in it. We are lucky to have had such a strong advocate that saw our future so clearly, but always brought it back and supported our youth and left no one behind,” Tizya-Tramm said.
Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17, just days before the mobile clinic was set to return to his home community of Old Crow to administer second shots of the Moderna vaccine. After a conversation with the First Nation, the clinic went ahead.
Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost opened the clinic with a prayer, noting that Elias would have wanted the clinic to continue to protect the community.
Elias is remembered as a gifted orator, proud father, dedicated hockey fan and a politician who represented his community of Old Crow locally and defended the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge internationally.
In his youth, Elias represented Canada in New York City at the United Nations Summit. He went on to study renewable resources management and eventually became a park warden at Vuntut National Park.
Elias was first elected as an MLA in 2006, under the Liberal party banner. He became interim leader of the Liberal Party in 2011, following the defeat of the previous leader in the 2011 election.
Months later Elias resigned from the party to sit as an independent MLA, before eventually crossing the floor to the Yukon Party. He remained as an MLA until he was narrowly defeated in the 2016 election by Frost.
Elias was serving as deputy chief of VGFN until he retired on June 12, 2020.
Yukon political leaders who had worked with Elias, including Silver, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon and NDP leader Kate White also released statements remembering his legacy.
“In my first year as MLA for Klondike, no one reached out to mentor or guide me more than Darius. I will always cherish his genuine concern and sound advice. In the Legislative Assembly, Darius was knowledgeable and passionate. When needed, he could be fierce when speaking for his community,” Silver said.
“Darius was extremely proud of his children and the rest of his family. My heart goes out to them,” he said.
“Darius’ love of his children, the outdoors and hockey was infectious. I will miss our lively debates about hockey and will fondly remember him always sporting his Philadelphia Flyers ball cap around the office and at various community events. On behalf of the entire Yukon Party family, I would like to give our sincere condolences to his children, family, friends, and the community of Old Crow,” added Dixon.
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