Stuart Hodgson, former NWT Commissioner, dies aged 91

Stuart Hodgson
Stuart Hodgson. Photo: Nanisiniq Arviat History Project on Flickr
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Stuart Hodgson, the man who helped to revolutionize how the Northwest Territories was governed, has passed away.

Hodgson served as Commissioner of the NWT from 1967 to 1979. According to friends of the Hodgson family, he died on Friday, December 18 at the age of 91.

In 1964, Hodgson joined a territorial government then based in Ottawa. But over the next two years, as he rose to become deputy commissioner, public hearings led to a report calling for the relocation of that government. A new territorial capital was proposed: Yellowknife.

It was Hodgson, elevated to the role of commissioner, who led that historic relocation in the fall of 1967. Stepping onto the Yellowknife airport tarmac as the first government employees arrived in the NWT, he reportedly declared: “At last, we are home.”

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Kate Guay, the archivist who documented Hodgson’s papers from his time in office, called him “the original devolutionist” for his role in bringing the seat of government to the territory.

Read: Getting to know Stuart Hodgson (Edge YK, subscription)

By 1970, Hodgson had been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In the same year, the first edition of the Arctic Winter Games – an event he co-founded – was held in Yellowknife.

Hodgson continued to serve as the NWT’s commissioner for nine more years. Later, he lived and worked in British Columbia.

“I knew nothing about government. I never worked for government before. But it came home to me very, very quickly that we had to be in the Northwest Territories,” Hodgson told Northern News Services some years after stepping down.

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“After I left, I never said anything, because I believe I had my day and I did the best I could. I made some mistakes, but I think collectively, we did the best we could.

“It certainly wasn’t a one-man show; I had a tremendous group of people who helped me out.”

Hodgson’s son, Eugene, said his father had passed away “peacefully and with dignity” late on Friday, adding: “He loved the North and always talked about how it was the best part of his life.”

Tributes left online for Hodgson on Saturday hailed him as a “Yellowknife icon” and a “good, kind man”.

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“That is the passing of a part of NWT history,” wrote long-time Yellowknife resident Gail Cyr. “He had a remarkable memory for people, faces, family, community and events.

“Small communities will remember him as he delivered water or fire trucks, roads and other community infrastructure they needed. He was a remarkable man.”

A memorial for Hodgson will be held in Vancouver on January 14, 2016.

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