After completing a Masters in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo, Stephen and his family lived in Lutsel K’e, a Dene community on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, for over 12 years. During this time he focused on work helping indigenous peoples, governments, and industry tackle tough land and resource challenges. He is a member of the Environmental Monitoring Advisory Board for the Diavik Diamond Mine and a Director for the Dechinta Institute for Research and Learning. He previously chaired the Akaitcho Screening Board and was a long-standing Director of the Denesoline Corporation and a member of the NWT Protected Areas Strategy Steering Committee.
Dr. Hokowhitu holds a Ph.D. in Māori Studies/Physical Education, a Masters of Arts, and two Bachelor degrees. He has built a highly respected national and international research reputation; specializations include Indigenous culture and theory, Indigenous sport/physical education/health, Indigenous masculinity, and Indigenous film and media. He received a Government panellist appointment to the prestigious Tertiary Education Commission Performance Based Research Fund, Māori Knowledge and Development, which oversees all research in the Māori knowledge area and directs State funding to all tertiary institutions. Dr. Hokowhitu is prepared to lead the promotion and support of high-quality research in a collaborative and interdisciplinary manner. His achievements in innovative teaching have reached communities beyond Otago and New Zealand. In one instance, Dr. Hokowhitu developed the first completely online Master of Indigenous Studies program in the world having perceived that many indigenous leaders, already committed to community responsibilities, encountered geographical obstacles to higher education. He is also an inaugural elected officer of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, a key association in the developing field of Indigenous Studies.
Rita is currently the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Education, Culture, and Employment (ECE). A respected community member, Rita has previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Tłįcho Community Services Agency (TCSA), the Director of Early Childhood and K-12 School Services for ECE, and was the principal of Chief Jimmy Bruneau Regional High School (CJBS) in Behchoko for 13 years. Rita is also an elected Councillor of the Community Government of Behchoko and, since 2006, she has contributed to the educational mandate of the NWT Human Rights Commission as a NWT Human Rights Commission Member.