Community educator and Vuntut Gwitchin elder Stanley Njootli Sr. to receive YukonU honorary doctorate degree

Stanley Njootli receiving a framed degree parchment from Dr. Lesley Brown and Dr. Ernie Prokopchuk

Stanley Njootli Sr. has long been a strong advocate for cultural revitalization in his community. As an Education Support Worker, Njootli helped re-establish land-based programs in Old Crow, integrating traditional knowledge into the school curriculum. His efforts have ensured that students gain practical skills and an understanding of their heritage through land-based learning activities such as camping, hunting, and muskrat trapping.

In recognition for his decades-long commitment to traditional knowledge and land-based learning, Yukon University will present Njootli with an honorary doctorate degree at the 2024 Convocation.


“Stanley Njootli’s dedication to students of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and his commitment to land-based learning efforts show the power of Indigenous tradition in education,” said Dr. Lesley Brown, President and Vice Chancellor of Yukon University, “YukonU is working with elders like Stanley Njootli to better respect and understand how important this approach to learning is. It is the way forward.”

“An honorary doctorate is the highest award that a university can bestow. It is a celebration of an individual, and it is a celebration of our status as a university. We are so proud to recognize Stanley Njootli Sr. with an honorary doctorate degree award from Yukon University,” added Dr. Brown.

Njootli says he is humbled by the recognition as well as honoured by it, “as long as my health allows I will continue to provide direction and teaching to young people in Old

Crow, said Njootli, “I will do this work as long as I can. I love doing this work for the students and the community”

Njootli was presented with a Yukon University honorary doctorate degree—a Doctor of Arts, honoris causa—at the annual Convocation ceremony on Saturday, June 1, at 11:00 a.m. on Ayamdigut Campus.

Stanley Njootli Sr.

A Life Dedicated to Tradition, Community, and Cultural Revitalization

Stanley Njootli seated at a table, smiling, wearing a beaded vest

Stanley Njootli Sr. was born in 1952 and raised in Old Crow. Growing up in the heart of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN), Stanley’s early years were steeped in traditional lifestyle and practices. From a young age, he participated in family muskrat trapping, spending April to June living in a tent camp in the Crow Flats area. This period, spanning from 1952 to 1971, laid the foundation for his deep connection to the land and traditional ways of life.

Stanley attended school in Old Crow from grades one to nine. Even when away from school for trapping, he completed homework booklets to keep up with his studies. During his teenage years, he contributed to the local community by helping build housing and the airport, and by driving trucks. In the 1970s, Stanley ventured into Western Canada, where he worked in the industrial sector for ten years. His experience includes working on the pipeline in Alberta and Inuvik. This period was marked by rigorous training and hands-on experience in the industrial field.

The early 1980s marked a significant turning point in Stanley’s life as he began to explore wellness, sobriety, and cultural revival. He participated in the NNADAP program, training as a para-counsellor and gaining valuable knowledge in drug and alcohol awareness and counselling. This training equipped him to support his community in new and impactful ways.

In 1981, Stanley returned to Old Crow and began working in social health for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. With Dave Joe as the lead negotiator Stanley became part of the land claims negotiations team. Starting in 1983, he served as a community representative for VGFN in all discussions with the Yukon and Federal governments. Stanley’s efforts on this team contributed to achieving the Agreement in Principle in 1993 and the subsequent Self-Government Agreement, which collectively involved 11 First Nations. These agreements were pivotal in securing the rights and land for the Vuntut Gwitchin people, ensuring the protection of crucial areas such as Crow Flats and the headwaters of the Porcupine River.

Stanley’s work as a community representative spanned from 1982 to 2000, during which he continuously sought the guidance of Elders to ensure his understanding and decisions reflected the community’s needs and traditions. His dedication to land preservation, clean water, and the protection of wildlife remains a cornerstone of his legacy.

Beyond negotiations

Stanley has been a strong advocate for cultural revitalization. As an Education Support Worker, he helped re-establish land programs in Old Crow, integrating traditional knowledge into the school curriculum. His efforts have ensured that students gain practical skills and an understanding of their heritage through land-based learning activities such as camping, hunting, and muskrat trapping. Stanley’s leadership extended to various boards and committees, including the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee, the North Yukon Renewable Resource Committee, and the Mackenzie River Basin Board. He was also involved in the latter stages of establishing the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, His work in these roles has been important in advocating for sustainable practices and protecting natural resources.

Stanley Njootli outdoors tending to a fire

An adventurer at heart

Stanley has boated the length of the Porcupine and Yukon Rivers to the Bering Sea, showcasing his deep connection to the land and waterways. He also competed twice in the Yukon Quest, one of the toughest sled dog races in the world, securing the Red Lantern award with pride. Stanley's joy in spending time with his four children and five grandchildren, and his semi-retired life filled with hunting and trapping reflect his enduring connection to his roots and community. Despite receiving an honorary doctorate from Yukon University — a recognition that humbles him—Stanley remains committed to teaching and guiding the youth of Old Crow, ensuring that traditional knowledge and practices continue to thrive for generations to come.

Stanley Njootli Sr.'s life is a testament to the power of tradition, resilience, and community service. His dedication to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, his significant contributions to land claims negotiations, and his efforts in cultural and educational programs highlight a legacy that will inspire future generations. As long as his health allows, Stanley is determined to continue his work, providing direction and hope to his community and the young students he is so committed to.

For more information, please contact

Misha Warbanski

Director, Communications and Marketing

University Relations