In the area of governance, Copper has thirty years’ experience in leadership and management roles with Yukon First Nations (YNFs), at the local and regional levels. At the local level, his governance experience includes being elected Chief for two different YFNs. At the regional level, Copper’s experience includes being elected Vice-Chairman to the Council for Yukon Indians (CYI) for three consecutive two-year terms (1977-1982).
Born in Whitehorse in 1951, Copper spent his early years on a trapline in the White Rivers area (Snag, Wellesly Lake, Grayling Creek and up the Nisling River).
Before starting school in 1957, he spent time hunting and trapping North of Whitehorse along the Old Dawson Trail. Without direct connections to his natural grandparents, Copper’s parents ensured that he spent time with his Little Grandma, Ah-goo-Ah-gaw-kit (First Light of Day) to learn traditional ways. She was his first teacher, and a well-respected spiritual and cultural leader. He spent his summers with her until he was 15 years old.
Copper was eventually enrolled in the Coudert Hall Residential School, where he was able to thrive academically and within the realm of sports. Unfortunately, Indigenous students were not allowed to take academic courses at that time, and Copper had to return after graduating to complete his Gr. 11 and 12 Biology, Math and English in order to apply to Renewable Resources Technical Diploma Program at Saskatoon Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences. Copper possesses a two-year Renewable Resource Diploma, Yukon College Business Administration Certificate, Justice Institute of British Columbia Conflict Resolution Certificate and completed a MBA Degree program in Community Economic Development.
Since then, Copper has acted as a former Council for Yukon Indians Vice-Chairman, Yukon First Nation (YFN) Chief, senior self-government negotiator, aboriginal relations manager, economic development manager and tourism businessman, Copper brings a very good understanding of YFN cultural, economic and political issues regarding land and resource development activities in Yukon. Most recently he has been a Senior Policy & Planning Coordinator at Yukon Land Use Planning Council since 2017.
Overall, Copper has 25 years of Land Claims Agreement & Self-Government Agreement negotiations experience (12 years Table time) that includes governance, program & services, and resource development agreements. His negotiation experience also includes leading complex, multi-party negotiations between First Nation, Territorial/Provincial and Federal Governments in the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA), Gwich’in Tribal Council SGA, and Northern Shuswap Tribal Council negotiations processes.
The Yukon authors of a letter published in Science last month, Anne Mease, Joe Copper Jack, Katarzyna Nowak and Jared Gonet. (Photo credit: Adil Darvesh)