Ms. Cournoyea has had many accomplishments over the years. She served for 17 years from 1979 to November 1995 as a Member of the NWT Legislature (MLA) representing the Western Arctic riding of Nunakput. She held several Cabinet positions and then in 1991 she became Premier of the Northwest Territories, a position she held for four years. She was the first female premier of a Canadian Territory, and the second female leader of an elected legislature in Canada after Rita Johnston in British Columbia.

Before entering politics, Cournoyea was an announcer and station manager for CBC North in Inuvik, and a land claims worker for the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada.

In a volunteer capacity, Ms. Cournoyea served as a director of the Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre in Inuvik and a founding member of the Northern Games Society.

Continuing volunteer commitments include work in Inuvialuit historical and cultural activities.

CBC television has honoured Ms.Cournoyea by doing a Life and Times documentary on her amazing life.

In her private life, Ms. Cournoyea savours the time she spends on the land. Fishing, picking berries and enjoying the quiet company of family and friends and pursuing her lifelong love of reading, particularly Arctic and ancient history and the political world.

Nellie Cournoyea is an outstanding role model and spokesperson for the Inuvialuit. From her early days working with her dad on a trapline to becoming the first Aboriginal woman to be elected Premier in Canada, Nellie Cournoyea proves to us that every journey begins with a single step and no journey is too hard.