In memory of Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton

August 24, 2020

It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the passing of our friend Joseph Tokwiro Norton, Grand Chief of the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawà:ke.

As Grand Chief for over thirty years, Joe was a trailblazing leader, providing a strong voice for Indigenous solidarity, defiance and determination. He led his people through many challenging periods including the 1990 Oka crisis, for which he was honoured with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2002.

Grand Chief Norton addressing the D’Arcy McGee International Forum
Carlingford, Ireland, August 2018

In recent years, he became a regular welcome visitor to Ireland, where he saw many similarities with Mohawk culture, such as traditions relating to music and dance, as well as challenges relating to language planning and preservation. When in Ireland he appeared on national radio, as well as in national newspapers and online news websites, sharing stories of the Mohawk people, of whom he was so fiercely proud.

As a guest speaker at ICUF’s D’Arcy McGee International Forum (Carlingford, Ireland, August 2018), he spoke with great passion educating attendees, Irish and Canadians alike, of the great culture and history of Turtle Island.


Mohawk Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton with James Kelly (CEO ICUF, left), and Minister of State for the Irish Language Seán Kyne TD (right) at the launch of the Mohawk Irish Language Scholarship, at Government buildings (April 2019)

A fluent speaker of Kanien’kéha, the Mohawk Langauge, Grand Chief Norton recognised the importance of the Irish Langauge to Irish identity. Under his guidance, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke entered into partnership with ICUF, to arrange for an annual scholarship for a Mohawk Scholar to come to Ireland to experience Irish Language and culture. Plans are underway to arrange for a reciprocal exchange.


Ambassador Kevin Vickers warmly welcomed Grand Chief Norton to an event in the Canadian Embassy in Dublin (February 2018)


Under the leadership of Grand Chief Norton, ICUF has begun a journey with the community of Kahnawà:ke. Over the coming months and years, we will remember Grand Chief Norton, as we continue to develop the friendship between the peoples of the First Nations and Ireland.

The board and management of ICUF would like to extend their deepest sympathies to Grand Chief Norton’s family and friends, as well as to the whole community of Kahnawà:ke. Ní bheidh a leitheid ann arís.