Norma Kassi was raised and educated in Old Crow, the most northerly community in the Yukon. She is a citizen of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation (People of the Lakes) and a member of the Wolf Clan. Encouraged by her Elders, Norma entered politics shortly after leaving school. In 1985, Kassi was elected into Yukon’s Legislative Assembly as Member for Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation, a position she held until 1992.
Kassi was selected by the Elders of the Gwich’in Nation to act as a spokesperson on behalf of the Gwich’in people for the preservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. She traveled throughout the world educating people about the inseparable relationship of the Gwich’in people and the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Audiences included United States Senators, world leaders and Indigenous communities throughout the Arctic and across North America.
In 2007, she co-founded the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research to promote community-based, northern-led research aimed at improving the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of the north. In 2016, Norma joined the Canadian Mountain Network as a co-Research Director.
In 1991 Kassi was awarded the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation and Achievement Award. She received the Goldman Prize in 2002, one of the world’s highest profile awards for Conservation.