Cece Hodgson-McCauley remembered as fearless, tireless and a little like Trump

Influential former Inuvik Dene Band chief and long-running Northern columnist Cece Hodgson-McCauley has died at 95. The outspoken, and at times controversial, writer announced she had liver cancer in her March 5 column for News North.

Columnist, leader and Northern advocate died at 95 surrounded by family in Norman Wells, N.W.T.

Carol McCauley and her mother-in-law, Cece Hodgson-McCauley. (Submitted by Carol McCauley)

Cece Hodgson-McCauley was a little like U.S. President Donald Trump.

In remembering the outspoken columnist, Northern advocate and founding chief of the Inuvik Dene Band, Bruce Valpy was hesitant to use the analogy, except that it seems so apt. Valpy was Hodgson-McCauley's editor at Northern News Services for 30 years.

"Over the years, people would object to us running her column and they would object to things that she said," he said.

"They would object to even letting her speak. She roused strong emotions."​

Hodgson-McCauley died Sunday night at her home in Norman Wells. Her death comes one week after she announced in her regular News/North column that she was battling liver cancer.

"I always tell you the truth," she wrote, in what would be her final column. "You know, I have had a great life!"

Hodgson-McCauley was 95-years old.

Hodgson-McCauley takes on a federal minister

She may have been controversial, but she was fearless.

Valpy remembered a story Hodgson-McCauley relayed to him at one point during their relationship. Late for a flight, she boarded a plane with curlers still in her hair. It just so happened a federal minister was in the seat beside her.

"She berated him for his lack of attention to the North, while she was sitting in her curlers," he said.

"She didn't care. She gave him hell anyway. That's quite remarkable."

Hodgson-McCauley was a hard worker. She was known as a fierce advocate for the Mackenzie Valley Highway extension, saying it would open the North and lower living costs in Mackenzie Valley communities.

She was also the former president of the Norman Wells Land Corporation, and founder of Women Warriors of the Sahtu.

Last year, she received an Indspire Award for her work improving and developing Northern communities.

And then there was her column — a handwritten screed she faxed in to Northern News Services every week almost without fail.

Don Sandercock was band manager and economic developer with Inuvik Native Band in 1984, while Hodgson-McCauley was chief.

He says she committed to that column — dubbed Northern Notes — because she loved it.

"How many times have I heard, 'Oh it's Thursday I have to get my article in.' And she'd be working away," he said.

"A lot of this came from her heart and her head. Because she usually didn't know what her topic was until something came into her mind at that moment — and then she would be able to articulate her thoughts quite well."

Column controversy

Hodgson-McCauley most recently raised eyebrows when she wrote that some people lied about their experiences in residential schools in order to "receive as much money as they could."

When her column was met with criticism from local elders, she stood by her writing.

According to her daughter-in-law, Carol McCauley, Hodgson-McCauley took the criticisms in stride. In fact, she joked about making waves when she accepted her Indspire award last year in Ottawa.

"The best part in her little interview was at the very end when she said, 'I don't think the government likes me very much, but I don't care about that,'" said McCauley.

She said the joke "brought the house down."

Hodgson-McCauley's funeral is scheduled for March 14 at the Dennis Drolet Community Hall in Norman Wells, followed by a feast.