Elijah Harper was born on March 3, 1949 at Red Sucker Lake in northeastern Manitoba, the son of Allan B. and Ethel Harper. He was educated at residential schools in Norway House, Brandon and Birtle, Manitoba. He attended secondary school at Garden Hill and Winnipeg; in 1971 and 1972, he studied at the University of Manitoba. Later, he worked as a community development worker, supervisor for the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, and program analyst for the Manitoba Department of Northern Affairs.

In 1978, at the age of 29, he was elected chief of the Red Sucker Lake Indian Band (now Red Sucker Lake First Nation). In 1981, he was elected as Member of Legislative Assembly for the Rupertsland constituency, a position he held for the next 11 years. In 1986, he was appointed to cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio Responsible for Native Affairs, and in 1987, as Minister of Northern Affairs.

In 1990 while sitting as opposition member in the Manitoba Legislature, he blocked the Canadian constitutional amendment known as the Meech Lake Accord. He cited the lack of adequate participation and recognition of Aboriginal people in that process. Later that year, he won the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award - the same presented to Nelson Mandela of South Africa. He was also voted as the Newsmaker of the Year in Canada for 1990 by the Canadian Press.

Elijah, about 6 years old, in Red Sucker Lake

Also in 1990, the Red Sucker Lake First Nation bestowed him the title of Honourary Chief for Life. In the same year, he received the commemorative medal of Canada from the Governor General as a result of his dedication and work in public service. He resigned from the Legislative Assembly (Manitoba) in 1992, and in 1993, was elected as Member of Parliament for the Churchill constituency in northern Manitoba, one of the largest electoral districts in Canada.

His international work has taken him to Great Britain, the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the European Parliament in France, South Africa, South America (Brazil and Chile), and numerous places in the United States. In 1992, he attended the launching of the International Decade for Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations in New York, as well as the Declaration of International Indigenous Day in the same city in 1997. In 1996, he went to the Moral Rearmament (an international peace organization) Jubilee Anniversary in Caux, Switzerland, and later attended meetings on Reconciliation in both Australia and New Zealand. He continues to be a strong advocate for indigenous and human rights.

In December 1995, Mr. Harper called for a Sacred Assembly for promoting Aboriginal justice through spiritual reconciliation and healing between non- and Aboriginal peoples. The Sacred Assembly was successful in bringing together many people from across Canada and represented the elders, women, youth, political and spiritual leaders in all faiths. As a result of the Sacred Assembly, the Canadian government, through the Governor General, declared June 21st as National Aboriginal Day to recognize Aboriginal people in Canada.

He was awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1996, and the Order of Merit from St. Paul's University in May 1998 (Canadian Institute of Conflict Resolution). Other awards include the Order of the Sash from the Manitoba Métis Federation, and the Gold Eagle Award, an outstanding citizen recognition from the Indigenous Women's Collective in Manitoba.

In January 1998, he was appointed by the Privy Council as Commissioner for the Indian Claims Commission; he resigned in October 2000. He is now an activist, promoting human and Aboriginal rights, a registered lobbyist/consultant/advisor to Aboriginal organizations, a public speaker, and involved in charitable work with World Vision in Tanzania, Kenya and the Republic of China (Taiwan).