AFN and First Nations Mourn the Passing of Algonquin Elder “Grandfather” William Commanda, an Inspirational Leader, Teacher and Activist

on August 3, 2011

August 3, 2011
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and First Nations across the country are today mourning the passing of Grandfather William Commanda, a highly respected and well-known Anishinabe (Algonquin) Elder from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg in Quebec. Media reports indicate that Grandfather Commanda passed away this morning at 4:45 a.m. eastern time.

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said: “Our thoughts and prayers are today with the family, friends and the circle of community that had the great honour to know Grandfather William Commanda.  He was a truly unique and exceptional man who dedicated his life to building bridges between people of all nations and all generations.  His wisdom, his dedication to his people and his example were an inspiration to leaders not only of my generation but across many generations of First Nations.  We mourn his passing and we know we will not see his like again.”   

Elder William Commanda – traditional name Ojigkwanong – was born in 1913, the great grandson of hereditary Algonquin chief Pakinawatik.  Elder Commanda is a keeper of several Algonquin wampum belts and a keeper of the traditional prophecies and oral histories of his nation.  He was steeped in his traditional teachings and traditional way of life, having worked as a guide, trapper, birch bark canoe maker and craftsman of international renown. He served as Chief of Kitigan Zibi for over nineteen years.  Elder Commanda was a strong advocate for the rights of his people and First Nations and Indigenous peoples everywhere.  He participated in events and ceremonies at the United Nations, with Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and organized national and international gatherings of Elders and world leaders.  He became known as “Grandfather”in honour of the respect accorded him by other Elders and people of all nations.

“Grandfather Commanda possessed the rare ability to fully understand his traditional way of life while walking in the modern world,” said AFN Quebec-Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard. “He understood and could articulate to others how those traditional values and teachings can inform our lives today and help strengthen the bonds between us.  He was a firm believer in respect, justice and harmony among people of all nations and he dedicated his life to sharing that message.  He has been a strong presence for so long and he will be greatly missed. Today, we offer our condolences to his loved ones but, at the same time, celebrate the life of this great leader and teacher who gave so much to all of us.”

Grandfather Commanda was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008. In 2010, he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

Contact information:
Don Kelly, Assembly of First Nations A/Communications Director
613-241-6789 ext. 334 or cell: 613-292-2787 or email [email protected]

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations Communications Officer
613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or email [email protected]

rdbrinkhurstAFN and First Nations Mourn the Passing of Algonquin Elder “Grandfather” William Commanda, an Inspirational Leader, Teacher and Activist
Assembly of First Nations