Condolences are pouring in for Randy Kapashesit, chief of the MoCreebec Council of the Cree Nation, who passed unexpectedly into the spirit world on April 25.
“We sadly give notice to all aboriginal people and organizations in Canada, the sudden passing of Chief Randy Kapashesit,” read a statement on the MoCreebec Council website. “Randy had a massive heart attack at 3:00 am this morning of Wednesday April 25th and passed away.”
A subsequent update on April 26 said they were transporting him back to the community by April 30 and that funeral arrangements would be forthcoming.
First Nations chiefs from all over remembered Kapashesit as a tireless supporter of aboriginal rights and the environment, as well as a promoter of indigenous economic sustainability. He was also chosen as the representative for the United Nations North American Indigenous Caucus, serving on the planning committee for the United Nations 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
“Chief Kapashesit’s leadership was vital in the efforts of First Nations in Canada and Indigenous Peoples globally to achieve recognition and a better quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples,” said National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations in a statement. “While his passing is a shock and tremendous loss for the people of Mocreebec and the leadership circles he shared, Chief Kapashesit’s strong vision and dedicated efforts will carry on through the younger generations he helped lead. We offer our thoughts and our prayers to his loved ones and all members of Mocreebec Council and Nation.”
Deputy Grand Chief Gord Peters, a close friend of the chief, stated, “Chief Kapashesit led a tireless struggle for his people to get recognition, while at the same time staying focused on achieving success in a better quality of life for the people of Mocreebec. As an individual Randy was a dedicated and loving father for his two children and partner, Donna Ashamock, and loved and appreciated music.”
Others noted his commitment to preserving the environment.
“The protection of the environment was a key priority of Chief Kapashesit and he dedicated much of his time to working with other First Nations in Ontario and environmental NGO’s on many initiatives of critical importance in this area,” noted AFN Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse in a statement.
“He was an innovator and great believer in First Nations striving for economic independence and prosperity,” Toulouse said. “He led the initiative to construct a beautiful Eco-Lodge in his community and many other economic initiatives that have been successful and have greatly contributed to the lives of the people he proudly represented.”
“Chief Kapashesit’s accomplishments and memories will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of the many people that he helped during his lifetime,” the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) said in a statement. “The AIAI wishes him well on the next stage of his journey to the spirit world.”