Activist, 26-year Air Force veteran, Ogiitchida (Great Warrior) and drum keeper Robert ‘Bob’ Jondreau of Norge, Virginia walked on August 10 of heart and liver problems. Robert Jondreau was the son of Chief William ‘Boyzie’ Jondreau, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community’s formal tribal leader.
Growing up on the L’Anse Reservation, his father taught him the ways of his people. Most notably, Jondreau and his father were on the fishing boat that was cited for violating fish and game laws. The resulting case, Michigan v. Jondreau proved to be a landmark case in favor of the Chippewa when a similar case from 1930 was overturned, People v. Chosa.
Jondreau continued to fight for the rights of his people, though at times he faced criticism.
“He was always trying to teach the Native ways, fighting for treaty rights and what he knew was the right thing to do,” said Monique Jondreau, his daughter. “It was a hard thing to do because a lot of the people on the reservation got upset because he could make things more difficult for the Indian community.
“He was on the boat with my grandpa, when they had the lake trout that changed the fishing rights for Michigan. He won the hunting, gathering and fishing rights for all the Indians of Lake Superior,” she said.
“He was arrested by the Department of Natural Resources, and now his son Gerald is working for the tribal DNR. There is that circle that says you are not going to stop us from being Native,” said Jamie Ware-Jondreau, Robert’s wife.
Robert then embarked on a 26-year military career serving in tours all over the world including England, Thailand during the Vietnam War and a tour in Desert Storm.
“He was supposed to go into the priesthood, he is Roman Catholic. At 15 or 16, he decided it wasn't his calling; he went into the military instead,” said Ware-Jondreau. “He was a very spiritual man—he taught me forgiveness. Anger is wasted energy. We are better warriors because of Bob Jondreau. He is the most ultimate warrior I have ever met in my entire life.”
Gerald Jondreau, his son also added, “He was an excellent teacher. Traveled all over the world; coached football, soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball and was constantly involved with us kids. He’d give you a kick in the ass when you needed it or a hug. He was an excellent role model and everyone loved him, every time we went to the reservation there were always people lined up to see him.”
“So many people had put prayers in for him,” said Ware-Jondreau. “The Church of England, The synagogue in England and The Canadian Brothers of Manitoba and friends in The Church in Belgium put prayers out there for Bob.
“He was seeing angels, he said, ‘I have my wings, I'm ready to go home.’ He saw a little girl that we suspect was his firstborn Andrea. We were in the room. I said ‘Honey, do you understand what is going on?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna kick the bucket and I’m going to heaven.’”
Ware-Jondreau also mentioned that though his passing was sad, her husband remained lighthearted to the end. “His youngest was holding his hand when his last breath slipped. Immediately after, we came back home and started the sacred fire,” she said.
“He wouldn't give anybody anything,” said Monique Jondreau. “He would show them how to earn it. I was never given anything, but I was taught how to get it all. He was an amazing man.”
Robert A. Jondreau was born August 1, 1947 and was 66 years old when he walked on August 10. His service was held at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Norge, Virginia. The service consisted of a traditional Catholic service as well as a military folding of the American flag, military gun salute and a traditional last playing of an eagle calling song on his drum by his former drum group Four Rivers Drum.
He is survived by his wife Jamie; children Monique, William, Bobbie, Jerry, Teshena and Meno as well as grandchildren, nieces and nephews.