The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) is in mourning following the passing of two “respected leaders” during the month of August.
The Tribal Council indicated that families, friends, and the First Nations communities are mourning the passing of Grand Chief Joe Norton of the Mohawks of Kahnawake and Dr. Joseph Gosnell of Nisga’a Nation.
According to a statement issued from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, both men made notable advances and achievements for their Nations – making a mark on the provincial and federal political landscapes. The statement reads that the names of both individuals are well known and highly respected right across Canada.
“I have worked with Dr. Joe Gosnell on various issues and his intelligence and eloquence were a pleasure to work with,” commented NTC President Judith Sayers. “He took the time to work with Nuu-chah-nulth and share Nisga’a experiences in treaty-making. He was that kind of man. One who shared his knowledge and experience with others. He is a legend.”
Dr. Gosnell passed away in his own homelands on Aug. 17 at the age of 84.
“Dr. Joe Gosnell was one of the first-First Nation people to speak to the B.C. Legislature in 1998 when the enactment of their treaty was tabled. His speech was historic and he stated that the treaty was for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to come together and write a new chapter in BC history. His wise words will never be forgotten,” said Mariah Charleson, NTC Vice-President.
Gosnell was the chief Nisga’a representative amid negotiations with the government that ultimately led to the 1998 signing of the Nisga’a Treaty – the first modern treaty in Canada.
The Nisga’a Treaty came into effect in 2000 and gave the First Nation title to 2,019 square kilometres of land located in the Nass Valley along the B.C. coast.
The mourning has rippled across the country as earlier in the month, on August 7, Grand Chief Norton passed away in Quebec.
“I worked with Joe Norton after approximately one-third of the First Nations left the Assembly of First Nations over the Constitutional talks with Canada. Joe was part of the newly formed Coalition of First Nations and worked hard to obtain a Nation to Nation process,” added Sayers. “He was always a leader with vision, integrity and commitment.”
According to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, these “two mighty warriors” helped to pave the way and “lay the foundation for self-government and self-determination.” The NTC adds that both Gosnell and Norton fought for lands, resources and rights of First Nations people.
The NTC indicates that their members will be joining First Nations communities across the country in a period of mourning for these two leaders.
“We will remember their legacy and build on the foundation they laid to continue to work for the people of the land,” concludes the statement.