Spirits of Friendship

The Friendship Centre Movement has been shaped over a period of 60 years by Indigenous leaders in communities across Canada. These dedicated Indigenous people have greatly contributed to the success and growth of today’s Friendship Centre Movement. These are the stories of Friendship Centre trailblazers, or our Spirits of Friendship. We are honoured to have known them and privileged to have worked with them and to be a part of their legacy.

If you think someone should be added to this list, please send an e-mail to communications@nafc.ca with a short bio, specifically detailing their involvement in the Friendship Centre Movement.


Ray Chambers 1945 – 2006

Ray Chambers

With over fifteen years of dedicated service, Ray embodied the spirit of the Friendship Centre Movement. Ray was very proud of his heritage and fulfilled the office of Executive Director of the Alberta Native Friendship Centre and was also the Royal Aboriginal Commissioner for Western Canada. He believed in the work of Friendship Centres and in the people working for and utilizing its services.

Ray inspired his staff, colleagues and fought for those in Friendship Centres across Alberta and the country. Throughout his life, his work and passion inspired the lives of many people and made everyone feel like they belonged.

Xavier Michon 1920 – 1987

Xavier Michon

Xavier Michon was known to many as the Grandfather of the Friendship Centre Movement.  He was a lifetime member of the NAFC, so honoured for his early efforts in helping to establish the NAFC and the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC); as well as being the founding father of the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre.

In his early years, Xavier responded to the plight of Ontario’s Aboriginal peoples and his career became a quest to address the difficulties that many of us have faced during cultural transition. Like many of us, he experienced poverty, discrimination and even violence; never forgetting to include others in his pursuit of a better life.

Xavier rose to meet a challenge in his lifetime that few would dare to confront.  In 1940, at the age of twenty while working in a bakery, he listed in the army. He saw action in both North Africa and in Italy.  He was part of an artillery company which was commonly called the “Nine-Mile Snipers”. His sergeant was confident in his bravery and repeatedly assigned him the midnight watch, the period when surprise attacks were most likely to occur.

Xavier was one of our esteemed Aboriginal veterans who fought his way up the boot of Italy, through the mountainous regions, battling the enemy, the rain and poor conditions. He was wounded in battle and his acts of heroism were commemorated with five medals. These included: the 1939-1945 Star – for 6 months service for active operations; The Italy Star – for operational service in Italy; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal – for 18 months voluntary service; Defence Medal – for six months service in Britain; The 1939-1945 War Medal – for 28 days of service on active operations.

Summing up that portion of his life, Xavier stated, “I felt good in uniform because we were all dressed the same. I felt more accepted. We were all fighting for the same cause, though I didn’t know exactly what the cause was. I had friends in the army.” After the war, he returned to the bakery and became a master baker and manager.

In 1951, Xavier left the bakery for a job with Abitibi Provincial Paper Mill. He and another Aboriginal person endured the taunting by other workers and they felt they would have been fired if it were not for the union.  During his job at the mill, Xavier began volunteer work helping Aboriginal people and their children.

There were two women, Mrs. Irene Smith and Mrs. Mary Anne Baird, who asked him for his organizational skills to begin the Friendship Centre in a small 10' x 20' red insulbric building. He accepted the challenge and began to recruit members to form a Board of Directors by becoming a member of many organizations and appearing before others to gain community interest and recognition. The result was an eight-member Board which consisted of people from diverse backgrounds with expertise on issues, which had a direct impact on the lives of Aboriginal people. Through persistent efforts, Xavier received the support and some funding from influential people to improve the Centre.

In the late 1960's, he visited the reserves in the Thunder Bay region bringing clothing to the destitute and encouraged people to work on improving the community and its development. He set up links for people who were moving to Thunder Bay to seek help at the Centre or access other agencies’ resources.  Then, after his long service and dedication to the Centre, he became the Executive Director.

In 1974, he became the President of the NAFC, President of the Native People of Thunder Bay Development and founding President of the OFIFC.  He was also a member of the following establishments: the Welfare Council of Canada; the Task Force on Native People of Canada Manpower; the Ontario Government’s Task Force on Natives and the Law; the Smith Clinic for Alcoholism; Métis and Non-Status Indian Association of Ontario; Welfare Association of Thunder Bay; Ontario Legal Aid; Family and Children’s Services; and, Kairos.

Xavier was the first Aboriginal to sit on the Board of some of the above organizations. The Centre and many organizations he dealt with recognized his dedication by nominating him for the Outstanding Achievement Award and the Order of Canada Medal. Due to his many contributions of making a better life for our people, he gained respect from many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Thunder Bay.

It was Xavier’s dream to build a strong Aboriginal community, to be treated fairly, for Aboriginal people to have independence, a home for their kids, jobs to support their families and to be given a chance at life. Many times he personally helped people with his own money for groceries or to pay a fine to keep someone out of jail.

His death in 1987 was mourned by countless numbers and his name remains synonymous with the Friendship Centre Movement and the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre.  His contributions will not be forgotten.

His years were not long by most standards, but he left a rich legacy to Aboriginal people, the Friendship Centre Movement, his children, grandchildren and all those who had a good life because of him. His legacy has played a vital role for us to walk in dignity and to be proud of who we are.

In September 1989, the Indian Youth Friendship Society celebrated its twenty-fifth year of operations.  As part of that celebration, a portrait of Xavier Michon was unveiled as a commemoration to his memory and in gratitude.  The portrait of this honourable and humble man hangs there today and can be seen by all who walk through those doors.

Peter Dubois 1927 – 2002

Peter Dubois was known across Canada as a tireless crusader for First Nations rights and a minister of harmony between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal peoples. He was deeply involved for a half century locally, provincially and nationally in promoting social and educational opportunities for Aboriginal peoples and providing programming models for future generations of Aboriginal peoples across Canada. 

Peter Dubois was born on the Mucowpetung First Nation near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan in 1927. He completed his high school education at the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School.  He married Marj Keepness (also from Muscowpetung) in 1952. Following a call that he felt in his heart to be a Minister of the Gospel and with the encouragement and support of his wife, he studied theology at a Baptist College in Edmonton, Alberta.

Sometime later, he shifted his career focus to social policy and programs, emerging as a voice and presence in First Nations politics. He became Chief of the Muscowpetung First Nation and then was elected as First Vice-Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations in the 1960’s.  During that decade, he locked horns with Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs at the time, over the development of the controversial “white paper”.  He then changed his career to serve Aboriginal people through the provision of federal programming in the 1970’s. Then, at the end of that decade, Peter moved his attention to the needs of Aboriginal people at home, becoming part of a movement of volunteers from the Fort Qu’Appelle area that formed the Qu’Appelle Valley Friendship Centre. 

Peter served on the Board of Directors from its date of incorporation in 1981 until 1983. He was then selected to be the first Executive Director of the corporation–a position he held until his retirement seventeen years later in 2000. During that time, he also contributed to the Friendship Centre Movement at the provincial and national levels, serving as Executive Secretary of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) when the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program was transferred over to the NAFC by the Government of Canada in 1996.

Peter was also pivotal in the founding of key Aboriginal institutions in Canada that paved the way for many other similar programs. The First Nations University of Canada (formerly the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now known as the First Nations University of Canada), the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, the Saskatchewan Indian Community College (now known as the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology), as well as the Qu’Appelle Valley Friendship Centre are lasting tributes to a great pioneer, a fighter and protector of treaty rights, and a champion of race relations.

Of all these, Peter most loved to bring people of all races together. He had a great interest in bridging the gap between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people in the spirit of Friendship, and that is where he felt most at home. 

Not long after Peter left his position as Executive Director of the Qu’Appelle Valley Friendship Centre in 2000 at age 73, he fought a successful battle with cancer. He spent the next while devoting more of his time to his family, which he felt suffered due to degree of activity in the community over his life. He then lost his wife of a half century when she lost her own battle with cancer. Peter was deeply shaken by the loss of his wife who was a rock of faith, loyalty, and encouragement to him for a half century. His faith, friends and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren helped him through this difficult time, along with his lifelong interest in hockey (which he actively played until age 72 in 1999).

In 2002, Peter left this world when his vehicle was tragically stuck from behind by a drunken driver. Not long before he passed on to be with his wife, Peter was honoured by the Board, staff and membership of the Qu’Appelle Valley Friendship Centre as a founding pioneer of the local Friendship Centre Movement. He and his amazing accomplishments over a life of care and concern for all people will never be forgotten.

Georgina Donald 1932 – 2006

Georgina Donald

Georgina Donald was the youngest of seven children of David and Denise Grandbois. She was born on November 10, 1932 in Calling Lake, Alberta and was raised in Athabasca. As her mother passed away when she was still young, her sister Lena provided the motherly guidance for her and her siblings (Albert, Paul, John, Jean and Francis).

The Grandbois’ moved to Edmonton in 1949, and Georgina met the love of her life, Ross, shortly thereafter. Georgina and Ross married on February 3, 1951 and celebrated their 49th Wedding Anniversary shortly before his passing on March 17, 2000. Together, Georgina and Ross raised six children–Beatrice, Wayne, Dennis, Lyle, Joanne and Brian who in turn brought 26 grandchildren and 43 great-grandchildren. 

Georgina worked at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre for 32 years. She started as a volunteer two days a week, then became the Referral Worker, before being promoted as Assistant Executive Director and Executive Director and then requesting the position of Social Programs Director in 1992 and retiring in 1995.

Through her involvement at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, she was involved in the promotion and implementation of numerous social and recreational programs. Through it all, Métis square dancing and jigging would always be at the core of the Centre's activities from the early days her children were involved. Years later with her good friend Moise White, they created the Canadian Native Friendship Centre Junior Dancers her grand-children would be part of the first cohorts of dancers.

In 1997, Georgina and her son Lyle formally established the Edmonton Métis Cultural Dance Society. (Lyle was the interim President of the Métis Nation of Alberta from 1993 to 1996. He took over when Gerald Thom was forced to step down due to illness.) Over the years, the group has included many of the grandchildren (Brent, Gina, Jennifer, Jody, Jonathon, Larry, Lynette, Matthew, Michael, Roxanne, Tammy) and great-grandchildren (Brent Jr., Courtney, Elizabeth, Kendel, Nicholas, Nicole, Paige, Tameka) as well as numerous nephews and nieces and many others who considered Ross and Georgina as their parents/grand-parents. Georgina was actively involved with the dance group and joined on almost all trips, however, finding her on pictures is more difficult as the ultimate organizer could usually be found in the background quite far from cameras and spotlights.

Georgina's Legacy

The Edmonton Métis Cultural Dance Society, still in operation today, her son Lyle Donald, along with Lyle's children, grandchildren (her great-grandchildren) continue to promote the Métis Dance. Joey Gladue Memorial Jiggers, her granddaughter Jennifer Kootenay, with the help of her daughter Joanne Campbell, teaches the Métis Dances to the children. Jennifer's children (her great-grandchildren) Nicole, Nicolas and Courtney dance in this group.

Granddaughter, Tammy Donald, teaches the Métis Dance to the children in Wabasca, Alberta.  Tammy's daughter Tameka (her great-grandchild), dances in this group. Georgina died September 14, 2006.


Georgina's dedication and commitment to the community were recognized through numerous awards including:

  • Lifetime member of the Canadian Native Friendship Centre (1986)
  • Certification of Appreciation - Métis Association of Alberta (1989)
  • Hall of Honour - Métis Nation of Alberta (1993)
  • Lifetime Member - National Association of Friendship Centres
  • Aboriginal Role Models of Alberta - Humanitarian Award (2000)
  • Certificate of Acknowledgment - Back to Batoche (2001)
  • Queen's Jubilee (2002)
  • Georgina Donald's Duck Dance (2003) by John Arcand
  • Edmonton's Salute to Excellence - Citation Award (2004)
Maurice Joseph (Moe) Blondeau 1932 – 2008

Maurice Joseph Blondeau

Maurice was married to Leona (Bird) for 47 years. Together they raised 6 children – Valerie, Edward, Pierre, Brenda, Lori and Curtis.  Maurice was a cherished Grandfather and loved spending time with his numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. He was a devoted family man and loving son who was predeceased by his parents Maurice Blondeau Sr. and Mary (Pelletier).

In January 1951, after leaving his hometown of Lebret, Saskatchewan, Maurice joined the army.  He took his basic training on the west coast of Victoria and by March of 1952, he was stationed in Korea.  Approximately 10 months later, he was transferred to Japan and from there he returned to Canada where he was stationed in Victoria and then served his last two years in Rivers, Manitoba. Together, he spent six and a half years in the Armed Services. Once discharged from the army, he became an Ironworker and travelled all across Canada.

In 1967, Maurice starting working for his people–first as an Alcohol Counsellor at the Métis Society of Saskatchewan and then as a Child Care Counsellor at the Indian Residential School in Lebret. It was at about this time that he became involved in the Friendship Centre Movement and the rest is history.

Maurice served as the Provincial Coordinator for the Saskatchewan Association of Friendship Centres (SAFC) on the Executive and Board of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), as Executive Director of the Saskatoon Indian & Métis Friendship Centre and then as a Senator for the NAFC.

Maurice was very involved in sports and recreation.  He participated in ball, curling, billiards, cards, hockey and golf. The “Ole Tiger” liked his golf, making a double eagle on a Par 5, hitting the ball straight down the middle and then would look at you and say, “I hate when that happens”.

His sobriety was very important to him and he always made the time to listen and encourage people who needed support.  He was a great listener but would also have a wonderful story to tell you at the same time.

Senator Maurice Blondeau was respected and honoured by many and all that knew and loved him. He was always a proud Métis man and honoured Veteran who was deeply committed to his loving family and involvement with the Friendship Centre Movement.

Walter Raymond Joseph Schoenthal 1936 – 2007

Schoenthal was a founding member of the NAFC and the Saskatchewan Association of Friendship Centres and served as the Executive Director of the Regina Friendship Centre for years. After his retirement, he was appointed to the Senate of the NAFC and served for many years. Throughout his life, he was deeply committed to his work and involvement with the Friendship Centre Movement.

Amy Clemons 1906 – 1989

Amy Clemons

Amy Clemons, the great-great granddaughter of Chief Peguis, was a perennial driving force behind the Friendship Centre Movement in Selkirk, Manitoba.  A Friendship Centre original, Amy was the Selkirk Friendship Centre’s first Executive Director and helped establish the society from infancy to stability until her retirement in 1973.  She was born and grew up near St. Peter’s, Manitoba.  Five of her school years were spent in a residential school in Elkhorn, Manitoba.

In May 1970, Mrs. Amy Clemons was named “Women of the Year” by the Women’s Advertising and Sales Club of Manitoba. Shortly after that, Governor General Roland Michener announced she was a recipient of the Order of Canada. The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service in various fields of human endeavour.  It is our country’s highest honour for lifetime achievement. In 1972, Selkirk Mayor Frank Malis presented Amy with an Honorary Citizens award at a surprise party in recognition of her many contributions for community service.

While involved with the Friendship Centre and community events, Amy took a leading role in several Manitoba Centennial events and was called upon to greet the Queen and Royal family on behalf of the descendants of Chief Peiguis.

She was one of the original staff members of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre (IMFC) in Winnipeg and remained with the IMFC for more than six years before being named Executive Director of the Selkirk Friendship Centre in 1968.

Amy always thought one of the most important functions of the Friendship Centre was to provide a place for her people to gather. She recognized when they did gather–strangers or local people–that they could find people to talk to in their own language, offer advice, or just help them to find jobs or homes.

Amy was President of the Women’s Auxiliary, St. Peter’s, Dynevor for many years and received her life membership from that group in 1953. For many years, she was the organist in the Old St. Peter’s Church.

Amy was also an actress. The CBC made a film called “Death of a Nobody” based on an incident in Saskatchewan where an Aboriginal boy was murdered by some non-Aboriginal boys and nothing was done about it.  Amy played the part of the murdered boy’s mother.

Her and husband Bill resided in Betel Home in Selkirk, Manitoba until her passing into the Spirit World. Amy is truly one of our cherished Pioneers of the Friendship Centre Movement and is remembered and revered as one of our original Spirits of Friendship.

Elsie Bear 1921 – 2002

Elsie Bear

Elsie Bear was one of the Selkirk Friendship Centre’s most honoured helpers.  She was born in Grand Marais and moved to Selkirk, Manitoba after getting married. She has left her mark for life on the organization, her fellow volunteers, the community and the many Aboriginal people she worked so diligently for.

Following her extensive involvement with the Selkirk Friendship Centre, the Manitoba Métis Federation and the St. Peter’s Anglican Church, her list of affiliations grew.

Upon her retirement, she quickly became involved with the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres (MAC), the Indigenous Women’s Alliance, the Selkirk & District Arts Council, the Selkirk Branch of the NDP and a Senator of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF).  However, it was her work with the Selkirk Friendship Centre where Elsie’s contributions to the region were most noticeable.

Senator Elsie Bear was involved with the Selkirk Friendship Centre for nearly 25 years and initiated some of the Centre’s most important events. For many years, she coordinated the Annual Christmas Dinner for the Needy – an event she originated. Over 250 people avoided going hungry during that special time of the year thanks to the Yuletide Meal. She always worried that some people would not get a good dinner on Christmas Day and this was her way of ensuring that they never did.

Elsie’s commitment to her community did not go unnoticed either. She was awarded numerous times for her work including a very special birthday present in 1992 at the Fort Garry Place in Winnipeg. On December 20, 1992, one day after she coordinated the Selkirk Friendship Centre’s annual Christmas dinner, Elsie was honoured with the “Order of the Buffalo Hunt”.

Two years earlier in 1990, Elsie was among 12 Manitobans honoured for outstanding efforts in community work and in enhancing the future for Aboriginal people by the Indian & Métis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg (IMFC).  Again, it was her work with the Selkirk Friendship Centre that drew applause.

Elsie’s position in the community was further recognized by the federal government in 1992, when they chose her along with three other Manitoba Métis Senators to do work on the Canadian Constitution.

Elsie attended every NAFC Annual General Meeting until illness prevented her from doing so. She will be remembered as one of our original pioneers of the Friendship Centre Movement and so deserving as one of our Spirits of Friendship.

Winston Menard 1942 – 2008

President of the Swan River Friendship Centre for 25 years, a feat which was notably unheard of in the Friendship Centre Movement right across Canada, Menard also served as the provincial board member of the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres. He was a humble man of humble means who never sought fortune or fame but instead dedicated his life to improving the quality of life for Indigenous people in the community of Swan River. He made a lasting and meaningful contribution through his many years of volunteer service in the Friendship Centre Movement and that work will never be forgotten.

Luverna Delores (Delo) Clause 1939 – 2004

Georgina Donald

LuVerna (Thomas) Clause was Seneca, from the Hawk Clan. Her walk life was from October 25, 1939 to May 7, 2004.  She was born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ohsweken, Ontario. Her parents were Peter Thomas and Blanche Adell (Gibson) Thomas. She was the oldest of seven siblings and affectionately known by those close to her as “Delo”.

LuVerna married Walter A. Hill in 1961, together they had six children and departed ways in 1985.  She later married the love of her life Ivan Carl Clause. LuVerna was a proud mother of six children, Grandmother to twenty-eight grandchildren and a Great Grandmother to fifteen great grandchildren.

In LuVerna’s early years, she trained to become a Registered Nursing Assistant while working at the Robert Mac Home for Handicapped Children. During this time, she became involved with the Native Women’s Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. She eventually left the Robert Mac Home and started working at the Native Women’s Centre. 

While working at the Native Women’s Centre, she became involved with the Indian Centre as it was known back then. LuVerna and John Redbird opened the doors for children to be taught Native Arts and Crafts. She and a few parents who attended the Indian Centre established a temporary Cultural Centre as a gathering place in Hamilton to offer services to the Aboriginal community.  She helped the founding members with the Letters Patent enabling them to become what we now know as the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre. She served as a Board member for many years and eventually as President. 

LuVerna also worked in Toronto, Ontario at the Native Women’s Resource Centre where she helped to establish the Inner Circle and saw a need for a Literacy and Basic Skills program. Her time in Toronto was short lived when her Grandmother became ill and needed someone to care for her. Family always came first for LuVerna, so away she went to care for her ailing Grandmother.

Much of her life was spent volunteering her time and energy to improve the quality of life for our people. With a smile on her face, she would hurry from one community activity or meeting to another. She had a long and dedicated service to the Friendship Centre Movement. She held true to her beliefs and faith while working with and being a member of different Aboriginal and mainstream organizations and agencies.

She lived her final years in Fort Erie, Ontario and was involved in many organizations–the Fort Erie Friendship Centre; Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres; National Association of Friendship Centres; Fort Erie Three Fires Community Justice Program; the Municipal Council of the Town of Fort Erie “Point Abino Lighthouse Stakeholders Group”;  Wadesk Aboriginal Education Centre; Aboriginal Education Management Circle (AEMC) at Niagara College; Aboriginal Education Access office at Niagara Colleges; Welland Campus for Counselling Service; Fort Erie Native Elders Group; Elder Support Service; Aboriginal Education Council at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario; Baezhig Wawun Youth Centre Advisory Circle; Tenant Advisory Committee member for Ganawageh Urban Homes and Ohsto: Seri Urban Aboriginal Homes; Niagara Chapter of Native Women; Fort Erie Aboriginal Head Start/Native Day Care; and, the Fort Erie Literacy Program.

One of LuVerna’s biggest accomplishments was obtaining her high school diploma through the Friendship Centre’s Alternative Secondary School Program.

LuVerna always had a kind word to say, a smile to share and a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.  She influenced many young people during her life, giving guidance and support whenever it was needed. LuVerna’s laughter, love and wisdom will continue to echo. She will be forever missed by those who were fortunate enough to have worked with or known her.

Delia Gray 1917 – 1999

Each year, the Métis Nation of Alberta pays tribute to Gray by hosting the Delia Gray Memorial Gala. She was an active member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, the Canadian Native Friendship Centre, and a Senator for the NAFC to name a few. Gray ran weekly square dances at the Friendship Centre and enjoyed listening to music. She always encouraged young people to do their best and complimented them not only on their achievements but also on their efforts. She would provide them with the wisdom not to give up and try harder the next time; Gray will always be remembered and forever missed.

Dave Parker 1915 – 2000

Parker started with the Friendship Centre Movement in the mid to late seventies after returning to the North Okanagan and beginning a life of sobriety. He became the Alcohol and Drug Counsellor at the Kelowna Friendship Centre, wrote several articles for their newsletter and branched out to the First Nations Friendship Centre (formerly United Native Friendship Centre). Parker was a believer in the future of the Friendship Centre Movement, he was a NAFC Senator and is missed by the Friendship Centre Movement, he is remembered as our “Storytelling Senator.”

Bill Messenger 1941 – 2001

“Uncle Bill” as he was affectionately known in the Ontario Friendship Centre Movement, was appointed to the NAFC Senate at the 32nd Annual General Meeting. He was an active member of the Board of Directors for the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre, served three consecutive terms on the Executive Committee of the OFIFC and was appointed as the OFIFC representative to the NAFC. He was a gentle warrior who had great commitment and dedication to Indigenous people, his family, the Friendship Centre Movement and the many other organizations he was involved with.

Tom Eagle 1932 – 2009

Tom Eagle

Norbert Thomas (Tom) Eagle was born on June 6, 1932 at Ohskaning (Waterhen) Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba and passed into the Spirit World on September 29, 2009.

Tom is survived by his loving wife Muriel of 54 years; his daughters Bertha of Edmonton, Eleanor (Robert) of Lucca, Italy and Margaret (Terry) of Peace River; his sons Brian and Raymond of Yellowknife. Tom is also remembered by his brother Jim (Cecilia) and Gilbert as well as his sister Rita and many nieces, nephews and cousins from across Canada. He is lovingly remembered by his 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

At the age of 19, Tom enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. He served two tours of military duty with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in West Germany and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.

In 1971, Tom was selected by the Canadian Armed Forces to transfer to Yellowknife. Jumping at the opportunity, Tom accepted and moved his family to Yellowknife where he was to have a profound affect over the city and the Northwest Territories for the next 38 years. He was best known locally for his involvement with the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre where he was the Executive Director twice from 1979 to 1984 and again from 1986 to 2002. He dedicated a great portion of his time to the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre activities from the staff to Senate level and especially to realizing his vision of the current facility. 

Tom also served as Chairperson for the NWT/NU Council of Friendship Centres and was instrumental in the development of Friendship Centres across the north in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Hay River, Fort Providence, Rankin Inlet and Fort Rae.

With the transfer to Yellowknife, one of Tom’s military responsibilities was to establish Cadet Units in Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, Inuvik and Whitehorse, Yukon. During his military career, Tom occupied many positions as an instructor, administrator, manager, supervisor and communications. These responsibilities were discharged without supervision. Accordingly, the military provided Tom with an abundance of schooling in leadership and management.

After 25 years of service, Tom retired from the military with the rank of Sergeant. Having found his “home” in Yellowknife, he embarked on a civilian journey – never forgetting his military background.

Tom worked for Commissioner Stu Hodgson for five years, enjoying the work and extensive travel throughout the north. Tom fondly remembered working for Commission Hodgson, not because of the work itself, but because it gave him an opportunity to visit every community across the Arctic. He established numerous friendships, including most of the Aboriginal leaders today.

Tom also worked for the Government of NWT for several years. His accomplishments included helping set up the NWT Housing Corporation, assisting with the political development of the First Nations’ and Metis people and helping youth to become organized.

Spanning over 40 years, Tom was best known for his community work. He was never too busy to lend a hand. Most recently, he served as Chair of the NWT/Nunavut Aboriginal Veterans Association; President of the NWT/Nunavut branch of the Army Cadet League of Canada, member of the Royal Canadian Legion and he chaired the First Nations Veterans Association of Canada. Other organizations he volunteered his time included the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), MacKenzie Valley Housing Corporation, Yellowknife Little League Baseball, Yellowknife Commercial Hockey League, NWT Youth Association, the Kinew Housing Corporation in Winnipeg, the City of Winnipeg Urban Renewal Citizens Committee, Manitoba Metis Federation, the Manitoba Association of Native Youth and the Winnipeg Indian & Metis Friendship Centre.

Tom received recognition and many awards for his community work. In 2007, he was awarded the Veteran Affairs Commendation and appointed a Life Time Member of the Cadet League of Canada. He received a citation from the Government of Canada for Citizenship for his contribution towards community work (1990) and was appointed by the Federal Government’s Privy Council as the first Citizenship Judge for the NWT. He also received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (1976) and the Canadian Forces Decoration (1963).

Before retiring from the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre in 2002, one outstanding goal remained. Tom convinced the City of Yellowknife to set aside land on 49th Street so the Friendship Centre could be re-built into a bigger facility. He was also behind the push to rename 49th Avenue by city hall and the Joint Task Force North headquarters as Veterans Memorial Drive which was accomplished in 2005. 

Tom’s involvement with Veterans, much like his work with Friendship Centres, was vast. He fought long and hard over the years for recognition of the contributions and sacrifices made by Aboriginal veterans. In 2006, he called upon the federal government to apologize for the discriminatory treatment endured by Aboriginal soldiers returning home from war.

Tom and his wife Muriel joined Aboriginal veterans and their families on a journey to France and Belgium to call home the spirits of Aboriginal people who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First and Second World Wars.

For those that had the divine blessing of meeting and knowing Tom, we will always remember him for his story telling and conversation skills. He enjoyed meeting people and listening to their stories. Through his travels, work, volunteer activities and family, Tom forged many long-lasting friendships and will be forever missed. He was a devoted husband, father, warrior, leader, Elder and friend. We will miss him dearly.

Joseph Morrison 1941 – 2012

Joseph Morrison dedicated his life to family, community, and nation, promoting self respect, cultural understanding and the pursuit of education. He was committed to living the good life, or “Biimaadiziwin”, and keeping the Anishinaabe language and culture alive.

Joseph was raised by his parents at Naongashing. He attended school at Cecilia Jaffrey and Sioux Narrows Public School. He set out in the world at an early age earning his living as a guide and labourer. He enlisted in the Canadian army when he was 17 serving with the Queen's Own Rifles from 1959-62 in Calgary and Germany. He often told young people how the service taught him discipline and gave him a sense of dignity.

He also worked as a bookkeeper, Native Street Patrol supervisor, Metis housing coordinator, and Executive Director of friendship centres in Kenora and Fort Frances. In 1989, Joseph became the first Justice of Peace in Ontario to be sworn in with an eagle feather  and became known and respected as “Judge Joe” throughout Northwestern Ontario until his retirement in 2007.

In the 1970s, Joseph found sobriety and spiritual strength through the Lake of the Woods Pow-wow Club and began a lifelong journey he shared with many others, reclaiming respect for Anishinaabe culture. He was a familiar figure at pow-wows as keeper of “Wakaapiness” drum, helping with ceremonies, flag-raising and dancing with other Native veterans.

Pagwaakiinen also acted as an Elder for numerous groups and gatherings. In recent years he was called upon to lead the Native ceremonies for the Kenora Remembrance Day services. As well as serving with Aboriginal Friendship Centres at local, provincial and national levels for four decades, Joseph was also a member of the National Aboriginal Corrections Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services Corporation and the Elders council for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. 

The Joseph Morrison Legacy Fund offers a bursary to Aboriginal students in need who exemplify the values and dedication of the late Justice and Elder Joseph Donald Morrison.  Joseph devoted his life to family, community and nation, promoting cultural understanding and lifelong learning. He encouraged young people along the way to be strong and proud as Aboriginal peoples, to show respect and care for themselves and others. The bursary, established on Mr. Morrison’s passing in 2012, supports Aboriginal youth who have overcome adversity to achieve their goals toward a better life.

Margaret Mary Richard 1940 – 2010

Richard was involved in many local, provincial, federal and national boards and committees. She was a Senator for the NAFC, President of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, President of the Indigenous Women’s Collective, Executive Director of the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre and Executive Director of the Manitoba Association of Native Languages. Her greatest accomplishments and joy came from her granddaughter Ashley, son Gerry, family and dear friends who were often put to work to help her help others. There was no act of kindness too small or too big for Richard to tackle and no limit to what she would do for her community. Her kindness, compassion, and dedication are greatly missed.

Elbert Chartrand 1952 – 2012

Elbert Chartrand

Born on September 1, 1952, Elbert passed away on Monday, September 24, 2012 at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba surrounded by his family. He was a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle, grandpa, great-grandpa and friend.

Elbert is survived by his wife Bernice; children Darrel (Karen), Dennis (Eileen), Tammy, Julie (Rob), Wendi, Thomas (Marlene), Curtis (Tiffany) and Stephanie; his mother, Martha Chartrand; siblings Pauline (Robert), David (Glorian), Nancy, Frances (Charles), Rita (Al), and Walter (Lyn); along with his grandchildren, nieces, nephews and many, many friends. He was predeceased by his brother Daniel Chartrand, Grandfather Joseph Chartrand and two granddaughters Madison and Sadies.

Elbert was a great man. Quietly and gently he shared his dignity, intelligence, integrity, and humour with all those around him, earning himself a place of honour and respect in the Metis Nation. He began his political career as the Mayor of Duck Bay in the late 70s. He dedicated his life and career to bettering the lives of his people, working at the Swan River Friendship Centre for the last 30 years, with 29 of those years as the Executive Director. In 1984, he was elected to the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) Board of Directors serving as the Finance Minister, as a Board member of the Northwest Region for 11 years and was currently serving his fourth term as the Vice President of the Northwest Region.

While representing his regional interests through both the MMF and Friendship Centre Movement, Elbert was a statesman at the provincial and national levels as well. Always quick with a joke, a smile or a story, he was an everyday hero, committed to treating everyone he met with respect. His watchful eye gave him great wisdom and insight into the lives of his people and he dutifully cared for them through his career, volunteer work and personal life.

Leading others helped them to find the right way while considering consequences and opportunities which taught so many people. When Elbert was in the room, he was looked up to as a source of strength and wisdom. Being a mentor may not have been something Elbert intended to do but it is a deep, lasting legacy he leaves behind. Mentoring past, current and future leaders was his way of sharing his abilities and this is what many will take away from their time spent with him. He taught by example, through quiet advice and even the occasional reprimand. But when he spoke, everyone listened. His years of service to family, friends and his people gave him insights that many felt lucky to be a part of.

His children and grandchildren were the joy of his life. His laughter, good heart and unwavering presence gave his family and friends a feeling of security and protection that many men strive for, but few attain.

Elbert loved the simple things in life, good food, good music, good friends and family, always teasing and teaching in his gentle way. He also enjoyed spending time hunting, fishing and just being out in the bush with family and friends where many of Elbert's stories came from. Our loss of him leaves a void for everyone but he leaves behind a legacy and body of work that very few will ever be able to duplicate. He is a true hero of the people; he lives on in each of us and he will never be forgotten and forever missed.

Melodie Wilton 1949 – 2012

Wilton was a highly esteemed supporter of the Friendship Centre movement locally, provincially and nationally. She was Executive Director of the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre and passionate about supporting and bettering the Indigenous community. Wilton always had a smile on her face and had an innate willingness to listen. She was a very special lady that is greatly missed.

Nelson Kenneth Mayer 1955 – 2016

Mayer got involved with the Friendship Centre Movement as a young man and spent four decades as a force of change for urban Indigenous people. He served time as NAFC President and Vice-President, served on the Board of Directors for the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres in the capacity of President and Vice-President. He was also the Executive Director of the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres before taking on the same role at the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association. Everyone who worked with Mayer loved him, his fierce and tireless work for urban Indigenous people and his willingness to share his knowledge will never be forgotten.

Perry Benoit 1969 – 2017

Perry Benoit

Shortly after noon on October 27, 2017 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Perry began his journey to be with his Creator. Perry was a loving husband and soulmate to April (nee Roberts) and a “super dad” to his children Zachary, Emily and Matthew. He was also a devoted son to Steve and Mary Benoit, dear brother to Stephanie, loving grandson to his Nonna and Nonno and cherished extended family member and friend to many.

Perry was first and foremost a family man who would do anything to bring joy to their lives.  He was proud to have watched all three of his children over the last two years reach milestones as each graduated from their respective schools and he took comfort in knowing that the future for each of them is bright. He treasured every moment he spent with his family whether it be helping his children with homework, watching movies with April, pitching in to cook Sunday dinner with his mom or hanging out with his dad in the gazebo.

Perry was also an avid hockey fan who loved watching the Ottawa Senators with his family, running his kids to and from arenas and playing the game until he was benched by a shoulder injury. Knowing his love for the game, the Algonquin Thunderbirds of his home community of Pikwakanagan First Nation named him honorary captain for the 2017 Opeongo Heritage Cup.

Perry worked for the NAFC for 20 years in both programs and finance where he did his job with pride and integrity. He always went above and beyond to ensure that Friendship Centres were supported and paid special attention to the needs of the Aboriginal Youth Council, Board of Directors, and Senators. The NAFC Annual Meeting was always one of the highlights of Perry's year. While he missed his family terribly when he was gone, he enjoyed time visiting and catching up with delegates and going on well-deserved adventures with colleagues and Friendship Centre Movement friends who he had met along the way. The Annual Meeting wasn't all fun though as he, along with his long time friend and workmate Mel, went the extra mile to ensure that the meeting was a success. 

Through his kindness, humour, and loyalty, Perry made the NAFC, the Friendship Centre Movement and the world a better place for so many.   

Jaynane Burning-Fields 1946 – 2017

Jaynane Burning-Fields

Jaynane began her illustrious career with the Friendship Centre Movement more than 30 years ago as an invaluable employee with the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) and more recently as the Executive Director of the Niagara Regional Friendship Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. When Jaynane came to the Centre it was struggling to keep the doors open, now she walks away from a stable organization that has experienced steady growth and success under her leadership.

Jaynane also served the Friendship Centre Movement in various other capacities including as a member of OFIFC’s Executive Committee and as the Ontario representative on the NAFC’s Board of Directors. Jaynane also worked hard within longhouse as Clan Mother. 

“Her contributions over the years have helped to strengthen and shape the Movement and she will be sadly missed by all those who knew her,” stated NAFC Board President Christopher Sheppard.

Sherman Maness 1949 – 2017

Maness got involved in Friendship Centres through the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa which led him to be on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. There he served first as Vice-President and later President. This work brought Maness to represent the OFIFC on the NAFCs Board. He is fondly remembered by his many nieces, nephews, cousins, and all those who got to know him. He taught those around him to care for, support, honour and respect Indigenous cultures and traditions.