The MoCreebec community is in mourning as it grapples with the death of Chief Randy Kapashesit, who died suddenly on April 25.
“It was quite a shock to say the least,” said MoCreebec chairman Allan Jolly. “It took a couple of days to allow all of it to sink in. We’re only now coming to a point of accepting the reality of what’s taken place.”
Kapashesit suffered a massive heart attack. He was previously diagnosed with blood clots in his leg. His doctor in Toronto had prescribed him blood-thinning medication to help treat the clots. He saw his doctor only a few months ago, who proceeded to take Kapashesit off his medication.
The exact cause of death will not be known until autopsy results are released.
When speaking of his fallen chief, Jolly can’t help but think of the legacy that Kapashesit has left behind.
“I don’t think that people realize the impact that Randy had on the community,” he said. “Randy made an impact on people at every level.”
When speaking of Kapashesit’s qualities, Jolly mentioned his ability to communicate on behalf of his people.
“Randy was always able to understand and articulate the things that affect Indigenous peoples,” he said. “He had a vision.”
Jolly described Kapashesit as a champion for Aboriginal rights. He advocated his cause and that of his people at every level, from the local all the way to the world stage, where he was named to the planning committee for the United Nations 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
“Randy spearheaded our constitution,” said Jolly. “He helped set up a strong economic base and structure for our community as well. We have a lot more now than what we started with before him.”
Jolly also described Kapashesit as being a believer in the importance of environmental protection, and highlighted his role in the Ecolodge project, one of the most environmentally forward thinking hotels in the country.
Kapashesit’s seriousness when it came to his plans and ideals for the community was evident, and obvious in something as simple as his note taking.
“He was a meticulous note-taker,” said Jolly. “There were times when we’d speak about a meeting we had a year ago. Randy would go into his files, and a couple of days later, he would come out with notes on the meeting. He was very disciplined.”
Aside from his many accomplishments, Jolly remembers Kapashesit as a man whose qualities made him the perfect leader for the MoCreebec people.
“What I saw in him was a man who was gentle, humble and a person who was led by his spirit,” said Jolly. “He was always poised and composed in all situations – a man who controlled his emotions.”
These sentiments were echoed in the House of Commons, as Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus reflected on the legacy left behind by Kapashesit.
“Whenever you were in the presence of Randy, you knew that you were in the presence of someone who is very profound and special,” said Angus.
Kapashesit’s sister, S. Brenda Small, also commented on the kind of man her brother was.
“Randy believed in education as a tool. He was a student of politics and philosophy,” she said.
“Randy was also a thoughtful person,” she added. “He loved his children, and his 25 years of experience shows a definite commitment to the community.”
Despite the void left behind, Jolly is confident that the community and the council can carry on with Kapashesit’s vision.
“We, and myself in particular, have heard so much of Randy’s vision over the years,” he said. “His death has served to reaffirm our own understanding [of what he stood for]. He’s helped shape my perspective [on the community’s concerns], and we feel confident that we can carry on with his legacy.”
Kapashesit is survived by his partner Donna, his children Ajuawak and Waseyabin, his grandson Giiwedin, and the community he left behind.