First Nations peoples across the country are mourning the passing on August 3 of famed leader, teacher and activist, “Grandfather” William Commanda. He was 97.

Born in 1913, Commanda led an inspirational life that touched many, having travelled round the globe to deliver his message of peace and respect for Mother Earth.

Commanda served as Chief of Kitigan Kibi from 1951 to 1970. But he gained renown in the years that followed his political service. Noted for his participation in events at the United Nations with Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, Commanda also organized Elders without Borders, a national and international gathering of Elders. An advocate for the rights and the advancement of Aboriginal peoples, Commanda was also known as a guardian of knowledge of Native traditions, especially as regards wampum belts, of which he was the guardian of three very sacred ones.

“He was a truly unique and exceptional man who dedicated his life to building bridges between people of all nations and all generations,” said Assembly of First Nations National Grand Chief Shawn Atleo. “His wisdom, his dedication to his people and his example were an inspiration to leaders not only of my generation but also across many generations of First Nations. We mourn his passing and we know we will not see his like again.”