I know most of our readers were disappointed with the obituary on Robert Weistche. I don’t blame you. I was disappointed myself. It came in at the last minute just before we had to go to press. What I received was not what I expected but there was no time to do what was right.
But in the end I am the editor-in-chief and full responsibility falls on my shoulders.
As that is the case I apologize to the family and friends. I know you expected more from the Nation and yes, you deserved more. Robert was someone I respected and considered my friend. I allowed someone else to write his farewell to the people he loved and worked for tirelessly.
Robert was one of the politicians who never took advantage of his position. He didn’t come out with a business set up while he was in office. He always wanted to be a leader who looked at what people needed rather than what they wanted.
Because of that he had a difficult path to walk but he embraced it nevertheless.
While he was willing to compromise on some issues, on others his core values would not him do something he felt would not be good for the people he represented.
He never thought he was always in the right and when he questioned himself he would talk to Elders, his wife, family and friends to see what they thought. Then considering everything he would make a decision that would reflect not only what he learnt but what made him a human being.
He was not a violent man but one who wanted the best for all people around him.
I am sorry that it was said he thought the Paix the braves a bad document. As his wife said he only thought it hadn’t gone far enough in giving the Cree people what they deserved.
As for his alleged shooting signs, even if he did, it was not an indication of a violent or illegal nature on his part. Robert was a gentle caring man.
To us at the Nation we saw Robert show the best traits of a leader who was honest and true to his people.
We thank Sherry Batise for talking to us about Robert.
Robert was born on August 6, 1954 in Rupert House. He married at the age of 24 to Sherry Batise in 1979 in Callander, Ontario.
He lived with his parents, brothers and sister out on the land. Sadly Robert’s father passed away out on the trapline when he was four.
At the age of five, Robert like many Crees was sent to the residential school in Moose Factory. Later he went to the one in Fort George. High school was at Rouyn Noranda and Philemon Write in Hull, Quebec. After getting married he went to the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College for three years before returning home to Waskaganish.
Robert quickly found work in the construction industry building homes for his people. He supplemented his income by becoming a supply teacher.
Then for 10 years he would be the Land and Environment Administrator for the Waskaganish First Nation. He continued to have ties to the school serving as Parents Committee Chairman. Later he would become the school commissioner for Waskaganish until he was elected Chairman of the Cree School Board.
In 1999, he ran for chief of Waskaganish and won. He served two consecutive terms as chief, and then was elected as the Waskaganish representative to the Grand Council. His wife remembers the many sacrifices Robert made to serve his people. His commitments affected home, family and leisure time, but he was supported wholeheartedly by his family. They knew that being such a dedicated leader was a part of his make-up.
Robert loved the land. In winters you would often see him cross-country skiing though he enjoyed downhill as well. Taking his family out to the Spring Goose Camp was the highlight of the year for him. It was a chance to reconnect with family and friends. He would spend intimate time with his wife and children. In the summers he enjoyed nothing more than going fishing with friends and family. Many people will remember the R&R spot on the Broadback as being one of his favourite places.
The Rupert River often saw Robert kayaking its waters.
The past few summers he would pack up his camper and go camping at Matachewan visiting with his wife’s family.
He loved to cook for family and friends joking that he was taking the “i” out of chief to become a chef. Meals around the Weistche table were special and always began with thanks to the Heavenly Father for His wonderful blessings.
Robert was known far and wide as a kind and generous man. His love for his wife and family was evident to all by how he took such good care of them. He was proud of all of their accomplishments. In later years he took great pleasure in his grandsons, playing and reading to them. He took the time to do many things with them.
Robert embodied the traditional values he grew up with and was a spiritual man. In 2008 at the Gospel Jamboree he accepted Jesus as his saviour and made a commitment to the Lord.
On March 11, 2010 he went to the water intake pipe at Waskaganish to cross-country ski and cut wood. He didn’t return home so Sydney and Sasha went to check on him at 7 pm along with the police. His son-in-law found him laying in the snow. He died suddenly and unexpectedly.
It was a shock to everyone that day and a sad one for everyone who knew Robert.
His wife Sherry said he was a wonderful father, husband, brother, uncle, grandfather, son-in-law, brother-in-law, friend, dedicated leader and supporter of his people. “His memory will be forever in our thoughts. We love you Robert. You will remain in our hearts forever. Until we meet again.”
Robert’s family would like to give a special thank you to Pastor Paul and Hannah “whose spiritual guidance and support over the past days has been our families strength.”
They give a special thanks to Dr. Joe Jolly for taking time from his busy schedule to speak at Robert’s service. “You were Robert’s great friend and he would be proud that you thought well enough of him to deliver the message for him.”
“We thank the Waskaganish First Nation for their support, including the police and the clinic staff. We also thank those who helped prepare the Gathering Place and assisted in so many different ways, making this time a little easier on our family. We are very grateful for your support.”
“Thank you to those who brought food to sustain us in this difficult time. A full stomach is the way to every mans heart, and your contribution cannot be understated.”
“Finally, thanks to all those who were with us. Robert would be so pleased that you took the time to celebrate his life and his memory. You all were and are a part of what made. May God keep you and protect you. Miishtii-meegwetch.”
“Thank you to everyone who made a financial contribution to the Waskaganish Cree Gospel Fellowship Church Building fund in memory of my dear late husband Robert. Our love and blessings to everyone. Meeg-wetch.”