The community of Mistissini is in mourning after the tragic death of one of its most beloved elders.

Billy Blacksmith, 86, perished after a fire in his camp, located at the intersection of Route 167 and the community’s access road.

Locals, who had driven into town after seeing the burning house, notified police.

The fire started in the kitchen area and had spread to the rest of the house by the time fire fighters arrived at the scene.

The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation, according to Mistissinifs Police Chief Calvin Blacksmith.

His daughter-in-law, Jane, said Blacksmith was always laughing and making people laugh and that is the legacy that he will leave now that he’s departed from this earth.

He was a full-time hunter and trapper who always made time to speak to people. He acted as a spokesperson on a number of occasions when Mistissini elders would visit other communities. He also enjoyed singing at public functions.

Luke MacLeod, of the James Bay Cree Communications Society, said Blacksmith would be remembered as one who was always willing to share. This sharing included unique stories and experiences and above all, his time.

Police say the incident reinforces the importance of having a phone line, especially out in the bush. An alternative exit in people’s hunting cabins is also highly advisable.

Billy Blacksmith will always be remembered and sadly missed by all of Eeyou Istchee.