Leonard George, a beloved leader of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, has died at the age of 71.

Born in North Vancouver on Aug. 18, 1946, George was the son of the late Chief Dan George and his wife Amy.

Like his father, George was an accomplished actor and shone on screen in classics such as as Smoke Signals and Call of the Wild.

As an elder and chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, he was known for his wisdom, wit and work to protect First Nation's land, water, resources and culture.

He also made economic strides for his community, initiating Takaya Developments, a real-estate development company majority owned by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Charlene Aleck, George's niece and an elected councillor for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said the family is grieving.

"The magnitude of the loss is great for our family as well as for everybody else," Aleck said.

"He changed the way people looked at First Nations in doing business. He really upheld a lot of our culture and teachings. He broke new ground and had a space for us to carry our traditions and bring it into a new space."

In 2013, George was honoured with Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work as an economic development visionary and as a spiritual leader.

George was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2005 and had to re-learn how to speak, eat and even sing.

He is survived by his wife Susan and three sons Justin, Gabriel, and Zac. Two other sons, Quatsame and Issac, predeceased him.

Outpouring of condolences

This morning, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tweeted she was "very saddened to hear of the passing of Leonard George. My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family and Nation."

B.C. Regional Chief Terry Teegee expressed his heartfelt sympathies and condolences to George's family, describing him in a statement as a significant leader.

"I've known Chief Leonard George since I was young; he was a close friend to me and my family, and was always an inspiration for me. We are so grateful to have had such a strong community leader and advocate within our circles for all these years," Teegee wrote.

With files from Farrah Merali and The Early Edition