Manitoba elder Joseph Meconse dies at 77

Prominent Indigenous elder Joseph Meconse has died.

Veteran and Order of Manitoba recipient will be dearly missed, says daughter

Joseph Meconse passed suddenly on Sunday, Feb. 17, at the age of 77. (CBC)

Prominent Indigenous elder Joseph Meconse died suddenly at the age of 77 on Sunday. 

Condolences poured in online after his daughter Renata Meconse confirmed that the Order of Manitoba recipient and Canadian Forces veteran from the Sayisi Dene First Nation had passed. 

"My father was a friend to many people and he was very active in the Indigenous community in Winnipeg and Manitoba. You could see him at every powwow," she said.

"He's going to be dearly missed by many people. Many people are going to be very sad," Renata Meconse said, grief in her voice.

"Of course our family, but I'm getting tons of calls from people expressing their deep condolences of course, but also how much he'll be missed." 

Joseph Meconse was honoured at Portage Place mall in 2016. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Her father was a veteran, and had served in a peacekeeping role in Cypress and Germany, as well as during the FLQ crisis. He was also a corrections officer at Stony Mountain Institution for decades. His Order of Manitoba citation lauds his work promoting awareness of the sacrifices made by Indigenous veterans, including his work on the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa.

He is survived by sisters and daughters, but also by many more in the community who viewed him as a father figure. 

"He just showed love to everybody, and extreme patience — especially for those who were down and out," Meconse said, adding that he was generous with everybody, often offering people a place to stay. 

Joseph Meconse lays a wreath on behalf of the Aboriginal Veterans Association at a 2015 Remembrance Day service. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

"He was a very kind man, and he had been through many challenges in his life, as a young person as well, but he got through all of those.

"There's so many things I could say about him, but the biggest thing is that he was always present and there for people." 

Meconse sparked change in 2016, after speaking up when he was asked to leave Portage Place mall. Some called for a boycott in response, but Meconse, wanting to be part of the solution, instead participated in a protest and drum ceremony, culminating in a 100-strong round dance in the food court. 

The mall later honoured and thanked Meconse for speaking up, and gave him a special Ogichidaa designation, which in Ojibwe means warrior, veteran; a ceremonial headman. They also hired an Indigenous security company. 

"Everything is much better now," Joseph said at the time. "The way I think, it's yesterday. It happened in the past. I don't worry about it."

A respected indigenous elder who was kicked out of Portage Place mall in February was honoured there Friday for his role in sparking positive changes and a more culturally inclusive environment. 2:22

"Words can't express how much he will be missed," Meconse said.