Treaty 3, Canada lost 'a pioneer' and 'a great leader' with death of Steve Fobister, Grand Chief says
Fobister, 66, was a former Treaty 3 Grand Ghief, chief of Grassy Narrows, environmentalist, advocate
A former Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty 3 and chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation is being remembered as a tireless leader and advocate.
Steven Fobister Sr., 66, died in Kenora, Ont., on Oct. 11. He was laid to rest in Grassy Narrows on Tuesday.
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"He never let up even though he was confined to using a walker," said Francis Kavanaugh, the Ogichidaa, or Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty 3 in northwestern Ontario, adding that Fobister's health had been failing for some time. "He stood up for Aboriginal people, not only for Grassy Narrows, but who were the nation of Treaty 3 and for residents in Ontario and Canada alike."
"He spoke for everyone."
Fobister served for five terms as chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation as well as his stint as Treaty 3 Grand Chief. He was also remembered as a probation officer, an environmentalist, a mediator, as well as a skilled guide, hunter and trapper.
"Treaty 3 practices traditional governance, we have traditional law-making capacity," Kavanaugh said, adding that includes self-made laws around things like resource management and child welfare. "That was work that started when [Fobister] was Grand Chief."
Part of that fight came in 2014 when Fobister went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the ongoing mercury contamination that's devastated Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations for decades and the lack of compensation paid to survivors.
The province has since committed to remediation of the river.
"That's what he did in his lifetime," Kavanaugh said. "He fought hard right to the end."
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald also expressed condolences, saying in a written statement that Fobister was "a kind and gentle man with the heart of a powerful warrior."
"I have so how much admiration for him. I'm proud of the leadership he displayed, but most importantly, his resiliency in overcoming decades of neglect, and always carrying kindness in the face of such odds."
Fobister's legacy, Kavanaugh said, will be that of "a great leader."
"He was a pioneer in many regards."
With files from Jody Porter