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Northwestern Ontario ‘heartbroken’ to lose longtime Ojibway chief and role model

June 2, 2023
A photo of the late Arnold Gardner who was the Chief of the Eagle River First Nations. Courtesy: Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation)

Global News: Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle River First Nation) along with Treaty 3 territory is in mourning with the passing of Ogiichidaa (Chief) Arnold Gardner, a respected elder who has led his community since 1993 and formerly served as Grand Chief of Treaty 3.

Gardner passed away Wednesday at age 72.

“Arnold was renowned throughout Treaty 3, Canada and The United States,” said a statement from Migisi Sahgaigan council. “He was a man of the culture and was passionate about preserving the Anishinaabe way of life.”

In 1995 he walked across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax on what he called a “journey for wellness” to raise awareness about mental health, addictions and broken families from all walks of life.

A tweet from Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3 said the organization is collectively “heartbroken” as he was central to governance in the region and a favorite of staff. “His gentle smile, his calm but powerful words and his everlasting dedication to our nationhood will be deeply missed,” the statement said.

Many non-Indigenous organizations and politicians in northwestern Ontario joined in sharing their grief on social media upon learning of Gardner’s passing. “His philosophy was to always try new ideas, understanding that sometimes trying different approaches either result in success or a lesson learnt (sic), but the most important thing is to try,” the Dryden GM Ice Dogs hockey team said in a tribute on their Facebook page.

Kenora MP Eric Melillo wrote “I always enjoyed the opportunities I had to speak with him about local issues and learn from his decades of experience as a leader in our region.”
Gardner was re-elected chief last fall and his words live on in his chief’s message on the community’s website.

“Message to the youth is to listen, learn, and be brave. Try to follow the seven teachings. Be honest, courageous, truthful and brave. Love one another as a person and love yourself so you can give back and do things for other people. Be trusting.”

Wake and funeral services will take place this weekend at Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle River First Nation) located four hours northwest of Thunder Bay.

By Melissa Ridgen  Global News