William Commanda was an esteemed Native elder….a builder of birchbrark canoes….a friend of many including Kirk Wipper….I received an email from Ann Wipper: Dear Friends: It is with great sadness that I am sharing with you the news of the “travelling on” of our dear friend Grandfather William. He passed on early this morning. The yearly week-end “Gathering” in Maniwaki will start with the sunrise ceremony on Friday, August 5. It will be a time of prayer. With a heavy heart, Ann One of the canoes in the Origins Gallery at the Canadian Canoe Museum was built by William and Mary Commanda….and it was an important part of the Kanawa Collection….William Commanda and Kirk Wipper had a very close relationship….William Commanda saw Kirk as a brother, not merely a collector of canoes….they were both deeply committed to various causes to protect and preserve the environment, wilderness areas, waterways, and Aboriginal rights. Kirk and William were definitely kindred spirits. Photo of William and Mary Commanda Canoe (16 ft. Bark Canoe), Canadian Canoe Museum, Peterborough (from http://media.rcip-chin.gc.ca/ac/images99/GUADEV/canoe.jpg) Photos from Kirk Wipper website, http://www.kirkwipper.ca/william-commanda-and-kirk-wipp/. Wikipedia has the following about William (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Commanda): William Commanda, OC (Anishnabe name: Ojigkwanong) is an Algonquin elder, born November 11, 1913 in Kitigan-zibi, Quebec (Garden River/Riviere Desert), near Maniwaki, Quebec, 130 kilometres (81 miles) north of Ottawa in the Gatineau River valley. Commanda is the great-grandson of Chief Pakinawatik who led his people in 1854 from the Lake of theTwoMountainsto Réserve de la Rivière Désert, also known as the Kitigan-zibi Reserve, along the Gatineau River. Commanda worked as a guide, trapper and woodsman, a birch bark canoe maker and craftsman. Commanda was Keeper of several Algonquin Wampum Shell Belts which held records of prophecies, history, treaties and agreements. The three Wampum Belts under his care are: the Seven Fires Prophecy Belt; the Jay Treaty Border Crossing Belt; and the Three Figure Welcoming/Agreement Wampum Belt. Commanda served as Band Chief of the Kitigan-zibi Anishinabeg First Nation from 1951 to 1970. In 1987 at the fourth First Ministers Conference on inherent rights and self-government for Aboriginal people, Commanda began teaching about the messages of the wampum belts. He was invited in 1990 to provide a traditional blessing of the Canadian Human Rights Monument in Ottawa with the Dalai Lama. In 1998, Commanda participated in a ceremony at which he presented Nelson Mandela with an eagle feather on behalf of the First Nations of Canada. That same year, Commanda organized Elders Without Borders, a gathering of Aboriginal Elders and spiritual leaders from both North and South America. In 2008, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. A more substantial biography is found on http://www.circleofallnations.ca/: A Mini-Biography of Dr. William Commanada, OC, Algonquin Elder Founder, A Circleof All Nations Ninety five year old Algonquin Elder William Commanda from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Maniwaki, Quebec was born on November 11, 1913 under the bright light of the Morning Star, so his mother named him Ojigkwanong; thus the larger universe figured in his personal story from the very beginning. Today, he is seen by many as the symbol of light emerging from the darkness of the first World War, illuminating a path to a new world with his vision for a Circle of All Nations, A Culture of Peace. He is a respected spokesman and spiritual leader at many conferences, participates in United Nations peace and spiritual vigils, and his work is acknowledged nationally and internationally. Fully trilingual, he shares his words and prayers in Algonquin, and translates them into English and French. Central to Elder Commanda’s teachings are the concepts of equality, balance, respect and responsibility for Mother Earth, for all life forms and for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds, and he works ceaselessly, alone and entirely without an organization, staff, structure, formal or financial support to animate the Circle of All Nations. A most senior representative of the Algonquins of the Ottawa River Watershed, he is the great, great grandson of the legendry Pakinawatik, the Algonquin chief who in the mid eighteen hundreds, led his people from their lands at Oka on the Lake of Two Mountains to their traditional hunting and trapping grounds at the confluence of the Desert and Gatineau. He is the carrier of three sacred Wampum Belts of historic and spiritual importance: the ancient Seven Fires Prophecy Belt about choice; the 1700s Welcoming Belt about sharing the grand natural resources and values of the original peoples with the newcomers; and the Jay Treaty Border Crossing Belt which recognizedTurtleIslandas a coherent entity. His ancestors inscribed their legends, prophecies and agreements in these carefully crafted items over many centuries. He is seen by many as the carrier of the Seven Fires Prophecy at the time of the unfolding of its final message, and the messages of all these ancient artifacts are as deeply relevant today, as they were in the past. He was acclaimed chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg for over nineteen years, though he himself never participated in the elections. He also worked as a guide, trapper and woodsman for much of his life. He is a birch bark canoe maker and craftsman of international renown, and there is a special display dedicated to his work at the Canadian Canoe Museum of Peterborough. He built a canoe for Queen Margrethe of Denmark, and he helped Pierre Trudeau repair his famous birch bark canoe. At the age of 90, he shared his canoe making skills and philosophy in Valerie Pouyanne’s documentary, Good Enough for Two. He has promoted environmental stewardship and respect for Mother Earth passionately for many decades. He conducted pipe ceremonies for the Pre-Rio Earth Summit Conference hosted by President Mitterand ofFrancein 1991, and his prayers lie behind Agenda 21. He participated in the United Nations first Indigenous Cry of the Earth conference. He served as spiritual guide to the 1995 seven and a half month Sunbow Five Walk from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific, to raise awareness of the growing environmental crisis; received the Bill Mason River Conservation Award in 2004; hosted workshops on water stewardship in 2004 and 2006, and 2009; is honorary chair of the Ottawa Heritage River Designation Committee; and offers interventions on current environmental issues such as the identification of the American Eel as a Species at Risk, the building of a mega dump on Danford Lake and the Navigable Waters Act. He is the recipient of numerous awards and acknowledgements of his works and talent: the Wolf Project and Harmony Awards for his efforts to foster racial harmony and peace building through the creation of a Circle of All Nations (one very well received example of this commitment is the annual international gathering he hosts at his home during the first weekend of August – the 2001 Gathering is presented in the Circle of All Nations documentary); a Justice Award from the University of Ottawa and a Peace Award from Friends for Peace. He promotes restorative justice, forgiveness and his outreach to prisoners is captured in Lucie Ouimet’s National Film Board Documentary, Encounter with an Algonquin Seer. Recently, his efforts were acknowledged in Ottawa with two special recognitions: in 2005, with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Ottawa, shortly after his book, Learning from a Kindergarten Dropout, was published; and in 2006, with the Key to the City of Ottawa, a singular honour for an Aborignal person from a reserve in Quebec. This was presented on Victoria Island, where the tireless ninety five year old continues working on his vision for a National Indigenous Centre, for the restoration and development of the Sacred Chaudière Site as a special national historic centre, and as a think tank for environmental stewardship and peace building of national and global relevance. Two other books, Learning from a Kindergarten Dropout Book Two, and Passionate Waters–Butterfly Kisses include further reflections on his work and ideology. In December 2008, he was appointed Officer of the Order ofCanada, for his leadership as an elder who has promoted intercultural understanding and has raised awareness of the traditions and legacies of Canada’s Aboriginal people. Elder Commanda says he is deeply honoured to witness this recognition of the relevance of Indigenous Wisdom to this country at this time. In November 2009, the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Foundation announced his selection as 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. In January, 2010 Willis College announced the Dr. William Commanda Scholarship! William had celebrated his 97th birthday on November 11. 2010.