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William Commanda was known internationally for his efforts to promote understanding between cultures. (David BarbourThe Globe and Mail/David Barbour/The Globe and Mail)
William Commanda was known internationally for his efforts to promote understanding between cultures. (David BarbourThe Globe and Mail/David Barbour/The Globe and Mail)

Algonquin elder William Commanda was honoured for efforts to bridge cultures Add to ...

William Commanda, an Algonquin elder who met Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama and was named an officer of the Order of Canada, died on Aug. 3 at the age of 97.

Commanda was a trapper, guide, master canoe maker, chief and spiritual leader who travelled the world and won an international following for his work bridging cultures.

His cook said he died at his home in Western Quebec after returning from hospital where he had been treated for kidney problems.

In 1990, he was asked to bless the Human Rights Monument in Ottawa along with the Dalai Lama.

He also presented Nelson Mandela with an eagle feather in 1998 on behalf of first nations people.

Commanda, who was the one former prime minister Pierre Trudeau turned to when he wanted his canoe repaired, was the founder of the Circle of All Nations, a gathering to promote healing and peace.

Throughout his life, he received numerous awards and honours. He was named an officer of the Order of Canada and received the key to the city of Ottawa along with an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Ottawa.

He also won a lifetime achievement award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards Foundation.

Commanda, who knew hardship in his youth, was born around 8 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1913, the first son of Alonzo and Marie Commanda. His mother looked out the window and saw the morning star, so she named him Ojigkwanong.

He was the great-grandson of Pakinawatik, a hereditary Algonquin chief from the mid-1800s who led his people to settle in their current territory near Maniwaki, Que.

Commanda was the chief of Kitigan Zibi, a first nations reserve in the Outaouais region of Quebec, from 1951 to 1970.

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