Former Wapekeka chief Norman Brown is remembered for his tireless efforts to address the issue of suicide in First Nation communities.
“Thanks to his leadership, Wapekeka has made tremendous progress on suicide prevention and we give thanks for his efforts to honour the memory of those we have tragically lost to suicide and to support the healing process for survivors,” said NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno. “Norman made tremendous contributions to improve the quality of life for his community over his many years of leadership and he will be fondly remembered as a champion for his people.”
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said Brown is also remembered as a strong leader and advocate for his people and for all First Nations.
“Throughout his life he achieved great success helping others, especially those affected by the tragedy of suicide,” Atleo said. “He was the originator of the highly successful Survivors of Suicide initiative which held a conference in Wapekeka for more than 20 years.
He also led important initiatives in education and entrepreneurship, First Nations policing, the environment, self-government and many other areas essential to First Nations success. His strong leadership, insight, dedication and strength will never be forgotten. We offer our thoughts and prayers to his loved ones.”
Brown, 63, died unexpectedly at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre on Jan. 9. He served his community as chief for 21 years and was deputy chief at the time of his passing. Community autonomy, self-reliance and planning for the future were central components of his philosophy.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our dear friend who gave so freely of himself to improve the lives of the people not only in Wapekeka First Nation but across all of Nishnawbe Aski,” Yesno said. “We honour and celebrate his life of leadership and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Wapekeka community at this difficult time.”
Brown was a strong believer in the value of education and entrepreneurship — he was a longstanding board member for Northern Nishnawbe Education Council and one of the founding members of the original eight communities that established the Wasaya Group.
He also served as president of Shibogama First Nations Council for eight years, where he promoted sound financial management.
An advocate for the protection of his community members and their environment, Brown signed a milestone Ontario First Nation Policing Agreement for his community in 2013 and he was one of four chiefs that declared a moratorium in 2005 on mining exploration and forestry in the far north.
A memorial service was held on Jan. 12 in Sioux Lookout and his funeral was held in Wapekeka on Jan. 14.
Brown is survived by his wife Carol, his children, Myles Brown, Priscilla Baxter, Peter Brown, Preston Fox and Tyler Sainnawap, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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