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The Huron-Wendat Nation mourns the death of former Grand Chief Max “One Onti” Gros-Louis

In First Nations
Nov 17th, 2020
Former Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis

Former Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis

News release from the Conseil de la Nation huronne-wendat Nov 14, 2020

It is with sorrow and great sadness that we have just learned of the death of the former Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Mr. Max “One Onti” Gros-Louis. Our first words are addressed to his entire family, to his wife Ms. Marie Roux, and to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. On behalf of the Huron-Wendat Nation Council, we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy and deepest condolences.

“I had the privilege over the past few days to speak to Mr. Gros-Louis. It was an exchange that was full of both emotion and respect”, said Grand Chief Rémy Vincent.

Born in Wendake in 1931, Mr. Gros-Louis was Grand Chief of the Nation for 33 years from 1964 to 1984, 1987 to 1996, and 2004 to 2008. Favouring dialogue and diplomacy, he is one of the founding members of the Canadian National Indian Brotherhood (which later became the Assembly of First Nations). Recognized on the international stage, he was a remarkable Grand Chief of our Nation who was proud of his community and passionate about Indigenous politics.

He was the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions highlighting his involvement in advocating for Indigenous rights and in the defense and promotion of First Nations in Canada and around the world. He received the following distinctions: The Legion of Honour and the Order of Merit (France) in 2008, the National Order of Quebec in 2011, the Order of Canada in 2015 and many others.

As a former Grand Chief of our Nation, he was among those who served our people the longest. In particular, he led the expansion of our community’s lands, helped the Wendat people shine around the world and was one of the first public figures to denounce, on the international stage, the “planned” genocide of the First Nations in Canada.

In closing, Grand Chief Rémy Vincent made a point of delivering this very special message to Mr. Gros-Louis:

“Grand Chief One Onti, thank you for walking with us and by our side. It is very difficult to summarize in a single message all of the actions that you accomplished over many years as you dedicated your time to our Nation and defended our rights. You are among those who forged our Nation. You had a lasting impact on the hearts and minds of many people, both here and elsewhere, with your strong personality and the influence of your interventions. The Nation wishes you a wonderful journey on the path of our ancestors.”

Max Gros-Louis, former grand chief of Huron-Wendat First Nation, dies at 89

Legendary Indigenous leader, a Nordiques fan, represented his community for 33 years

CBC News · Nov 14, 2020

Former Huron-Wendat Grand Chief Max Gros-Louis has died at the age of 89. In his youth, he became known to all and sundry by the Wendat name Oné Onti, which translates to “paddler.”

It was a fitting moniker for Max Gros-Louis, who was born on Aug. 6, 1931, in Wendake, Que., and spent the early part of his life fishing, hunting and trapping on the Huron-Wendat First Nation’s traditional lands. He eventually made a living guiding other people on such expeditions. Then, in the 1950s, he spotted a business opportunity in buying and selling Indigenous arts and crafts.

That led him to travel widely to other Indigenous communities and, eventually, to politics. He would eventually serve 33 years as the Grand Chief in Wendake for three tenures — from 1964 to 1984, 1987 to 1996 and 2004 and to 2008.

The Huron-Wendat First Nation announced on Saturday that Gros-Louis had died following a lengthy illness. He was 89.

“Grand Chief Oné Onti, thank you for walking with us, and by our side. It is very difficult to summarize in a single message all of the actions you accomplished … you are among those who forged our Nation,” current Grand Chief Rémy Vincent said in a written statement.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume hailed Gros-Louis as “the great mediator” who made “a real difference.”

Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault, for her part, mourned the death of “a great ambassador for Indigenous cultural and economic development.”

Gros-Louis was first elected to lead Huron-Wendat in 1964, and he had ideas.

Among them: loosening the Indian Act’s hold by creating a standalone administrative apparatus for his First Nation, and setting up the community’s own health and education institutions. It required time and much negotiating, but Gros-Louis helped make it happen.

Gros-Louis was also instrumental in the founding of the Canadian National Indian Brotherhood, a precursor to the Assembly of First Nations.

He also helped launch economic development initiatives like Wendake’s Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations, participated in landmark legal actions and acted as an ambassador of sorts for the cause of Indigenous self-determination.

Helping lead the fight for self-determination

According to his friend and longtime political confederate Gabriel Savard, perhaps his greatest legacy is the financial aid program that has facilitated access to post-secondary education for young people from the community, and especially the women of Huron-Wendat.

“Thank you for everything he left behind,” Savard told Radio-Canada. “Especially for the fight he led for 60 years so that Canada might consider the Indigenous as full-fledged citizens and recognize their ancestral and territorial rights. May it continue.”

Gros-Louis was also locally famous as a Quebec Nordiques super-fan (he attended every home game and frequently roused the crowd by banging a drum).

He received a raft of plaudits and civilian awards, including France’s Legion of Merit (he was close friends with former French president Jacques Chirac and the singer Gilbert Bécaud), the National Order of Quebec and the Order of Canada.

Gros-Louis is survived by his wife, Marie Roux, the couple’s children, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

AWARE Simcoe note: The Huron-Wendat were the inhabitants of North Simcoe when Europeans first came to this area. 

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