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Ontario First Nations Mourn Two Prominent Leaders

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Barely a week into the New Year, Ontario was mourning the loss of two prominent First Nations women who regional chief Angus Toulouse called “inspiring leaders and pillars of their communities.”

Norma Diamond of Sagamok Anishinawbek and Lillian Pitawanakwat of Whitefish River First Nation each passed away Jan. 4, 2011, the Chiefs of Ontario website reported.

“We must honour what these exceptional women stood for—which was dedication to making the lives of our people better, and caring for family and community. These women reaffirmed in all that they did that the strength of our nations rests with our women. Let’s always remember and honour them by doing all we can to continue the valuable work that they dedicated their lives to,” stated Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.

Diamond was known for serving in organizations including the Assembly of First Nations and Mamaweswen, the North Shore Tribal Council.

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“Norma was a dedicated, inspiring leader who worked tirelessly for many years to improve the lives of First Nation citizens within the Anishinabek Nation and the First Nation population generally,” said Toulouse in a statement.

Pitawanakwat was an Elder and Medicine Woman from the Whitefish River First Nation, Toulouse said. Through her spiritual work she “helped and guided many people while generously sharing her wisdom with many local, regional and national leaders,” he said, adding that she served on the Elders Council of United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising “and provided valuable teachings related to ceremonies, language and culture.”

The Sudbury Starobituary said of Pitawanakwat, “Mama loved traveling, meeting new people and listening to country classics. Traditional ceremonies were a very important part of Mama’s life and it is a legacy that she has passed on to her children and grandchildren. Mama had a special bond with all animals.”