In Memory of Chief Harry St. Denis, Wolf Lake, 1957-2018
The members of the Algonquin nation, and many other people and organizations across Canada, are marking the loss of Harry St. Denis, Chief of the Algonquins of Wolf Lake, who passed away suddenly on November 15, 2018 at the age of 61. Chief St. Denis was a long-time advocate for Aboriginal title and rights, on behalf of his community, the Algonquin nation, and at the national level.
He was first elected Chief in April 1987 and served as Chief of Wolf Lake until his passing. Throughout this time, and in spite of government opposition, he made efforts to obtain lands for Wolf Lake, one of the few historic First Nations in Canada still without a reserve land base. He also had a wider vision for his community based on continuing use and occupation of their traditional lands, and involvement in the regional economy, especially the tourism sector.
Chief St. Denis put in years of service on behalf of the Algonquin nation. He served as Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat, and was active in efforts to develop practical working relationships between the members of the nation. He was always available to support the struggles of neighbouring First Nations, and to offer assistance, and was a strong advocate for Algonquin Aboriginal title and rights.
This commitment to the advancement and protection of rights led him to be involved at the regional and national levels, too. In the 1990’s he served as a key member of the Assembly of First Nation’s Delgamuukw Implementation Strategic Committee, which was trying to get changes to the federal government’s Comprehensive Claims policy. Over the years he appeared before many government and parliamentary committees, making the case for recognition and implementation of rights and title.
As a part of this work, he was a member of the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Committee on Claims for over a decade, serving as Co-Chair of this committee since 2014, working with other First Nations to get a truly independent process for the resolution of First Nation specific claims. He held the portfolio of the Assembly of First Nations of Labrador & Quebec’s Human Resources Development Commission, and represented Quebec on the AFN Chiefs Committee on Human Resources Development.
Most recently, Chief St. Denis had devoted time to the protection of Chaudiere Falls / Akikodjiwan sacred site, another part of his long commitment to the honouring of the land.
We will miss his leadership and guidance.