Family, community mourn former Tłı̨chǫ chief Eddie Erasmus

·3 min read
Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus outside the courthouse in Yellowknife in 2014. Erasmus was an active member of the Tłı̨chǫ community. He was elected grand chief in 2011 and served two terms until 2017. (CBC - image credit)
Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus outside the courthouse in Yellowknife in 2014. Erasmus was an active member of the Tłı̨chǫ community. He was elected grand chief in 2011 and served two terms until 2017. (CBC - image credit)

Friends, family and members of the Tłı̨chǫ Nation are sharing heartfelt messages and memories of former Tłı̨chǫ grand chief Eddie "Ediiwa" Erasmus. He passed away Friday at age 70 after a long fight with cancer.

Erasmus was an active member of the Tłı̨chǫ community. He was elected grand chief in 2011 and served two terms until 2017.

"Ediiwa led us with humility, strength, and humour. Ediiwa loved sharing his knowledge, culture and stories of the Tłı̨chǫ people," said the Tłı̨cho government in a release on Wednesday.

"In every way, he embodied the wisdom of the elders and has been an integral part of helping the Tłı̨chǫ Nation get to where it is today. He believed in the Tłı̨chǫ Government, the importance of self-government, and the right of all Tłı̨chǫ people to determine their own future on their own terms."

Erasmus told CBC News back in 2011 that he believed people voted for him because he was so involved in the Tłı̨chǫ community for over three decades.

Before becoming grand chief, he was the executive director of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council from 1983 until he was elected grand chief of the council in 1990. After 1993, he continued to work with the council as a part of a team of negotiators for the Tłı̨chǫ Land Claim and Self Government Agreement.

His work was crucial in the establishment of the Tłı̨chǫ government in 2005. He also served as the director of lands protection for the new Tłı̨chǫ government from 2005 to 2011.

After his stint as grand chief, he continued to stay involved in the Tłı̨chǫ community through the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation and the Wekeezhii Renewable Resources Board.

'One of the best'

Erasmus was born to Jim and Liza Erasmus, but was adopted by Alex and Elizabeth Charlo because his mother struggled with tuberculosis for many years. He had many biological and adoptive siblings.

He leaves behind his beloved wife Frances Beaulieu, his five adult children — Fay, Ian, Lillian, Jenny and Edie — and 15 grandchildren.

Erasmus is already dearly missed by friends and family.

"You are still my favourite story… leader… teacher... and hero… so it is with a heavy, heavy heart to depart from you today, setà," posted his daughter Edie, along with a commemorative video, on Facebook.

"People always say God takes the best. My dad was one of the best. He will always be remembered by many," posted his other daughter, Jenny. "My dad was the smartest, funniest, wise, hard working man I knew. Trying to be strong is so hard sometimes. Pls pray and be with us everyday dad. Miss you and always, always will love you."

John B. Zoe, who worked with Erasmus for over 40 years in the Tłı̨chǫ government and other Tłı̨chǫ organizations, told CBC News that Erasmus was born a leader and leaves behind a legacy of commitment to consensus in the Tłı̨chǫ government.

In a Facebook post Sunday, community member Marie Rose Blackduck thanked Erasmus for his dedication to bettering the Tłı̨chǫ Nation.

"Sometimes the work was thankless and never acknowledged but I know we lost a man who deeply loved the Tłı̨chǫ Nation," wroted Blackduck.

A visitation and wake service were held on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The funeral mass takes place today at 2 p.m. at St. Michaels Catholic Church in Behchokǫ̀.

Messages of condolences can be sent to the family at: messages@mckennafuneral.com

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