Bart Jack Sr. is being remembered as a tireless and fearless advocate for his people.
The Innu elder died Tuesday at his home in Sheshatshiu. He was 69.
Jack started his work with Innu back in the 1970s, and spent decades advocating for the rights of his people. He was instrumental in the creation of some of the political groups that would become the Innu Nation.
"Mr. Jack was a true statesman who worked tirelessly for many decades to protect and advance Innu rights. He was widely known in all political circles, and was certainly not afraid to stand up for his convictions," said Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe in a statement.
"He gave freely of his time to help others, and was passionate about his culture, language and identity."
His political life took him from fights to recognition, to fights for the land claim, to fights over low-level flying in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Jack was one of the group of protesters outside the Muskrat Falls construction site in 2016, opposing the state of the project and treatment of the Innu.
At the time, Jack said he was a one-time believer of the development, thinking it would be good for his people and provide opportunity, employment and development.
"The problem with the project, if we look at the Innu, is that it's been falling far short of our expectations," he said in 2016.
"It did not provide the number of employment for our children, it did not provide the number of training that our people wanted, it did not provide the number of opportunities that our business people wanted.… With this project, all we've had is misery and misery and misery."
We have a lot of work still, but he was certainly the pioneer of those discussions. - Peter Penashue
Lampe said Jack's passing is a "huge loss" for the entire community.
"He has left his mark on so many, and while we mourn his death, we also celebrate a life that was well lived."
Peter Penashue, former Innu Nation grand chief and former federal Conservative cabinet minister, said Jack was smart, sharp and knowledgeable about the workings of the system.
"He was probably among the first Innu that got educated in the white man's world," Penashue said.
"He went to high school in St. John's — Gonzaga … and there was a couple of them that graduated from the regular school system, so they were considered to be very strong in the English language and their written language was very good and they became the spokespeople for the Innu Nation."
Penashue said people relied on Jack to bring Innu issues to the forefront — something he did for decades.
When Penashue was elected as grand chief of the Innu Nation in 1990, he said, Jack worked with them on justice issues and spent a lot of time in courts helping people navigate the legal system, including working with those who had alcohol and addiction issues.
"He was arguing that if people are intoxicated and involved in drugs then there should be alternative ways of dealing with the crimes involved, because there's just going to be continuous repetition of the same crime if we don't change the behaviour of the peoples," Penashue said.
"He was very much involved in our creation of a justice system in our communities. We have a lot of work still, but he was certainly the pioneer of those discussions."
Jack was still a sitting member on the Innu Nation's education board. Sheshatshiu chief Eugene Hart said he was an important figure in transferring the responsibility for education to the Innu Nation.
NunatuKavut President Todd Russell said he met Jack many times over the years and, while they didn't always agree on every single issue, they respected one another as advocates.
"He was a strong and tough advocate for the Innu and appreciated and valued education and knowledge. He faced many challenges and was proud to say he overcame so many," Russell said in a statement.
"Bart was articulate and he spoke of his pride in being Innu. He will be missed by so many."
A funeral service is taking place on Saturday at the Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.