Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Brother - Arthur “Butch” Elliott – Ahzdayoniquot

Butch was born at Cape Croker (Neyaashiniigimiing) on March 5, 1950. His mother, Winona Arriaga, moved the family to Detroit in the early 1960’s where he lived until he met his wife, Germaine, in 1973. He was laid to rest at Cape Croker on August 12, 2008.

Butch was a well known activist and defender of First Nation rights in both Canada and the U.S. He was a member of the American Indian Movement, and was in the 71 day battle at Wounded Knee in South Dakota in 1973. For this, he was recognized as a veteran by the Native American Vietnam Era Veterans Association. He supported the Bay Mills Indian Community in their assertion of fishing rights during the Fish Wars of 1973 and 1974. He was also involved in the occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora in 1974 and the historic Native Peoples Caravan, National March on Parliament Hill. He was part of the Longest Walk of 1977 (California to Washington D.C.).

His activism was a result of his belief in the tradition, culture and sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. He was one of a handful of traditional singers, taught by Teofilo Lucero, who brought the big drum back to the Great Lakes region in the early 1970’s. Butch worked closely with the Steering Committee of the Indian Ecumenical Conference after having attended the first meeting in 1971 in Alberta. He often described the Indian Ecumenical Conference as the life-changing event of his life, one that helped him follow a genuine spiritual path. He helped bring the sweat lodge back to the Great Lakes region and he carried a pipe.

Butch was a catalyst for nation-building efforts throughout the Great Lakes region. He served his community as an elected member of Band Council for the Chippewas of Nawash from 1983 to 1988, serving as Co-Chief from 1986 to 1987. After returning to the Sault Ste. Marie area, he coordinated and helped chair the first Grand Assembly of Michigan Tribes in 1989 and again in 1990. He organized and chaired the National Assemblies of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians in 1992, 1994 and 1997.

He believed that as Anishinabe people, that we have rights and responsibilities to our land, our nation, and our families. He believed that First Nations were entitled to resources, promised through treaties, which would fuel our own self-sufficiency. In that regard, he was involved in economic development throughout the Great Lakes with both Tribes in the U.S. and First Nations in Canada. He led and chaired numerous initiatives on economic development, including an international summit held in Detroit in 1994. He was part of the development team who crafted a bid on behalf of the Sault Tribe for the management of CasinoRama in 1995. He travelled to Austria in 1995 and again in 1997 with representatives from Membertou First Nation to promote international partnerships with CasinoAustria. In 1998 he helped lead a Sault Tribe trade delegation to Mexico where he met the presidential family. He also travelled to Vera Cruz where he presented an eagle feather to the Totanocas Tribe.

Butch had many friends along the pow-wow trail. He was an accomplished M.C., and his voice was heard in communities throughout the Great Lakes Region. He never passed the opportunity to share his songs and stories, and for this he was much loved and well respected. He had a tremendous sense of humour and he liked to laugh. Kind and generous, he also loved history, research, and especially stories about Pottawatomi. He was dedicated to the notion that the Pottawatomi in Canada needed to reclaim homeland in the U.S.

He returned to his home community of the Chippewas of Nawash at Neyaashiinigimiing in 2002. He was elected as Head Councillor in 2007. He initiated significant progress in addressing housing needs. He was concerned with policing and justice issues in the community as well, and worked very hard to make improvements.

Butch is survived by his wife, their four children, seven grandchildren, a sister and two brothers. He is an uncle to many - and a mentor, teacher, role model and friend to thousands. He was a good father and husband and greatly loved by his family.

He will be greatly missed for a very long time by very many.
Baa Maa Pii my beloved.

By Germaine Elliott - Wife.


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