Indigenous Rights activist and medicine man dies

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The Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee sends his condolences to all those who mourn the passing of Elder Vernon Harper.

“My condolences go out to Vern’s family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time,” says Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “He will be fondly remembered for his passion for helping others and for being a champion of Indigenous rights. He was an advocate for those who could not speak for themselves and he influenced the lives of many. These contributions will not be forgotten.”

Vernon was a Cree Elder, medicine man, and Indigenous Rights activist who was always in the forefront of Indigenous issues.

Vernon co-organized the Native People’s Caravan in 1974, a cross-country trek starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, to raise awareness of broken treaties and grievances against the Canadian government. He authored a book the following years entitled The Red Road: The Native People’s Caravan, 1974.

“I worked with Vern when I was the Vice President of the Native Canadian Centre. He was a quiet, gentle, but strong warrior,” says Grand Council Chief Madahbee. “Vern was a hard worker who tried to keep people out of prison. He served Anishinaabe for decades in Toronto.”

Vernon is one of the few First Nations Elders with a Chaplain Status, recognized by the Correctional Service of Canada. With this, he provides spiritual services, sweat lodge ceremonies and traditional counseling to Indigenous prison inmates. He was able to bring culture into the prisons and shelters because he believed that identity was the way to heal the men and women who had lost their way.

Vernon also served as the Vice President of the Ontario Métis and Non-Status Indian Association.

In 1976, he co-founded the First Nations School of Toronto, originally established as the Wandering Spirit Survival School of Toronto. The goal of the school continues to be to empower its students with a strong cultural identity to be the future leaders of society. Vernon also served as an Elder-in-Council for the Toronto District School Board’s Aboriginal Education Centre.

Funeral services will be held on May 18, 2018 at the Pine Hills Funeral Center, Toronto, Ontario.

 

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