Etienne Robinson, 63, died Sept. 28 in Winnipeg of complications from diabetes. His family was at his side at Health Sciences Centre.
Aboriginal leaders gathered Friday for Robinson's funeral at the Pimicikamak Cree First Nation in Cross Lake, 530 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
He and Nancy, his wife of 43 years, spent the last nine years raising their two grandchildren when their daughter, the children's mother, died in 1999.
Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin Grand Chief Sydney Garrioch said from Cross Lake that Robinson left a huge mark on aboriginal politics in Manitoba that goes back decades.
"He will be remembered as one of our chiefs and he was a community leader," Garrioch said.
Robinson played instrumental roles in most of the major political dramas of the aboriginal world in the last half of the 20th century, from the White Paper of 1969 to Meech Lake in 1991.
He was a chief with the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, the province's first political aboriginal organization, that helped defeat the 1969 federal White Paper which had proposed abolishing treaty rights.
He was an adviser behind the scenes during the Meech Lake campaign, working to defeat the constitutional accord because it failed to recognize aboriginal people as founding peoples of Canada.
Robinson represented Cree rights when Manitoba settled the Northern Flood Agreement to build hydro electric dams in the north.
Elijah Harper recalled Robinson as a longtime friend, former boss, and loyal supporter. News of Robinson's death came as a shock, Harper said.