Rod Bushie, a Manitoba aboriginal leader and a former provincial grand chief, died overnight Friday, his family said. He was 60.
Bushie was best-known as one of the architects of devolution, the name given to the transfer of aboriginal child welfare services to First Nations and M©tis control.
He had been ill with terminal lung cancer for several months.
"On behalf of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, I offer sincere condolences to his wife, Eileen, and children, along with the family and friends of Rod Bushie," said AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
"Rod will live on through his initiatives and will not be forgotten as he definitely left his mark on the First Nations and the Canadian fabric as a great leader," said Grand Chief Murray Clearsky, leader of the 33 First Nations in the Southern Chiefs Organization.
Bushie was elected as grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in August 1997 after serving as chief for his home community of Hollow Water First Nation.
Bushie was well-known in recent years for his community work.
He served on various boards, most recently with the Adam Beach Film Institute. He helped found the annual Aboriginal Curling Bonspiel and remained active in it.
In 2000, as the AMC grand chief, Bushie signed the memorandum of understanding between the Province of Manitoba and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on behalf of the Southern First Nations Child Welfare Agencies.
Despite recent turmoil within that system, Bushie maintained his belief that the transfer represented an important step toward putting the responsibility for First Nations children in the hands of First Nations people.
Bushie was also a strong and vocal advocate of First Nations control over ancestral aboriginal lands.
"Rod Bushie was very passionate about many issues concerning First Nations people across this province and country. He was very vocal and fought through many avenues for the rights of his community and First Nations citizens of Manitoba. Rod's quiet and gentle leadership will be greatly missed," the current grand chief said in his condolences.
Bushie's family has organized two services to mark his passing. The first is to be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Gilbert Funeral Home in Selkirk. The second, a traditional aboriginal service, will follow at Hollow Water First Nation Wednesday at 1 p.m.