THUNDER BAY, ON ----- June 16, 2013 ----- Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and the NAN Executive Council are mourning the passing of NAN Elder Frank Beardy, a revered leader who dedicated his life to improving the lives of the people of NAN.
The former NAN Grand Chief and Muskrat Dam First Nation member passed away Thursday June 13, 2013 following a lengthy illness. He is survived by his wife and their many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of this great friend and distinguished leader and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Muskrat Dam community,” said NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno. “Frank’s commitment to the development of our Nation is unparalleled and his selfless contributions are immeasurable. His loss will be felt by all the lives he touched in such meaningful ways throughout his life and work.”
Frank Beardy was instilled with the value of service at a young age, leading to a lifelong journey of leadership at the community, provincial and national level. He first made his mark in the 1970s when he encouraged ‘pirate’ radio stations in First Nation communities who were being denied broadcasting licenses. The licenses were eventually granted, which eventually led to the development of Wawatay Native Communications Society. He was involved in the early years of Tribal Council development and was a major force behind several health, education and economic development initiatives including the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education & Training Institute, Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund, the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service and the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council.
He served as Chief of Muskrat Dam First Nation for three terms and NAN Deputy Grand Chief in 1982, Grand Chief in 1983, Deputy Grand Chief in 1985, and was an active member of the NAN Elder’s Council until his death. He was also active in provincial and federal politics, becoming the first native executive assistant to a provincial cabinet minister when he worked for Ontario Northern Development and Mines Minister René Fontaine in the 1980s and later served as special advisor to then Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault.
Throughout his life’s journey he acknowledged the guidance of Elders and mentors including many of NAN’s founding fathers. His leadership style was rooted in the values and principles he learned over his many years and shared in his own words: ‘Be respectful, patient, and aggressive when you have to be, not to be afraid and not to stand down on an issue.’
“Even when Frank was not serving in an official capacity he was always willing to take on a leadership role. He taught by example that the mantle of leadership does not change just because your work is done,” said Yesno, who had the honour of presenting Beardy with a headdress during a ceremony at his Muskrat Dam home last year. “As leaders we give thanks for his life of friendship and guidance and we pray for the strength to honour his legacy as we continue his work to improve the quality of life for NAN First Nations.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty No. 5 – an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario in Canada.
Born 1950 in Bearskin Lake First Nation, a remote community approximately 400 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
Born to a large and close family, Frank learned the traditional way of life, living off the land as a child before being sent to residential school.
Advocated for a northern communications system in the early 1970s which became Wawatay Native Communications Society. Served as Executive Director for the founding board.
Worked as Project Development Officer during the establishment of First Nation Tribal Councils. Instrumental in the creation of Windigo Tribal Council.
Assisted with the development of Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund and served as a board member for four years.
Helped First Nations create a winter ground shipping operation in 1977 which led to the creation of Windigo Transportation. Served as the board’s founding president.
Elected Chief of Muskrat Dam First Nation for three terms (9 years) in the 1980s and 1990s.
Elected Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief in 1982, Grand Chief in 1983, and Deputy Grand Chief in 1985.
Participated in the negotiations for the amalgamation of the two hospitals in Sioux Lookout, the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital (federal) and the District Health Centre (provincial hospital)
Helped negotiate the design of the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre and the delivery of health services for First Nations. Served as co-chair of the board.
Served as founding director of Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education & Training Institute in Thunder Bay.
Worked for Ontario Northern Development and Mines Minister Rene Fontaine in the 1980s - the first native executive assistant to a provincial cabinet minister.
Executive Director for Northern Nishnawbe Education Council for seven years and lead the way to establish the First Nation secondary schools, the Pelican Falls First
Nation High School at Pelican Falls in Sioux Lookout and the Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay.
Appointed special advisor to Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault.
Lead negotiator for the Nishnawbe Aski Policing Agreement which led to the creation of the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, the largest First Nation policing organization in Canada.