William Commanda

The wise man of the Algonquin Nation

Born on November 11, 1913, William Commanda, whose real name is Ojigkwanong (Morning Star), was the great-grandson of Pakinawatik, an Algonquin leader who led his people from Lake of Two Mountains near Montreal, to the site of the current community of Kitigan Zibi in 1854 (then known as the River Desert Reserve).

Like his illustrious great-grandfather, William Commanda was chief of the community, serving from 1951 to 1970. In 1945, he was also chosen as supreme leader of the movement for the creation of an independent First Nations government, the North American Indian Nation Government. The creation of this organization was in response to the government who then refused all rights to Indigenous Peoples. Several leaders who had supported the creation of this government had subsequently been prosecuted by the federal government and were sentenced to prison for conspiracy.

A former trapper and woodsman, William Commanda was also known for his mastery of the art of building birch bark canoes. Above all, he was recognized as the guardian of the sacred wampum belts in recent years, including the famous wampum of the Seven Prophecies, considered as a founding document of the Algonquin Nation. He has lectured extensively on the subject around the world. Over the past several years, he was the spiritual leader of an international peace movement, the Circle of Nations, and on an annual basis, he invited everyone to his home in early August. Over the years, hundreds of visitors from around the world came to hear his teachings. He promoted good relations between nations and the protection of Mother Earth.

Though humble, he also met most of the major political and spiritual leaders of the world. He found himself alongside the Dalaï Lama in 1990 in Ottawa and later Nelson Mandela in 1998. In 2008, he received the Order of Canada from the Governor General, Michaël Jean. He made many moving speeches to the United Nations for the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.