The Cree School Board commissioners, directors, employees, teachers, and students mourn the loss of a man who believed education was the key to our Nation's future.
George Blacksmith passed away unexpectedly in Montreal on February 11, 2020. We are deeply saddened by the loss of this great leader, pioneer, and champion of Cree education.
Chairperson Sarah Pash reflected Tuesday night on the role the Late Dr. George Blacksmith played in shaping education in Eeyou Istchee.
"George played such a pivotal role," she said. "Not only did he believe we could educate our people, but he stepped up and showed how it could be done."
The Late Dr. George Blacksmith was one of the first to take the position of principal at a Cree school after the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement. He assumed the principalship in Mistissini while another leader - Steven Pash - took a school in Wemindji. He was also CSB commissioner for Mistissini for 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 school years. He also is among the few Crees to have earned a doctorate in education.
Tuesday night condolences were pouring in over social media.
Grand Chief Abel Bosum spoke about being inspired to make a difference for future generations. by the book George Blacksmith co-authored with Phillip Awashish, Forgotten Footprints (2016, GordonGroup).
Dr. George (as he was affectionately known) brought "insight into the impact of colonialism but more importantly how to become sovereign again!" Grand Chief wrote on Facebook. "His footprints will not be forgotten."
Deputy Grand Chief Mandy Gull recalled her own experiences being inspired by Dr. George.
Others spoke about his mentorship, encouragement, and steadfastness.
Director General Abraham Jolly recalled the role Dr. George played in the research and planning for a new Cree Education Act, a project that is just coming to life.
"I'll say that it is fitting that the Late George, who was a true leader and pioneer in Cree education, would know that the work he began as a young man is being continued now. His voice will always be heard in Cree education."
Before his death, he also completed a final book - Blending the Best of Two Worlds - which is yet to be published.
George Blacksmith leaves behind his wife Anna, a valued employee of the Cree School Board, along with a large immediate family and extended Etapp and Blacksmith families.