Anishinabek Nation saddened by loss of First Nations rights champion Tom Bressette

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (January 14, 2022) – It is with profound sadness that Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe announces the passing of former Chief and Councillor of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, Tom Bressette.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Tom Bressette-baa,” expresses Grand Council Chief Niganobe. “He has been a strong activist and voice for First Nation rights which has spanned decades. Throughout a remarkable life of leadership, he advocated and lobbied governments in a common vision of equality and unity to advocate for a better future for First Nations people. While he was best known for his strong voice, his actions also resonate throughout the Anishinabek Nation territory and beyond; we will certainly benefit from his hard work and dedication for years to come.”

Tom-baa served in the US Army for a period of time, travelling as far as Germany and other locations. Colleagues have remarked that it is through this service that he became disciplined in his roles. He began his career in First Nations as an addictions counsellor and was always an advocate on healthcare-related issues and that carried into every aspect of his work. He chaired the Anishinabek Police Service for several years, with a strong voice in ensuring parity of adequate safety equipment, the implementation of effective community safety practices, and establishing a high level of professionalism was consistent in the force. He also held the positions of former Ontario Regional Chief and Anishinabek Nation Regional Chief where he led many successful initiatives and was instrumental in the establishment of Aboriginal Financial Officers Association (AFOA). This was done in order to promote fiscal relationships and to provide training and certification for professional public service workers. Additionally, he was the former Southwest Region Anishinabek Nation Leadership Council Representative where he shared his wealth of knowledge and provided guidance.

When he was Chief in his community of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, he worked alongside then-Grand Chief of Manitoba Phil Fontaine in honouring Elijah Harper for his work on the Meech Lake Accord. Along with Manny Jules and Southwest Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Joe Miskokomon, Tom-baa spearheaded the Statistical and Land Management Act and pushed for a statistical institution for First Nation care and control of First Nation data and information. This was done to ensure a mechanism would be in place to challenge governments to include the science of relevant and accurate data behind programs and funding allocations. It has resulted in improved financial management capabilities in First Nations, as well as an avenue with which to challenge governments through the empowerment of accurate data.  Tom-baa also worked to help settle the Ipperwash Inquiry. The Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry came out in 2007 and Tom-baa was an advocate for the implementation of those recommendations that set the stage for resolving issues across the country.

Tom-baa was also heavily involved in governance work and is well-known and respected for having a strong presence in assemblies. In his own community, he championed many notable actions in the areas of adequate housing, water and wastewater treatment, infrastructure, and the building of a health centre in his community, among many other things. He was also a strong supporter of Anishinabek Nation Health Transformation and

spoke strongly about the need for a system to be created by Anishinabek, for Anishinabek. His dedication, achievements, and contributions were boundless and his voice and presence will be deeply missed. Tom-baa and his continuous efforts were honoured through distinction, including an Anishinabek Lifetime Achievement Award and a Distinguished Heroes in Health Award.

“On behalf of all Anishinabek Nation citizens and leadership, I offer our deepest condolences to Tom-baa’s family, friends, and Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. His unwavering advocacy, passion, and dedication to First Nation rights, governance, health, community safety, along with his boundless love for his community, will continue to inspire us all,” states Grand Council Chief Niganobe.

The Anishinabek Nation flag will be lowered to half-mast at the head office in Nipissing First Nation.

*The term ‘baa’ in Anishinaabemowin means that the person has already passed into the Spirit World.