Esquimalt Chief remembered, before his funeral

The funeral for Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas will take place Thursday morning at 9 a.m. in the Esquimalt Nation's Big House - followed by a luncheon. 

Chief Andy died  Saturday, after leading the Esquimalt First Nation as hereditary chief for 47 years.

His nephew, Robert Thomas, said the community in in shock. 

"It's devastating news - It was so unexpected. I thought he was going to be in there for longer than my life, to be honest," said Thomas, shortly after his uncle's death. "Chief Andy has been chief my whole life and my whole generation's life - and we've never experienced the loss of a Chief." 

Thomas said his uncle was a great leader, who helped to bring economic activity to his Nation. 
"He fought for our rights; he wanted the government to step up and honour all the Douglas Treaties," said Thomas. "For our reserve, he brought us from poverty and invisibility, to now everyone knows we're here." 

Chief Andy was also a leader with a sense of humour. 

"He was always making every one in the council chamber laugh; it doesn't matter where he went, he was always making everybody laugh," said Thomas. 

Chief Andy leaves behind his wife, seven children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. His successor has not yet been announced. 

Victoria council voted to cancel its committee meeting Thursday morning, in order to attend the funeral. 

Councillor Marianne Alto has been working with the Chiefs of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations through a process of reconciliation with the City of Victoria. 

She says it's the first time anyone on council can remember cancelling a meeting for this purpose - and says it speaks to Chief Andy's impact and legacy.

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