A former grand chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council and spiritual leader of the Wolastoqiyik has died.
Harold Laporte was diagnosed with lung cancer about a year before he died on Sept. 11 at the age of 74.
“We had a very close relationship,” said Celia Wilson, Laporte’s granddaughter.
“My whole life, he was very involved in our culture and just a very spiritual, traditional man who always walked that road.”
Wilson lived with her grandparents. She said her grandfather inspired her to become a traditional jingle dress dancer for powwows.
“I have very strong ties to our culture and that’s definitely from him,” Wilson said. “He was just a kind person, very, very kind to everybody. And that’s something that he kind of instilled in all of us.”
Laporte was born in Saint John and grew up in McGivney, about 48 kilometres north of Fredericton. He was a member of Tobique First Nation, also known as Neqotkuk.
After he and his wife, Connie, were married, the couple moved to St. Mary’s First Nation, also known as Sitansisk.
‘He sacrificed so much’
Laporte helped many Wolastoqiyik connect with their spirituality.
He was a sweat lodge keeper and every Friday night held ceremonies at home, where everyone was welcome to participate.
Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay knew Laporte for close to 30 years. He said Laporte was always helping others.
“People don’t realize how much influence that he had, especially through his sweat lodge ceremonies that helped so many people in desperate times. And at times of struggling for their lives or healing,” Tremblay said.
“He sacrificed so much and I want to thank his family for lending him to us.”
Laporte’s life also took him in many directions.
A long history of helping
Laporte was the grand chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council during the fracking protests in 2014. He took part in demonstrations and spoke out against the resource extraction projects.
Laporte did a lot of work for First Nations people in the correctional system. He would visit the Springhill Institution in Nova Scotia as well as Dorchester Penitentiary and the Atlantic Institution in Renous, where he would hold sweat lodge ceremonies and talking circles for inmates.
“He really wanted them to learn about their culture and still practice and to have something to believe in,” she said.
Laporte also operated Kikeway Wig, a healing house near Lake George where Indigenous people could stay as they reintegrated into society after prison.
“I think he just didn’t want them to be forgotten about. And didn’t want them to feel like they had nothing while they were in there,” Wilson said.
In 2000, while working as a custodian at the Chief Harold Sappier Memorial Elementary School in St. Mary’s First Nation, Laporte also won the Atlantic Lottery’s $10 million prize.
But Laporte will be remembered most for his dedication to others.
“The biggest lesson that he taught me as a man, as a human being, is humility. Because he walked that way,” Tremblay said.
“He was a very humble man.”
This content was originally published here.