I first met William in 1988 when I was doing some research at the Assembly of First Nations offices in Ottawa. He had come into the office to give a teaching on one of the wampum belts that he had in his possession. A large crowd of staff gathered around him and he spoke quietly and deliberately about the nature of the relationship between peoples on the continent. He was a powerful teacher, and could hold a room spellbound as he expounded on his teachings. He was fierce in communicating what he knew. He was warm too, and patient with people. I think he wanted to make sure that you truly and deeply understood what he was telling you.
In my life I have met some incredible Elders and teachers in my life and travels. People like Jake Thomas, Fred Wheatley, Manny Boyce, Albert Lightning, Edna Manitowabi, Umeek, Jake Swamp, Pualani Kanahele Kanaka’ole, Peter O’Chiese, Eddie Benton-Banai, Ernie Benedict, Bruce Elijah, and of course Grandfather William. Every moment I spent with these people is indelibly written into my memory. They are important keepers of human culture, and when we lose one, something important always dies with them.
My condolences to William Commanda’s family and friends.