M’Chigeeng residents line the streets of their community to say baamaapii to deputy chief

Brian Bisson

M’CHIGEENG – Bereavement in a time of pandemic social distancing is hitting First Nation communities hard. The loss of a beloved member is hard on any community, but funerals play an important social role in the close-knit communities that are First Nations and generally involve everyone in the community at some point during the traditional three-day vigil, coming to visit the sacred fire to send prayers skyward to the Creator.

Last week M’Chigeeng First Nation endured the sudden loss of Brian Bisson, the band’s deputy chief and a beloved educator and friend. As a sign of the community’s respect, residents stood outside as the funeral procession made its way to the largely empty Our Lady of Canada Roman Catholic Church in M’Chigeeng.

“Saddened that I could not be in M’Chigeeng on the day of Brian Bisson’s burial and that the church, which he attended so faithfully, had to remain empty,” wrote Father Jim Kelly. “Besides attending Sunday Mass every week, Brian had a wonderful gift. He prayed for the dead. Whenever possible he would attend the funeral mass in the church for community members. Normally he would arrive at the church early, which was a great relief for the priest. Often I would look for him to arrive so he could help arrange things at the last minute, especially removing the rail from the centre steps. Always helpful, never showy, I looked at Brian as an example of Christian leadership. Truth is, I prayed he might become a deacon one day. What a gift Brian has been to M’Chigeeng. Let us pray that leaders like him rise up in the community and in the church.”

“I will remember him fondly for his kindness and generosity and as a respected deputy chief who served his community and worked tirelessly for his community members and beyond,” said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare, whose home community is M’Chigeeng. “He helped whenever he was called upon.”

“Miigwech Brian Bisson baa for guidance and your gentle welcoming presence you bring, every time we see each other,” wrote Sunset Sagutch. “As you always make a point to do your wave and come say hi and catch up and I enjoy it as it puts a smile on my face. Every time me and Nathan sang before classes at the school, you would be the first one to show up to listen. Miigwech for everything you did for myself, Kengjewin Teg, the students, your community and your family. Baamaapii Kaawabmin Niijik. Travel safe to where you are going, until next time we see each again my friend.”

The Expositor has its own connection with Mr. Bisson. He was the first Manitoulin Secondary School co-op student to work in our office.

“In fact, it was in the first year that MSS had a co-op program,” recalled publisher emeritus Rick McCutcheon. “He was here when Peter Carter was the editor and we just loved him. He really had a knack for it, especially sports writing, he was a natural. He left us to take ‘a good job with the railroad’.”

In an odd quirk of fate, Expositor reporter Warren Schlote left a job with the railroad to come work for The Expositor.

Baamaapii from your friends at The Expositor, Brian Bisson. Though your time here on earth was all too short, it can truly be said that yours was a life well lived.