Arnelda Jacobs, proudly displaying her black ash baskets. Photo copyright of: Barb and Ron Kroll.

UOI OFFICES, Nipissing First Nation (January 26, 2017)— The Anishinabek Nation flag was lowered at the Union of Ontario Indians head office this week to honour Elder Arnelda Jacobs of Serpent River First Nation. She began her journey into the Spirit World on Wednesday, January 25.

Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, on behalf of the Anishinabek Nation, expresses his deepest condolences to the family of such a beloved and respected foundation in leadership of the Anishinabek Nation and its people.

“What a beautiful, kind, gentle lady she was. We’re all deeply saddened to hear about her passing. She was a real treasure, not only for her community, but for all of us. She will be remembered by all for her love of her community and its citizens, and her commitment to our culture and language. She will truly be missed by all.”

Arnelda served on Chief and Council starting in 1973 and continued to do so for 38 years intermittently. She also served in a volunteer capacity on the Elders Advisory Council of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.

“Early on in my political career I came to know Arnelda and throughout all those years, she was such a strong leader and woman,” stated Grand Chief. “Over the years she’s been a strong foundation to a lot of leadership, not only in her community, or the Huron region, but the Anishinaabe people as a whole. She would bring things to our attention if they needed to be brought to our attention, but always do it in such a nice way. She would gently chastise us when something wasn’t being addressed. She was very good at keeping an eye on things; she just loved our people so much.”

Arnelda worked for the Alcohol and Drug Program in 1983, serving as the community’s first alcohol and drug counsellor. Drawing from experience, she was determined to help and heal others, especially the youth.

She revitalized the Anishinaabe cultural and traditional teachings amongst her people. Arnelda taught the importance and meaning of the sweat lodge, the drum, the pipe, the language, and crafts such as black ash basket-making. She believed that making baskets was a very important tradition to carry on in her community because it’s good for your health, mind, and spirit.

Arnelda will be sadly missed by her 11 children, her loving grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and extended family.