WHITEHORSE – First Nations leader, Yukon lawyer and residential school survivor Mike Smith died Wednesday in Whitehorse.
His family released a statement Thursday saying that Smith wanted his condition and last days to remain confidential. His age and cause of death were not released.
“Mike was a great leader who shared the vision of the many leaders he worked with in trying to build a better future for his people,” the statement says.
He was Yukon’s regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations when he died.
Smith was a residential school survivor who went on to earn his law degree in 1984 and become one of the first two Indigenous lawyers in Yukon, the statement says.
He was a “great legal mind,” at the forefront of the Yukon First Nations land claims movement, which gathered momentum in the early 1970s, it says.
Smith became the chief of his Kwanlin Dun First Nation in 2003 and served three terms. During that time, he signed a land claim and self-government agreement.
He was also instrumental in the vision that brought about the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on the riverfront, the family says.
He was an eldest brother and a “devoted family man.”
“We’re still very devastated by the loss of not only a brother, but the head of our family,” his brother Steve Smith said in an interview Thursday.
Smith was a father of three and grandfather to four.
The City of Whitehorse ordered flags to fly at half-mast at city buildings to recognize his passing.
(Whitehorse Star, CKRW)