Condolences are pouring in from around the country and at home as former Elected Chief William (Bill) Montour is laid to rest this week.
One of the longest-serving elected chiefs on Six Nations, Montour was elected for four terms altogether; first from 1986 – 1991, and then again from 2007 – 2013. He also served as a Councillor during the 40th Elected Council beginning in 1976.
Montour passed away on January 8 in Hamilton at age 81.
Montour was a quick and sharp-witted leader who never shied away from controversy or standing up for what he believed in.
He made headlines in 2012 when he returned his Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in protest because he didn’t want to share the honour with controversial protester Gary McHale, who frequently stirred up tensions at the site of the former Douglas Creek Estates housing development in Caledonia during the early years of the protest.
Known for his colourful vocabulary and use of metaphors, Montour had said at the time he didn’t want to share the medal with “such a scurrilous individual.”
One of his most noted quotes was during a speech in Ottawa about changing the government’s mind when it comes to how it deals with First Nations people: “You had a better chance of changing the Queen Mary with an oar.”
The former chief, who also had a career as a steelworker, had a long history in politics both at the local and federal levels, in elected and non-elected roles.
Six Nations Elected Council released a statement of condolence and added that Montour was a critical community builder even before his time in office.
“Born on Six Nations in 1941, Bill was the oldest of nine siblings. Growing up, he was a farmer and then worked as an iron worker for many decades. Before running for his first term on Elected Council, Bill was instrumental in the construction of the Six Nations Sports & Cultural Memorial Centre and was the President of the Six Nations Minor Hockey Association for many years,” says the statement. “Under his leadership as Chief, Six Nations began initial negotiations for the construction of the current schools on Six Nations, the Iroquois Village Plaza, the water treatment plant, and much more.”
Montour was a former Chief of Staff at the Assembly of First Nations.
In 1994, he served as regional director for the AFN and later, as the AFN’s national director of housing.
Montour focused on improving the community’s infrastructure during his last two terms as Six Nations elected chief, and he even brought a prototype garbage disintegrator to the community landfill in a bid to divert all waste from the overflowing pit on Fourth Line Road.
The project was met with controversy and protests before it fell through.
Elected Chief Mark Hill remembered Montour as one of his mentors, thanking him for his leadership when the young chief was first elected as a councillor at the tender age of 19.
Montour also backed Chief Hill when he ran for – and won – the position of Chief in 2019, becoming the youngest-ever elected Chief on Six Nations.
“There are no words to describe the amount of respect and appreciation I have for our former Chief Bill Montour,” Chief Hill said. “When I was first elected at the age of 19, it was so nerve wracking to even be able to speak. It took me awhile to get comfortable, to get to know the issues more, to understand better how council operated and he truly taught me a lot. And for that I will be forever grateful.”
Chief Hill said Montour was a visionary and intelligent community-centred leader who he always looked up to.
“It’s so heartbreaking,” Hill said. “I am sending my most sincere heartfelt condolences to his entire family and friends. Thank you for sharing such an incredible man with our entire community.”
Other leaders from home and abroad respected the former chief and shared their condolences online.
Noted Judge Harry LaForme said, “I just lost a great friend. I’m speechless and very sad. There will never be another like him.”
Dave Levac, former Brant County MPP, said, “It was an honour to serve beside him. Always a gentleman. He served his community with distinction. My heartfelt prayers to the entire family.”
Former Brantford MP Phil McColeman said Montour made many good things happen for Six Nations.
“He was a passionate chief. He will be missed.”
Funeral services will be held at the Hyde and Mott Chapel in Hagersville Fri. Jan. 13 at 11:00 a.m.