Chief Florence Tabobondung

Chief Florence Tabobondung, a York University honorary doctorate recipient, died on Sept. 10 at a long-term care facility in Parry Sound, Ont., following a long illness. She was 85.

In 1998, Tabobondung received an honorary doctor of laws from York during Spring Convocation ceremonies. An elder of the Union of Ontario Indians, Tabobondung served as chief of the Wasauksing First Nation on Parry Island, near Parry Sound, for 27 years. She was an active participant on numerous advisory councils and committees, and worked to improve social and educational conditions both on and off the reserve. Her years of dedication and commitment to her people, and her guidance and wisdom, earned her the respect of Native leaders across the country. 

During her years as chief of the Wasauksing First Nation, Tabobondung oversaw the eviction of CN Rail from the illegal occupation of the community of Depot Harbour (dating from  the late 19th century) and secured pedestrian access to the mainland. One of the last traditional chiefs in the Robinson Huron treaty, she attempted to bring to justice those responsible for the largest munitions explosion in Canadian history, when 4 million pounds of nitroglycerin erupted in the reservation harbour on Aug.15, 1945.

In 1988, she received the Order of Canada for her national presence in matters of First Nations self-government and economic development. Tabobondung was a teacher, an elder, an Anishnawbe traditionalist and a community and political leader. She was both a firm representative of traditional ecological knowledge and an arbiter of sustainable development. During the 1990s, Tabobondung served as right-hand elder to Ovide Mercredi during his tenure as Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). As one of the architects of the AFN, she was a tireless advocate on its behalf both nationally and locally.

The mother of four, a grandmother and great-great grandmother, Tabobondung leaves a large family and many friends in the Wasauksing First Nation and colleagues in the AFN. Funeral services will take place at Wasauksing on Thursday, Sept.14, at 11am. As expressions of sympathy, donations to Belvedere Heights, The Friends, Alzheimer Society or a charity of the donor’s choice would be appreciated. Online condolences can be sent to