Chief Len Tomah
Atlantic Policy Congress Photo

"Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Len Tomah"


October 15, 2008 www.apcfnc.ca

In Memory of AFN Regional Chief Len Tomah Sr.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend and colleague, AFN Regional Chief Len Tomah Sr. of Woodstock First Nation, NB. Len passed away on Thanksgiving Day after a lengthy battle with cancer. We extend our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers to his family.

Len’s relationship with the Atlantic Chiefs and APC was significant. His persistence and enthusiastic energy helped create our organization. Collaborating with other Chiefs in the region in 1992, Len helped to draft the terms of reference for the creation of APC and our Chiefs are forever grateful for Len’s contributions to the original vision for the APC. Len was one of the original founding members.

As an active member of the APC Executive Committee, Len contributed greatly to the development of the APC’s strategic direction on various policy issues. Len leaves all of us with a legacy of knowledge and work on many First Nation issues. He was passionate to see justice and resolution brought to issues such as taxation, land, and natural resources. Len was the Chief of his community for 12 years and has served as the AFN Regional Chief for NB & PEI since 1986. He served in this capacity for 22 years making him the longest running Regional Chief in the AFN.

In his spare time, Len always enjoyed a good game of golf, pool and exercising his Aboriginal right to hunt. Len was also a family man deeply committed to his wife, Janice, sons, daughters and grandchildren.

Len, you will be greatly missed by all of us.


My personal Tribute - Daniel N. Paul

I knew Len for upwards of 40 years. The fondest memories I have of him, and perhaps the greatest tribute one can pay a man, is that he had a sunny personality - the broad smile shown in his photo was flashed very often. He had little pretensions, what you saw was what you got.

Although Chief Len is now happily enjoying the company of our ancestors in the Land of Souls, the generosity of his gifts and the memories of our pleasant encounters with him shall be with us always. I join with his family and legion of friends in this prayer: May the Great Spirit assure him contentment and tranquillity for eternity!


Bugle-Observer - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Published Tuesday October 21st, 2008

'Family was always first for Lenny'

By Jim Dumville

Chief Len Tomah laid to rest
Bugle Observer Photo

Aboriginal leaders from across Canada and the Atlantic Provinces join residents of Woodstock First Nation and local communities in the celebration of the life of former chief Len Tomah.

As the solemn beat of the drum and the sounds of native chanting echoed through the high cathedral rafters Friday morning, hundreds of mourners stood silently as the coffin of former Woodstock First Nation chief and regional aboriginal leader Len Tomah was slowly wheeled down the aisle of St. Gertrude's Catholic Church in Woodstock.

The drumming and chanting of Woodstock First Nation's Dery Fontaine signified Tomah's aboriginal heritage and ties to the local band. It was, however, the standing room only crowd which packed the Woodstock church which demonstrated the widespread reach of Tomah's impact on the fight for native rights in Canada and beyond.

First Nation leaders from bands throughout Atlantic Canada, along with aboriginal leaders from across Canada – including Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine – filled more than half the pews on the right side of the large cathedral. Their presence paid homage to Tomah's national prominence as an aboriginal leader. In addition to his 12 years as Woodstock First Nation chief, Tomah sat as vice chairman of Assembly of First Nations and played pivotal roles in giving New Brunswick and P.E.I. natives a strong voice in the national organization. He also led the charge to establish such groups as the St. John Valley Tribal Council and Atlantic Policy Congress, giving local and regional natives an effective vehicle in which to establish a united effort to deal with local problems.

Friday's funeral services provided an opportunity, as celebrant Father Bill Brennan explained, to celebrate the life of Paul David Leonard (Lenny) Tomah. Although taken by cancer at the relatively young age of 57, Tomah left a lasting legacy. In many ways, the Woodstock aboriginal leader packed so much into his too-short life by getting such an early start to adulthood.

In his recount of Tomah's remarkable life, Richard Hatchette –the Woodstock First Nation legal advisor who worked side-by-side with Tomah on numerous issues – talked about his friend's determination and lust for life.

"He lived life to the fullest," said Hatchette.

Tomah, he noted, didn't always take the easy path, but used determination and a positive attitude to navigate through the tough times. He said Tomah began his formal education on the Woodstock First Nation but quit school when native students were transferred to Southern Carleton Elementary.

At the tender age of 13, Hatchette recounted, Tomah was living an adult life as a worker on a travelling caravan show. At 14, he married a 20-year-old woman. While the marriage didn't last, Hachette noted, it proved Tomah's loyalty. The couple remained friends and, year's after the breakup, Tomah travelled to the U.S. to be beside her as she dealt with turmoil in her own life.

Hachette explained Tomah's foray into public life on Woodstock First Nation followed the example of his mother Roberta Monica Tomah, who became the first woman elected to band council. He also talked about the former chief's great pride in seeing his sons, current Woodstock First Nation Chief Jeff Tomah and band councillor Len Tomah Jr., carry on the family tradition of First Nation political leadership.

While political battles played a big role in Tomah's life, Hatchette noted, it failed to trump his sense of family.

"Family was always first for Lenny," he said.

He talked about Tomah's close relationship with his siblings, his children and his stepchildren. Several family members took part in Friday's funeral services. Tomah's granddaughters Cheyenne and Chelsey Tomah delivered a scripture reading, while stepson Alex Strong offered Prayers to the Faithful.

Hatchette noted Tomah's strong opinions and dominant nature brought forward plenty of debate during his many years pursuing issues, both on local and national levels. But, Hatchette added, Tomah went to great lengths not to let those disagreements develop into personal conflict. After many contentious meetings, he recalled how Tomah would make small talk with opponents, asking about family and friends. He always wished them a safe trip home.

"Lenny would always say be angry at the message, not the messenger," Hatchette recalled.

Others participating in the funeral services included Dr. Michael Perley, the First Nation doctor, whose practice on the reserve serves not only band members, but many patients from throughout Carleton County. Dr. Perley delivered a scripture reading.

First Nation elder Raymond Tremblay, in a voice breaking with emotion, offered the Lord's Prayer in Maliseet. From the Catholic ceremony at St. Gertrude's Church, the funeral procession headed out Houlton Road to Calvary Cemetery, where the prominent Woodstock First Nation leader was laid to rest.

Native drummers greeted the arrival of the funeral procession. A single drummer, his left hand holding an eagle feather high, watched as pallbearers – Chief Everett Martin of the Mi'kmaq Nation at Eel River Bar, along with Brian Polchies, David Riordon, Patrick Tomah Jr., Patrick Karnes and Peter Hall – carried Tomah's coffin to the gravesite.

The celebration of the life of Chief Lenny Tomah ended with a special reception at the Eagle's Nest Gaming Palace. While the centre is now housed in a newly constructed building, Hatchette noted, Tomah, as then chief, turned the sod for its original construction.

The Eagle's Nest is but one of a long list of accomplishments which will remain part of Tomah's legacy. Although his life was not void of conflict and disappointment, Lenny Tomah's legacy will live on at Woodstock First Nation, in aboriginal communities and board rooms across the nation and within political offices at all levels of government.


Len Tomah Memorial Trophy

Chief Len Tomah Memorial Trophy Presentation

The New Brunswick Royal Canadian Legion Provincial Pool Association has created a new trophy, which it christened the Len Tomah Memorial Trophy. It was created to be presented, on an annual basis, to the Most Sportsmanlike Player in legion provincial Pool tournaments.

The first presentation took place at the Fredericton Branch on April 17, 2010. Janice Tomah was slated to make the first presentation, however, due to the death of a friend, she was unable to attend. David Orser from Hartland filled in for her. The winner is selected by the pool players by vote. The first winner was George Gillis of the Moncton branch.

Information provided by Roger Miller