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Russ Letica: A Legacy of Passion, Advocacy, and Wisdom

~ Chief Trish Bernard

Madawaska Maliseet First Nation

As the chief of the Madawaska Maliseet

First Nation, I've had the privilege of

crossing paths with many influential

individuals, but none have left a mark as

profound as my late cousin, Russ Letica.

Our journey, from distant childhood

acquaintances to close confidants in

adulthood, maps not just our personal

growth but the evolution of a relationship

that came to shape both our lives and our community.

My childhood memories of Russ are fragmented, like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be assembled. It wasn't until adulthood that these pieces formed a complete picture, revealing a man of immense passion and dedication. As we began working together, with Russ in roles such as Lands Officer and later as the Resource Development Consultation Coordinator (RDCC), I came to know the depth of his commitment to our people and our land.

Russ's instrumental role in consulting with our community members to develop a First Nation Land Code was a testament to his vision. This crucial step towards self-governance was not just a professional achievement; it was a personal mission. Russ understood the importance of our people taking charge of our lands and resources, a belief he carried and communicated with unwavering conviction.

In his new, albeit short-lived role as a councillor, I was looking forward to continuing our work together, building on the strong foundation he had already laid. His transition into this role was a natural progression of his dedication and a promise of continued advocacy and leadership for our community.

As a Wolastoqey two-spirited man, Russ had a profound respect and love for his ancestry and his Nation. His knowledge of our Nation's history, and that of other First Nations across Canada and the USA, was largely self-taught. He was a man who believed in the power of education, not just as a means to an end but as a journey towards understanding one's roots and identity.

Russ's advocacy went beyond cultural preservation. He was a warrior against the wrongs of colonialism, always standing up for the underdog. His courage to speak up, to challenge the status quo, was admirable and inspiring. In meetings and negotiations, I knew I could trust Russ to represent our interests with integrity and wisdom.

Our conversations often ventured into the realms of history, politics, and religion. We didn't always see eye to eye, but that was the beauty of our discussions. They were built on mutual respect and a recognition that differing viewpoints were not just inevitable but necessary for growth.

The loss of Russ was not just a personal tragedy for me and our family; it was a monumental loss for our community and the Wolastoqey Nation. His spirit, teachings, and dreams continue to resonate within us. Russ often spoke of our ancestors watching over us, guiding our steps. As I reflect on his life and our time together, I find solace in the belief that he now joins them, watching over us with the same love and protectiveness he showed in life.

Russ, your absence is felt deeply, but your legacy lives on. Your passion, your advocacy, and your wisdom continue to inspire us. I love you and miss you terribly.

Chief Trish