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Russ Letica - A Life Well Lived

~ Natalie S. Brown

My path first crossed with Russ Letica’s

in 2010, through the newly formed

Whisper n Thunder. From that time until

his passing in 2023, I was increasingly

impressed by his dedication to his Indian

Country broadly and the Madawaska

Maliseet First Nation specifically.

When I first met Russ, he was living i

n Las Vegas and was very active with nonprofits there, including the Las Vegas Pride Festival. It wasn’t long after we connected that Russ was called to return to the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation (MMFN). Over the next decade, he would hold several important roles within his nation, constantly fighting for the best representation and opportunities for his people, and educating outsiders about sovereignty issues, broken treaties, and consultation requirements.

During his many years of service to WnT, Russ filled nearly every role possible at one time or another – and often several simultaneously. He was an excellent fundraiser, passionate about ensuring the indigenous homes were heated during the cold winters and that indigenous students had scholarship monies available. He authored articles and hosted radio shows, ensuring that critical topics received the attention they deserved. He was always marketing – from social media, to powwows, to community meetings – wherever Russ was, he was spreading the word and gathering support.

In September 2015, I had the huge honor to travel with two other WnT board members to MMFN to assist with a 3-day Gathering of Women course. I think we all learned even more than we taught. Russ was the ultimate hospitality professional, providing for us long before we arrived and throughout our stay with incredible accommodations, meals, decorations, gifts, and unmatched thoughtfulness. He had secured funding to ensure that women from other communities who needed to travel to attend had lodging. To say he was the perfect host would be an understatement.

Russ was never one to mince words, and I came to appreciate his willingness to speak hard truths. One never had to wonder what he was thinking, and he consistently used his voice to advocate fiercely for the causes and positions he believed in.

I will miss him greatly and will be forever grateful for the lessons he taught by his example. Woliwon, Russ. Rest well.

Karen Spencer Barnes, Natalie Brown, Russ Letica, Sonia Martinez