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Former chief Ernie Campbell honoured with full-day funeral

10/30/2013 11:23 EDT | Updated 12/30/2013 05:12 EST
One thousand guests are expected at the Musqueam Community Centre in Vancouver today to honour former chief Ernie Campbell.

Campbell, a powerful voice for B.C. First Nations and tireless advocate for the Musqueam First Nation, died Saturday at the age of 72.

Today's events begin at dawn with a private ceremony including traditional dancing and cleansing.  

The public funeral begins at 9 a.m. PT, and will be followed by a feast of salmon, crab, deer and elk. 

Memorabilia of Campbell's life will be on display, including his beloved war canoe, and the Coast Salish blanket he wore during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. 

'He didn't suffer fools' 

Campbell is being remembered by B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson as a determined leader who helped build bridges between cultures.

"He could sit and talk with premiers and prime ministers and anyone and not feel that he was in any way in an inferior place, but never an arrogant position at all," says Musqueam Indian Band Counc. Wendy John. 

Campbell took on the provincial government repeatedly, negotiating a key land and cash agreement, and blocking development on the historic Marpole Midden in 2012. 

"He was a tough, tough negotiator," says John. "He didn't suffer fools."

'He gave time to everyone'

Members of the Musqueam Indian Band say Ernie Campbell was also a generous leader dedicated to sport and education. 

Campbell got to know every child in the community, says John, through his work as a soccer and canoe coach, and even once driving the school bus. 

"He was involved at absolutely every level in the growth of the Musqueam people," says John.

"I used to see him stop and talk to absolutely everyone that was part of our community. He gave time to everyone, no matter who they were." 

Under Campbell's leadership, the Musqueam were one of the four host First Nations for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. 

Watch: Ernie Campbell on Musqueam history

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