NEWS
06/03/2016 15:37 EDT | Updated 06/04/2017 01:12 EDT

B.C.'s Len Marchand, first Aboriginal federal cabinet minister, dies

Canada's first Aboriginal federal cabinet minister, Len Marchand, has died. He was 82.

Born in Vernon, B.C. in November 1933, Marchand was a member of the Okanagan Indian Band.

He grew up in Six Mile Creek and was the first person of Aboriginal descent to graduate from public high school in Vernon He studied agriculture at UBC and spent  five years as a scientist in Kamloops agricultural research station.

In the 1950s and 60s, he was an active member of the North American Indian Brotherhood, working on a number of issues, including federal voting rights for First Nations.

Marchand was elected MLA for Kamloops-Cariboo in 1968, the first status Indian to enter parliament, becoming parliamentary secretary to Jean Chretien in 1972, when the latter was Minister of Indian Affairs.

Marchand became a member of Pierre Trudeau's cabinet in 1976, first as Minister for Small Business then, from 1977-79 as Minister of the Environment.

He lost his seat when the Liberals were ousted in the 1979 general election and worked for the Nicola Valley Indian Bands and the Western Indian Agricultural Corporation.

He was made a senator in 1984.

In 2014, Marchand was named to the Order of B.C.