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Updated: Community mourns the loss of Grand Portage Tribal Chairman Norman Deschampe

Feb 11, 2019 05:39AM ● By Editor
Norman Deschampe (left) met with then Governor-elect Tim Walz at a listening session in Grand Portage in late 2018.  Photo:  Boreal Community Media

From Boreal Community Media - February 11, 2019

Boreal Community Media is sad to report that that Norman Deschampe - the Tribal Leader of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa passed away Saturday due to a heart attack.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in 2018 called Deschampe "a lifetime fighter for justice, dignity and tribal sovereignty".

Our condolences to the Deschampe family, all Grand Portage tribal members and the entire Cook County MN community.

Reporting from WDIO-TV below:

Ryan Juntti of WDIO-TV - February 11, 2019

An official from the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has confirmed to WDIO News that chairman Norman Deschampe passed away on Saturday evening. 

One of Deschampe's family members says he was 65, and died of a heart attack. 

Deschampe was first elected to the tribal council when he was 23, serving for 45 years, including 27 of those as chairman.

Grand Portage Tribal Chairman Norman Deschampe passed away on Saturday

Grand Portage Tribal Chairman Norman Deschampe passed away on Saturday.  Photo:  WDIO

"He was a steady influence for many, many years. He fought for our treaty rights," said Michele Hakala-Beeksma who works for the 1854 Treaty Authority. "He had a strong commitment to higher education for our people, and for taking care of the elderly," she said.  

Hakala-Beeksma described Deschampe as a "very humble man who really embodied traditional Ojibwe values."

"He had a lot of respect for other people, whether they were the VIP's of the world, or the struggling of the world, he talked to everybody the same," said Hakala-Beeksma.

Deschampe also served on the executive committee of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

This story was first reported by WTIP Radio.

Deschampe served on the current Tribal Council with Vice-chair Marie Spry, Secretary/Treasurer April McCormick, and Council Members John Morrin and William “Bill” Meyers.

"Norman Deschampe was a great leader for Grand Portage and Greater Grand Portage enrollees. His personal approach with all the band members was impeccable. His openness to help wasn’t contrived it was honest... We have the smallest reservation in Minnesota and he will be missed by all who knew him on and off reservation," a tribal member sent in a statement to WDIO News.

Hakala-Beeksma says she believes Vice-Chair Janice (Marie) Spry will take over for Deschampe in the meantime.

A celebration of Deschampe's life will be held at 11:00 am on Wednesday at the Grand Portage Community Center.

Read this statement of tribute from The Cook County Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page.

"News of Norman Deschampe's death is very sad. It is also a great shock, as he was in terrific shape the last time I saw and talked with him, when Gov. Walz came to Grand Portage a couple months ago. 

The Cook County Chamber very well might not exist were it not for Norman. He came to one of the very first meetings the founding group held, listened to our discussion of the need to address housing issues, scarcity of workers and others, and said they were exactly the issues the tribal council deals with each time it meets. With that, he strongly endorsed the effort to organize a chamber and contributed a very significant amount of annual dues to the effort. He was a founding member of the chamber board. 

Chamber board members always enjoyed his company and his thoughts. He was a thorough gentleman and a very good man. In our first joint gala with Visit Cook County, in 2013, we presented Norman with a special leadership award for "decades of extraordinary personal service to enhancing the economic vitality, and cultural and political integrity of his community."

No one is indispensable, but Norman comes close."

Remembering the life of Norman from the website

Norman Deschampe was born in Grand Portage Minnesota.

Life for him growing up as a kid he said there wasn't a lot of jobs in the community and not as much people as there is now. He grew up with out electricity until he was in the tenth or eleventh grade, he said he loved growing up in a big family with 7 siblings, he said him and his brothers loved to go fishing and hunting for things they did for fun. He also said that him and a bunch of his friends would get together and play stick ball during the summer time, and in the evening time they would go play flash light tag down at the stockcade. His school he went to was the old log school and there was three grades in the lower part of the building and four grades in the upper part of the school, he said there was two rooms and two teachers in the bottom and lower part of the school, in his grade there was thirteen kids, he said that him and his class mates have got really close in his school cause it was such a small school. his parents both were good people he said his dad worked in forestry and his mom was a waitress he said they worked really hard to raise seven kids and worked when ever they could. 

His first job that he said he had as a kid was to go out and prune like saw the bottom of the trees and thinning them out so they could roll better. He also worked up at the gas station up at the border for a few years.

Norman said when he first ran for office at the RTC he was about twenty one years old, the reason he wanted to run for office\irman is because he wanted to help the Grand Portage community, he was very young then he said but he wanted to help out with all the unemployment so that people in the community can have there own homes and cars and stuff they need to plan out there future.

He became chairman because he wanted to see change in the community.

Watch the WDIO-TV Report here

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