Trent University is mourning the loss of Dr. Gary Potts – a towering figure in Indigenous issues who was the former Chief of Temagami First Nation and Teme-Augama Anishnabai, and known for his passion and eloquence while battling for Indigenous rights.
Dr. Potts, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University in 1991, passed away peacefully on June 3.
Dr. Potts was elected chief of Temagami First Nation many times over his life and may be best known for leading the Red Squirrel Road blockades in 1988 and 1989 in order to help Temagami’s struggle to protect their ancestral lands.
Showing his perseverance, Dr. Potts is also remembered for fighting against land development for the Teme Augama Anishnabai, taking the case all of the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"Gary Potts stood for resilience, respect for the land and water, co-existence and traditional knowledge,” says Dr. James Cullingham, adjunct graduate faculty member, Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University. “He had a very positive impact on many Trent students and faculty.”
Dr. John Wadland, professor emeritus for the School for the Study of Canada, says Dr. Potts was a kind, gentle and compassionate person who preferred conversation as a means to resolve conflict.
“I will never forget him,” Dr. Wadland says. “He was one of the most courageous and noble people I have ever known.”
Trent University extends heartfelt sympathies to Dr. Potts’ family and friends, and to all who knew him at Trent University.