Last Thursday, Algonquin elder William Commanda was at Rideau Hall to be invested by the Governor General as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Yesterday, it was time to celebrate once again, as the former chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation and founder of The Circle of All Nations — who was honoured for a lifetime of promoting understanding of aboriginal culture — marked his 96th birthday, surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

As he accepted birthday wishes, Commanda said, with a laugh, “I don’t know how many more I got, maybe one, I don’t know.”

Grandfather William’s plans for the future include the establishment of a cultural, spiritual and educational centre on Victoria Island, near the Parliament buildings.

Architect Douglas Cardinal, who designed the proposed centre, told guests of repeated setbacks in trying to get it built.

“Every time we almost get the approval of a government, the government changes, and we have to re-educate everybody all over again,” he said, adding that Commanda’s persistence on the issue has been an inspiration.

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