Doris McLean, “strong and bright light,” passes away at 77

Doris McLean, “strong and bright light,” passes away at 77

TORONTO, 2 FEBRUARY 2018, (CBNS)

Doris McLean, a well-loved member of the Baha’i community and a “keeper of culture” from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation has passed away at the age of 77.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada called Mrs. McLean a “pillar of the Baha’i community as well as the peoples of the Yukon,” and “a strong and bright light that has illumined the northern horizons.”

From 1988 to 1992 she served as Carcross/Tagish chief and spent much of her life working to advance Indigenous self-government and to preserve the Tagish language of her people. The National Assembly recalled her “fierce dedication to the principle of the oneness of humanity,” which she communicated as “an enchanting story teller” and through her “uncompromising advocacy for Indigenous rights and the preservation of language.”

Remembered as gifted storyteller, she worked to maintain the culture of her community by passing down the stories of her culture to the younger generations who could continue the tradition beyond her lifetime.

“Mrs. McLean was not only an inspiration, she was for me a dear friend. She was an incredibly experienced yet humble leader,” Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek said in a statement from the Assembly of First Nations.

“Her dedication and commitment to sharing her culture, sharing stories and bringing awareness to issues impacting our communities is commendable and will act as a legacy for the Yukon and beyond.”

Mrs. McLean was an active member of the Baha’i community in the Yukon. An avid traveller, Mrs. McLean attributed her trips to her discovery of the Baha’i Faith and working to teach the Faith in other regions of the globe through her stories.

Dr. Lynn Echevarria, in her study A New Skin for an Old Drum: Changing Contexts of Yukon Aboriginal Baha’i Storytelling, shared Mrs. McLean’s account of her travels.

“I’ve been to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Iran, Europe, Haifa four times, Russia, Finland, and Slovenia, and Italy.” she said. “I would never have gone to any of those places if I wasn’t a Baha’i. Especially as an Aboriginal Indian from Carcross, a village of 250 people at the best of times.”

Mrs. McLean served her community both as a member of the Baha’i Faith and as a cultural educator. She started the Skookum Jim/Keish Tlingit dance group in the 1970s and became the first Indigenous person to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms for the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

In the months before her passing, Mrs. McLean continued to be an enthusiastic participant in community life, contributing to the spirit of celebration surrounding the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, which was celebrated in localities throughout Canada and the world.

“Elder McLean spent so much of her time serving her family, and serving all her people in the important and essential role of Clan Matriarch,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement offering condolences to her friends and family. “She will be remembered for her many contributions to our people, to her nation and to the advancement of Modern Agreements in the Yukon that uphold First Nations rights. We offer thoughts and prayers to all who knew her.”