Elsipogtog First Nation mourns the loss of Warrior Chief John Levi who fought against shale gas exploration

John Levi was a Mi'kmaw warrior chief for his Elsipogtog First Nation community.  (submitted by Toby Augustine - photo credit)

John Levi was a Mi’kmaw warrior chief for his Elsipogtog First Nation community. (submitted by Toby Augustine – photo credit)

The death of Mi’kmaw Warrior Chief John Levi has left his home community of Elsipogtog First Nation in grief, but his friends hope his legacy will last.

Levi died Sunday in the community, 56 kilometers north of Moncton, after a long battle with cancer. He was 54.

He is survived by his wife Toby Augustine, children and grandchildren.

“There will be a gap,” said his longtime friend and cousin Kenneth Francis.

Levi is best known as a water conservationist and land defender who fought against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.

In 2013, Texas-based Southwestern Energy (SWN) examined the profitability of the province’s shale gas industry, but many environmentalists — including many from nearby Elsipogtog — felt the environmental damage outweighed any economic benefits.

Levi was one of 12 people arrested at a demonstration and later pleaded guilty to obstructing a peace officer for interfering when an RCMP officer attempted to make an arrest. He was given a five-month suspended sentence and told to stay away from the SWN website.

He was hailed by his community for his leadership during the conflict and made a warrior chief by the nation.

After the conflict with SWN, Levi, Augustine, Kenneth Francis, and his sister Serena Francis formed Kopit Lodge, a grassroots group focused on protecting land and water throughout Mi’kma’ki (Mi’kmaw Territory).

“He really believed that we own our land and that we should benefit from the use of our land,” Kenneth Francis said.

For Serena Francis, Levi was her hero.

“The big part of that was the love, the passion he had for Toby and her family but also the love he had for Elsipogtog,” she said.

“He was an excellent role model and I hope that some people have seen that and strive to follow in his footsteps.”

“The friendliest guy ever”

In addition to being a champion of land and water, Levi was also an avid hunter and fisherman. He often took his nieces and nephews, including his godson, with him.

John Levi/Facebook

John Levi/Facebook

“He was a really nice man,” said his sister Charlene Labobe.

“You would look at him and think he was mean and grumpy, but he was like the friendliest guy ever.”

Labobe said her brother volunteered a lot, raising funds for the community freezer where residents could pick up moose meat if needed.

Levi also took action on issues in his community such as drugs, Mi’kmaw sovereignty and exercising his right to fish.

“He’s really contributed a lot to our community,” said Teagan Copage, an Elsipogtog First Nation councillor.

“Our Mi’kmaw nation has lost a great leader and mighty warrior.”

Levi’s funeral will be held in Elsipogtog on Saturday.


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