I heard of Leonard George's passing after the fact and was very sad. A great and generous soul no longer on the earthly plane, but his spirit lives on.
I met Leonard on a handful of occasions. We didn't really engage in conversation. It was always me wanting something from him and him giving his time, energy and voice, freely.
When I was a student at Douglas College in the early 80s, Leonard came and spoke and sang in an Ethnic Minorities class. He made a great impression on me.
In the mid-80s, when I was a music student at SFU, I contacted Leonard and asked him if I could record him singing and his powerful oration about being humble like the water for a music project. He said, Yes.
When I was a student teacher in Vancouver, I asked if he would come and teach the students a song and dance. He said, Yes.
When I became a teacher, I asked if he would come and present for our school. He said, Yes, even though, at that point, he was recovering from throat cancer. He could not sing but he told stories.
When I ran into him 10 or 12 years ago in North Van, I introduced myself and mentioned the things he had done for me. I thought he probably wouldn't remember me; our meetings had taken place over many years. I reminded him that I had recorded him singing and asked if I could teach my students the song. He said, Yes.
We exchanged few words on meeting. The two words he spoke to me each time were Yes and also No. No to any money that I offered him in exchange for his services. To me, he truly was a complete lover, a complete servant of mankind and humble like the water.
Since so much time had passed, I wanted to ask permission again to teach The Chief Dan George Prayer Song I had recorded him singing. I procrastinated and then it was too late. I have a feeling, had I contacted him and asked permission, he would have said, Yes.
Here are Leonard's words recorded in 1986 or 1987.
The native people were governed by a spirituality in that the leader of all tribes and nations of people in North America were holy men and holy women, people who regarded themselves as an instrument of the Creator's works.
In order to become an instrument of the Creator's works, one had to be a complete lover, a complete servant of mankind, and
one did that by learning how to become humble, like the water.
The water always seeks the most lowliest places on earth when it comes down as rain, it hits and it lands and it begins its journey.
The water runs beneath us, it runs beneath this building. And yet, it's relentless in its effort, it's always ongoing, it's never stopping, and, if so desires, has the power to move a mountain.