Northern News Services
In a church service which lasted nearly four hours, one by one, those close to Chief Eddie Paul Rabesca took turns paying respect to the life-long community leader.
Daniel Marion was one of about 900 people who came from near and far to remember Rabesca.
"All the people the chief dealt with over the years were there," Marion said of the service, which overflowed into the nearby senior's centre.
"Nobody was in a rush. People wanted to speak."
A fly-over by airplanes and a gun salute was part of the service, as was a Rangers honour guard for the former member.
A spiritual drum dance concluded the funeral.
Marion recalled the many years Rabesca worked tirelessly for his community and people.
"The people trusted him. In 27 years, he never failed an election," Marion said.
Describing him as "a natural leader in the community," Marion went on to say Rabesca could never be described as a tough-skinned politician, but instead one who helped and gave when he could.
"He gave a lot of things away. Now that he is gone, we can all look back and think of all the things he did," Marion said.
The list of Rabesca's accomplishments is long.
First elected to the band council in 1974, he eventually entered the position of chief in 1991. Rabesca served as Rae's deputy mayor and was a member of the Economic Development Committee, the Dogrib Community Services board, Nishi Khon Forestry Services, the Dogrib Nation group of companies and the Behcho Ko Development Corp.
Rabesca also worked as community negotiator during the development of the Tlicho agreement and was an executive member of the Treaty 11 council.
In the funeral program, Rabesca was eulogized as being one who "taught his family the importance of values and their beliefs. The most important thing that he taught his children, was to believe in themselves and not to listen to what others think or say."
NWT Premier Joe Handley said Rabesca was a man for whom he had "a tremendous amount of respect."
"He was a quiet man and did not want a high profile. Instead, he worked in the background.
"He was a key player in the Tlicho agreement," Handley said.
As well, Rabesca's rationalism and common sense approach means he will be missed in "a big way" in Rae and far beyond, Handley said.
"I appreciated his sense of humour and his understanding of issues."