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Mount Currie councillor found dead

Bruce Edmonds was a leader in First Nations community

Mount Currie is mourning the death of a respected band councillor and up-and-coming leader.

Bruce Edmonds, a Lil'wat artist whose work adorns the doors of the lodge at Whistler Olympic Park, was found dead in his vehicle on the afternoon of Feb. 10, according to a news release from the band.

The news was shocking for a community of about 2,000 people who saw him as a rising leader after serving on council and tending to various portfolios. The community is calling the death a "very sensitive matter" and requests "privacy and respect" during a mourning period.

Mourning periods often last a week in Mount Currie, depending on the standing of the individual and the wishes of his family. It's believed that most business will shut down on the reserve, including the operations of the band office. The community also rings a sacred bell that used to sit atop a church that no longer stands on the reserve.

Edmonds's death came just three days after he presided over one of the biggest days in Mount Currie's history. On Saturday, Feb. 6 the comunity welcomed the Olympic torch relay to the reserve as it hosted an opening at Ullus, a new community hall with offices, council chambers and a gymnasium.

Edmonds served as MC for the event, providing greetings in English and Ucwalmícwts, the language spoken fluently by about 70 Lil'wat members. He spoke to the community as torchbearers took their places outside the community centre. Later he spoke again as the flame was lit before hundreds of members.

Few, if any, saw his death coming. The RCMP did not return a request for comment about the incident.

The Olympics were to be a prime opportunity to show Edmonds's work as a carver. He was one of more than 90 aboriginal artists who took part in the Vancouver 2010 Venues' Aboriginal Art Program, which aimed to celebrate indigenous art by displaying it at Olympic venues.

He carved the front doors of the Whistler Olympic Park day lodge and his work is on display at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. He carved both canoes that are hanging from the ceiling and helped with the design of the centre's doors.

More recently Edmonds led First Nations youth in a summer paddle-carving program, teaching inexperienced youth how to succeed at traditional carvings.

Outside his work as an artist, Edmonds occupied a prominent role as a councillor for the Mount Currie Band. Back in 2005, in his first term on council, he handled the wellness portfolio, one he chose himself.

In that role he helped establish the Winds of Change Committee, a joint committee with the Village of Pemberton that aimed to tackle drug- and alcohol-related issues in the Pemberton Valley. That committee recently passed its five-year anniversary.

Edmonds was the top vote-getter in March's band council election with 318 votes. He came third in the race for chief, behind incumbent Chief Leonard Andrew and challenger Lyle Leo.