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Cowichan people mourn elder

Wes Modeste - Andrew Leong/file
Wes Modeste
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Cowichan Tribes elder, former chief, and Cowichan school board trustee Ernest Wesley (Wes) Modeste died Tuesday night in hospital after a losing his battle with cancer.

He was 71.

Services are set for Sunday and Monday for the traditional chief of the Quamichan people.

“Wes worked with the Cowichan Tribes community for years and years in different aspects,” said brother-in-law Chip Seymour.

“It’s such a loss to the whole community. “Back in the ‘70s Wes sat on council for years and years, and was involved with treaty talks, economic development, and land governance,” said Seymour who’s known Modeste for most of his life.

“I was 13 when he married my sister, Dianne.”

Long-time friend Don Maroc was also saddened by the death of Modeste who suffered a stroke about 2 1/2 years ago.

“I visited him hospital every day during the past 2 1/2 years and I never heard him say a negative thing.

“He’s a bigger-than-life guy.”

So big, Maroc and Modeste were planning to write a book about Cowichan culture before white contact, said veteran local journalist Maroc.

“Wes wanted to get the record down, and he admired the film work (about Cowichan people) Harold Joe Jr. has done.”

Maroc described his pal as a visionary who cherished his people’s oral traditions.

“Wes was always looking ahead to the future and didn’t dwell on the past. He was a great man.”

Prayers for Modeste happen Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Si’em Lelum Gym, followed by Monday’s funeral mass at 9:30 a.m.

Modest will be buried at St. Ann’s Cemetery on Tzouhalem Road.

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