Ernest Otis

Ernest Otis (1959 Speaker of Biigtigong Nishnaabemwin)

As a first-speaker of Nishnaabemwin, Ernie, as many referred him to, held the position of our Chief in 1940. As a leader, he served the whole community and understood the importance of relationships. His cooperative nature and value for harmony guided how he provided leadership throughout his life. He lived his life working towards the greater good of our community.

Ernie was a talented craftsman. Using the resources from the land and the teachings passed-on to him, Ernie created beautiful artwork in a variety of forms. His creativity was expressed in his woodwork and carvings. He was also a skilled snowshoe maker and an accomplished birch bark canoe builder. In 1947, he donated an 18-foot birch bark freighter canoe to the newly formed Marathon Boy Scout Troup; it was a prized possession amongst the scout troop. He continually encouraged his grandchildren and others to join him and was always willing to pass-on his knowledge and skills.

With his wife, Julie Fisher, they raised nine children. Ernie spent considerable time with his grandchildren. After waking up to a warm house and a hot breakfast, his grandchildren would join him by the lake. It was at the lake where he taught the importance of observing the natural world as a means of acquiring knowledge. Referring to the animals, birds, plants, rocks, and other elements, Ernie provided many lessons. As a trapper and an enthusiastic canoeist, Ernie was connected to the land and lived as one with the land. He emphasized our responsibility to live in harmony and balance with Mother Earth.