Hundreds packed the Tsawwassen First Nation Longhouse on Tuesday morning to remember the life of Chief Ken Baird.
Chief Swənnəset, 61, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on Aug. 3 after a courageous battle with cancer.
He served as an elected leader in the Tsawwassen Legislature since 2009, including one term as squiqel (Speaker) of the Legislature from 2013 to 2016.
He was elected chief in 2019 and was determined to run again, said his sister Kim Baird during her touching eulogy, remembering her brother as very appreciative of his culture and identity and proud of his Tsawwassen heritage.
Kim Baird, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Chancellor and a former TFN chief, shared her views of Ken as a family member, friend, colleague and leader.
She recalled her older brother’s younger days, describing him as occasionally mischievous, but also hard working.
She also said he was not always verbal with his sentiments, but always had a tender side.
Meticulous in nature, which was reflected in his love of music and cars, she noted Ken enjoyed taking on a mentorship role after getting into management with the First Nation’s public works department.
He always wanted to be remembered as a great fisherman before being elected chief.
She said becoming chief had fulfilled him in a way that was deeply transformational, and it didn’t take long for him to earn great respect by other civic, provincial and federal leaders.
“He loved his community and people, and he always had his people on the forefront of his mind,” she said.
Despite his lack of political experience, he provided to be a tough negotiator with such organizations as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
Recalling whimsical stories as well as challenging times, Kim also said her brother had an ability to instantly connect with people including those he just met.
She also described him as stubborn, something which helped carry him through his cancer journey and evident in his determination to run again for chief.
Following the eulogy and a slide show of Ken’s life, Tsawwassen First Nation drummers, as well as drummers from other First Nations, played and sang in his honour.
Those in attendance were told Ken Baird didn’t want a church service but to honour his people’s customs and traditions. They were told they need to be grateful for their time with him and their time with each other.
A traditional blanket, which had been made for him for a recent ceremony, was draped over his coffin.
Before joining his ancestors, it was removed, along with photos and flowers, for a procession that took him on a final walk around the Longhouse and then to the Tsawwassen Cemetery.
Ken Baird’s family in a message thanked everyone for their support following his passing.