To his friends, David Dennis will always be the one who, even as a child, took on the establishment.
“His mother told me about a story of how he was confronting teachers and the principal about racism and this is as a child,” said long time friend Sakej Ward
His friends and family say as he grew, he became more outspoken and not afraid to stand up for his beliefs.
Dennis was one of the founding members of the Native Youth Movement and the Westcoast Warriors Society.
The warriors travelled everywhere – from Burnt Church in New Brunswick supporting Indigenous lobster fishers to blockading on the land for Indigenous rights and calling an inquiry to look into violence against Indigenous women.
Dennis, 46, died from health complications on May 29 after battling liver disease.
Originally from the Nuu’chah’nulth Nation, Dennis lived in Vancouver and had five children.
“He used to be in a fight, he used to be a leader,” said his youngest child Izzy, 7.
Ward says his friend was many things to many people.
“Dave was a warrior,” says Ward. “We know Dave as a political leader and a social leader Dave was obviously a great father he was a great friend to so many people and Dave was also this kind of person that connects with people and uplifts them and gives them inspiration.”
His last fight took the last year of his life.
After being diagnosed with liver disease he wasn’t eligible to be on a donor list because of the abstinence rule – so he fought the medical system to change what he called “systemic racism.”
The rule was eventually removed – but Dennis couldn’t get on the list.
“There is a lot of discrimination in the healthcare system and you know we are just so upset that the care that Dave needed didn’t come soon enough,” said Ginger Gosnell, a long time friend.
Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said Dennis was like a son to him and he admired his leadership.
“David was an absolutely dynamic charismatic leader who for the very first time gave the young people a voice,” said Phillip.
“When I see Indigenous activism today I see Dave in every single person that steps forward and he created space for all of us to have that warrior spirit.”