"This page is dedicated to all those historical and contemporary Visionary/Warrior Heroes who continue to impact Indigenous communities by their wise words and brave acts in the defense of their people. Visionaries, Warrior Chiefs, Orators, Singers, Dancers, Speakers, Educators. By every word and action,they kept and continue to keep in mind always the greater good of Indigenous People all over Turtle Island. May their spirits stay forever strong. All My Relations." (Thunderbird)



Mi'kmaq - March 27, 1934 - 1975 

Born on March 27, 1934. Raised in Canada's Mi'kmaq  culture and religion, her treatment at an off-reserve school where she faced overwhelming racism led to her involvement in the American Indian Movement (AIM).  She was among the Native militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff with federal authorities in 1973. Aquash, 30, disappeared in late 1975 from a home where she had been staying in Denver.

At the Pine Ridge morgue, a doctor and nurse found blood on Anna May's head. However, BIA pathologist Dr. W. O. Brown, described the case as “awfully routine,” reported no blood, and concluded the woman had died from “exposure” two weeks earlier, in early February. The FBI refused to identify her even though they'd interviewed her just week earlier. On their instructions, Brown severed the victim’s hands for later identification and approved a quick burial without death certificate or burial permit. Her parents in Nova Scotia were advised she died of 'natural causes'. Her family requested a second autopsy and the body was exhumed where it was determined that the bulge in her head was from a  .32 calibre bullet shot at close range to the back of her head. She had, in other words, been assassinated.

The FBI now claims that she was assassinated by American Indian Movement member, John Graham as it was suspected she was an FBI informant. They claim she was kidnapped from her home in December of 1975, by Graham, Looking Cloud and another AIM member, Theda Clark. 

John Grahan, Native of the Yukon and father of eight had been living quietly in Vancouver was charged in the United States on March 30, 2003, along with Arlo Looking Cloud with the first-degree murder of Anna Mae in 1975. Arlo Looking Cloud is currently in prison convicted of aiding and abetting the murder. He received a mandatory life sentence on April 23, 2004 even though there was no physical evidence linking him to being even present at the crime.

On June 22, 2006 John Graham's extradition to the United States to face charges on his alleged involvement in the murder was ordered by Canada's Minister of Justice. Graham appealed this order and was held under house arrest, with conditions. In July 2007, a Canadian court denied his appeal, and upheld his extradition order to the U.S. He was denied the right to appeal the decision, denied the right to call his lawyer as he rushed across the border into Washington State. It seems Canada wanted to get rid of the "Indian Problem" with all speed including the violation of his basic human rights. He continues to deny any involvement. He remains in Pennington County Jail.



Master Métis Fiddler
(The following taken from his website

Originally from the Debden - Big River area of Saskatchewan, John now makes his home on acreage southwest of Saskatoon. He started playing fiddle at the age six, with coaching from his Father and Grandfather and by age twelve he was playing for dances. His impeccable sense of timing and flowing rhythm comes from learning to watch the dancers feet at this early age and from this he developed and refined a style of playing that has helped him become a legend in the fiddle world. People often refer to him as the “dancer’s choice”!

John has made fourteen recordings to date, and still plays and records the Traditional Métis tunes of his Father and Grandfather as well as those he continues to research, learn and pass on.   He is also a prolific writer having composed over 300 original tunes. Along with a busy performing schedule, John is active as a guest artist and judge at fiddle contests, is in demand as an instructor at many fiddle camps and has a growing list of private students. He and his wife travel extensively promoting the Métis culture through workshops and performances and do many school and youth presentations each year.

John is an avid collector of fiddles and accessories and a qualified Luthier who has been making fiddles for many years. The art of fiddle making is not a common one and his “original” instruments are much sought after. He also offers repairs and can provide appraisals.

John has spent his lifetime promoting and preserving the traditions of Fiddle Métis and Dance and old time fiddling.  His contribution to the music world encompasses the preservation of these traditions, and his on-going efforts to offer a venue where all of this can be seen, appreciated and shared - The John Arcand Fiddle Fest. Held annually on the second weekend of August on his acreage, the John Arcand Fiddle Fest has become one of the major fiddle events in Western Canada, celebrating it’s 10th anniversary in 2007.

His proudest achievement  include being selected as one of 27 people world wide to represent Western Canada at the Fiddles of the World Conference in Halifax in 1999. Being chosen as a delegate in an Irish/ Métis Cultural Exchange in 2001 where he played for and met the President of Ireland. And, of course playing for and meeting the Queen at the Lieutenant Governor’s Centennial Gala in Saskatoon in 2005.

His passions for the preservation of the Métis Traditions, old time fiddling and work with youth have been recognized by his peers and resulted in him being honoured with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Arts and Culture, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for his “Outstanding Contribution to Old Time Fiddling.” from the Canadian Grand Masters in 2003. In 2004 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Inaugural Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Arts Awards. In 2005 the Province of Saskatchewan honoured him with the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, and in the Spring of 2006 he received the Cultural Diversity and Race Relations “Living in Harmony” Award from the City of Saskatoon.

To see John perform is to see a man serious about his music and in harmony with all that is good.   From playing for the Queen of England to “jamming” with regular folk – John is happiest and most at home with a fiddle in his hand.



Irish-Algonquin -  Born July 6, 1930

#10, Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs put Armstrong on their protected list while he was playing with the Copper Cliff Jr. Redmen of the NOHA in 1946-47. The following season, when the Leafs Junior A affiliate in Stratford needed an additional player, Armstrong was assigned to go. He promptly led the league in scoring with 73 points in 36 games and won the most valuable player award. The Maple Leafs wasted no time in re-assigning him to their main junior affiliate, the Toronto Marlboros of the OHA, for the 1948-49 season.

Armstrong was moved up to the senior Marlies in time for the 1949 Allan Cup. It was during the Allan Cup tournament that the Marlies visited the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta. When the band heard of Armstrong ancestral background they dubbed him Big Chief Shoot the Puck and presented him with a ceremonial headdress.

He played the majority of his first two pro seasons with the Leafs' AHL farm team in Pittsburgh before making the big club for good at the start of the 1952-53 season. Armstrong was never a great skater but was rarely out of position; he knew how to play the angles on the opposing forwards and was a great corner man in the offensive zone. He never attained the scoring heights in the NHL as he had in his junior and senior days but Armstrong brought determination, leadership, and humour to a Leafs squad.

Armstrong was named captain of the Leafs to start the 1957-58 season and was called by Conn Smythe "the best captain, the Leafs have ever had." Smythe later honoured him by naming one of his horses Big Chief Army, something Smythe had done on only two other occasions for Charlie Conacher and Jean Beliveau.

After his retirement, Armstrong coached the Toronto Marlboros to Memorial Cup victories in 1972-73 and 1974-75 before accepting a scouting position with the Quebec Nordiques in 1978. Armstrong was with the Nordiques for nine years before returning to Toronto as assistant general manager and scout in 1988. His first year back was an eventful one and Armstrong found himself in the uncomfortable role as interim replacement coach for the final 47 games of the 1988-89 season. By the next year he had returned to his preferred role as a scout for the organization, primarily covering the Ontario Hockey League in the Toronto area.

George Armstrong was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
(Information obtained from:


Rock Woman, 'Asini-iskiw', Cree

Evangeline Redcrow Cardinal is now an Elder to her people.  She was born in the bush and shortly after the Elders named her 'Rock Woman.'  It is a fitting name. She has been in a number of films relating to residential schools, Native women and related subjects. 

She began as a cook at Poundmaker Treatment Centre and rose through counselor, senior counselor and eventually Director.  She left Poundmaker to work on the Sacred Circle project in the Edmonton Public School District.  With only a 7th grade residential school education, she eventually went to college and earned her degree.  She graduated in her 60's.  She is retired from EPSD now, after more than 20 years, and living back on the reserve. As a speaker she has recounted her harrowing journey as she survived residential school. She was determined to keep preserve her cultural identity and language. She and two other Survivors were the stars of a film, entitled, "The Learning Path."  Part of the description of the film is as follows:

"Generations of native children were taught in schools that to be native was somehow wrong. Exposed to racism, ridicule and overt disdain for native culture and traditions, they were made to feel inferior, even criminal. For today's generation of native students, these painful experiences need not be repeated. Native Canadians now have control over their own system of formal education and, to help restore what for many was lost, the classroom curricula includes studies that will ensure the continued survival of the native identity. In the film, we meet three remarkable educators. In their own unique ways, Edmonton elders Ann Anderson, Eva Cardinal and Olive Dickason are leading younger natives along the path of enlightenment. Documentary footage, dramatic re-enactments and archival film inter-weave the three women's stories, and Anderson and Cardinal recount their own harrowing experiences at residential schools; memories which have fueled their determination to preserve their native languages and identities. Along their paths we learn not just of the legacy that still plagues native education; we also learn of the strength with which it has been overcome."




Born July 20, 1950, Fort McMurray, ON - Cree (Metis)

Twenty-Five years in film makes Tantoo the most recognizable Indigenous actress in television and movies. Nonetheless it has been difficult for her to find roles as Hollywood is less forgiving in creating roles for strong Indigenous women. Like all high-profile Native people, she works hard to offset the stereotypical attitudes and understandings people have about Turtle Island's First People.  "You don't come through generations and generations of genocide and holocaust to be portrayed as monotoned and one-sided characters. That's just not possible!" For example, Maclean's magazine declared her Actress of the Year in 1991. In 1993 she was given the American Indian Film Festival Best Actress award. She also received the first Rudy Martin Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Native American in Film for her roles in Legends of the Fall, and The Education of Little Tree. Toronto Women in Film and Television honoured Tantoo with an Outstanding Achievement Award. And for her appearance on North of 60 she won a 1996 Gemini award for best performance by an actress in a guest role, dramatic series. In 2006, Tantoo was honoured by the City of Edmonton by being added to their Dreamspeakers Walk of Honour.



Algonquin, Quebec -  Born: 1913

'Grandfather of the Algonquins". William Commanda is the most senior Elder of the Algonquin Nation of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (River Desert Band), Quebec. He is now best known for sharing his spiritual beliefs and teachings of equality, harmony among peoples and respect for Mother Earth. He urges people to achieve a better balance between their priorities, values and responsibilities and to seek reconciliation and peace.

Commanda was born in 1913 in Kitigan Zibi, near Maniwaki, Quebec. Like his great-grandfather Chief Pakinawatik, he is also a keeper of several Algonquin wampum belts which are records of prophecies and historical treaties. Commanda is one of relatively few Elders in North America who hold their Nations' traditional prophecies and oral histories.

Elder, Commanda began teaching about the messages of the wampum belts in 1987 at the fourth First Ministers Conference on inherent rights and self-government for Aboriginal people. He was invited in 1990 to provide a traditional blessing of the Canadian Human Rights Monument in Ottawa (on traditional Algonquin territory) with the Dalai Lama. In 1998, Elder Commanda participated in a ceremony at which he presented then South African President Nelson Mandela with an eagle feather on behalf of the First Nations of Canada.

That same year, Commanda organized "Elders Without Borders," a gathering of Aboriginal Elders and spiritual leaders from both North and South America. Over the last 20 years, he has made presentations and performed the traditional pipe ceremonies at both Canadian and international conferences in Switzerland, France, Germany, Denmark, the United States, Mexico and Japan, in addition to participating at the United Nations and the World Council of Churches.

In November 1998, Elder Commanda was presented with the Wolf Award for his contributions to racial harmony and cross-cultural teachings.



Ohiyesa, Wahpeton Dakota
February 19, 1858 - January 8, 1939.

Physician, autobiographer, storyteller, essayist and lecturer. He was raised in the traditional manner as a Woodland Lakota by his Grandmother (1858-1874). Interestingly, this part of his life was spent in Manitoba where his band had fled following the Dakota defeat in 1862. He was thoroughly and eloquently conversant in the language, culture and oral history of his people. His father insisted he be given a 'white' education and thus he attended Dartmouth and Boston University medical school. He was the only medic available at the original Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 when women and children of Chief Bigfoot's band were ruthlessly hunted down by the seventh cavalry and massacred. 150 died, 44 wounded. The cavalry brought back about a dozen wounded and left them to freeze in wagons in a blizzard while Eastman pleaded to have them brought into a nearby church for treatment. The spent the night treating the wounded and the next day organized a rescue trip in the same blizzard back to the massacre sight. They found piles of frozen dead and some in the last stages of life. "It took all my nerve to keep my composure in the face of this spectacle, and of the excitement and grief of my Indian companions, nearly every one of whom was crying aloud or singing his death song."

He was an original, a literate Native who could write eloquently about both his traditional and contemporary lives in the red and white worlds. He wanted to be a doctor because he saw it as the best way he could be in service to his people. After the Wounded Knee massacre he was unable to steep himself wholly in white culture despite immense pressure to do so and spent the rest of his life trying to reconcile the two worlds. He would not  abandon the beauty and power of his LakHota culture.



October 23, 1913 - February 8, 2014, Prince Rupert, B.C.
Coast Tsimshian

Thunderbird and Kate's Mom. Past to the spirit world at the ripe young age of one hundred years. This photo was taken when she was eighteen years old. She broke new ground back in the 1930's and 40's as an opera singer and concert pianist; there were no First Nations artists to be found in the "grand arts" in that period. Racism was rampant. She sang for the troops in "Theatre Under the Stars" in Vancouver during the 1940's performing the role of Yum Yum from The Mikado numerous times. Her lyric soprano voice was magical, Thunderbird is fortunate to have inherited some of it. She was also a master puppeteer, creating, designing and making a three-hundred marionette cast of unforgettable characters. As children, Thunderbird and her Sister, Kate, travelled with Gandoox all over British Columbia bringing singing, dancing shows and the puppet theatre to  enthusiastic audiences everywhere. She was a scholar, writer, intellectual, choir-mistress, skilled seamstress and costume-maker and on and on. She triumphed even though she suffered impossible racism during her early life. If the truth be known, she was born way before her time but even so managed to make a difference in the thousands of lives she touched in over sixty years of healing circles, seminars and workshops.



July 24, 1899 - September 23, 1981

Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh. Salish First Nations in British Columbia until 1963. Academy-award nominated actor, author, mystic and residential school survivor. He was sixty-years old when he first started acting and spent his career working to promote a better understanding of Indigenous people. He was probably best known for his Oscar-nominated role in the movie, Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. He wrote two books: My Spirit Soars,  My Heart Soars.

Lament for Confederation

"How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, Oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.

For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said 'come, come and eat of my abundance.' I have known you in the freedom of the winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.

But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man's strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.

When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.

My nation was ignored in your history textbooks - they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank your fire-water, I got drunk - very, very drunk. And I forgot.

Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what's past and gone.

Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.

Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man's success-his education, his skills- and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.

Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.

So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations. "


Salish - Born 1957

Chief Leonard George (youngest Son of the late Chief Dan George) is the primary leader and was the elected chief, between 1989-2001 of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (which translates as "People of the inlet") in Burrard Inlet, British Columbia. A Coast Salish, George is a lecturer, humorist, film and script consultant, and actor in such films as Americathon, Shadow of the Hawk, White Fang, and Little Big Man. He is also a traditional Native singer and dancer. He worked for seven years as executive director of the Vancouver Aboriginal Centre, which provided support for urban Natives. He is now the Chief Negotiator and CEO of Takaya Developments.

Honours: Governor General of Canada Citizen's Medal of Honour


Cree Nation, Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba.
 March 3, 1947 - May 17, 2013

He was elected chief of the Red Sucker Lake First Nations in 1978 and served in that capacity for four years.  In 1981 he was the first Indigenous person to be elected as a provincial politician. Her served as Minister of Northern Affairs until 1988 when the Provincial government headed by Howard Pawley was defeated.  His fame came as a result of courageously standing up in the Manitoba Legislature in 1990. He held an Eagle Feather and refused to accept the Meech Lake Accord.  The accord had been negotiated in 1987 with no input from Canada's First People.  Mr. Harper objected to this appalling lack of inclusion. As a result, the Canadian Constitution was not amended as it required agreement from all ten provinces. He ran as a Liberal in 1993 and was elected to Parliament until 1997 when he was defeated. He has received numerous awards including: Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award in 1991; National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 1996. He is still in demand as a speaker and is active in Aboriginal justice issues and Indigenous spirituality.  He is a very special and brave man.



Mohawk, born 1940

A prominent Native activist since the 1960's, she was one of over fifty Native people charged with precipitating a riot and obstructing the Canadian army and police at OKA in 1990. A strong, Mohawk woman, who fought to be heard in a manner that, no doubt, pleases her female Ancestors. As her name says, she has spent a lifetime making the grass wave on behalf of her people. The following is reprinted from the Canadian Encyclopedia.

"Kahn-Tineta Horn, meaning "she makes the grass wave" in Mohawk, political activist, fashion model, civil servant (b at New York City, NY 16 Apr 1940), member of the Mohawk Wolf Clan of Kahnawake, Québec. She attracted national attention to native causes in the 1960s and early 1970s by her lively and controversial criticisms of Indian conditions. She had already been a model and public speaker for some years when in 1964 she was fired from her posts in the National Indian Council in a controversy over policy and organization of centennial celebrations. Throughout the 1960s she took part in numerous Indian protests, including one in which she dumped rats in a government meeting to illustrate illegal dumping on her reserve. She advocated "Indian apartheid" or separate development, including preservation of the reserve system, teaching by natives only, and the banning of Indian-white intermarriage. She founded and directed the Indian Legal Defense Committee from 1967-1971. Since 1972 she has held various positions in the social, community and educational development policy sections of the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs,"

In her own words: "The root of the word 'society' is 'friendship' and 'companionship'. This concept is the basis of the Kaienerekowa, the Great Law of Peace, the Constitution of the Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy. The Great Law is a way of life that was given to us as we saw it. It's how we are to relate to the universe, which is the way that I have tried to live."



Mohawk, born 1975

Born on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory reserve in 1975 to Kahn-Tineta Horn, Waneek has led a vibrant life in the service of her people. Always, keeping in mind that she is a proud Mohawk, she set out to prove it using her athleticism as one of the gateways. She comes from a family of high achievers, with three sisters pursuing varying aspects of higher education and in the theatre. In 1990, when she was fourteen years of age, she was bayoneted by a Canadian soldier during the OKA crisis while holding her four year-old sister, Kanieti:io. She till bears the scar on her chest to this day. Rather than becoming embittered by the experience, she chose to use it to help realize her dreams of becoming an Olympian which she did in Water Polo, Sydney, 2000. She and her team were triumphant gold medalists at the 1999 Pan Am Games. Over the years, she has won enough gold medals to start her own mint! She travels widely speaking to children and youth about pursuing higher education and is currently the Co-Ordinator of First People's House, McGill University. One of her favourite themes is that Indigenous youth need not sacrifice who they are in order to achieve better lives.



Born: October 3, 1927 - January 8, 2013)

Generally regarded as Canada's foremost Inuit artist. Since her first print appeared in a 1959 collection, she has established an international reputation; her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. Although most widely renowned for her prints, two of which have appeared on Canadian postage stamps, Kenojuak has worked in a variety of two- and three-dimensional media, including sewing, sculptures, copperplate engravings, paintings and drawings. She was among the first group of Canadians to receive the prestigious Order Canada Medal of Service, an award honoring achievements in all fields of Canadian life. Elected into the Royal Canadian Academy in 1974, Kenojuak has also been awarded numerous commissions, including the mural for the 1970 World's Fair.



Onandaga, Six Nations of the Grand River
June 4, 1887-January 9, 1949

One of the most famous Olympic athletes. In 1999, he was named by McLean's Magazine as athlete of the twentieth century. He was a dominant long distance runner beginning his career in 1905.  He was a world champion long-distance runner and won the Boston Marathon in 1907 in record time. In 1909 he won the world professional marathon championships in New York. At the age of twenty-nine he set aside his celebrity and enlisted in the military. He became a dispatch carrier with the107th Pioneer Battalion in France. He ran messages and orders between units.  He was wounded twice and nearly died once. He returned to Canada in 1919. He died in 1949 at the age of sixty-two. He is a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.


Ojibwe - Born:  June 21, 1942

Born on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. It was her case that was fought all the way to the Supreme Court that eventually repealed the Canadian Indian Act to re-enfranchise those Native women who lost their Native status for marrying non-Native men. She is a founding member of the Ontario Native Women's Association.



(Maliseet, Activist). Sandra Lovelace was born on the Tobique Reserve in New Brunswick in 1947

In 1970 she married American Airman Bernie Lovelace and moved with him to California. When her marriage ended a few years later, Lovelace and her children returned to the Tobique Reserve and found they were denied housing, education and health care provided to those with status under Canada's Indian Act. It took her nearly ten years to have her status restored. Lovelace took her case to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. The Committee acted slowly, the Canadian government acted slowly. In August 14, 1979 the Committee asked for more information and allowed the Canadian government to defend its actions. The Canadian government claimed that it would like to change the law, but did not feel it could without the agreement of First Nations people, who were divided on the issue. Ultimately she was successful which shows how one person can correct an injustice and change the law of a nation. Awarded the Order of Canada in 1992 she now sits in the  Senate as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada.




Coast Tsimshian, December 29, 1941 - January 18, 2009
Thunderbird and Kate's Brother, Shannie and Erin's Uncle

A fierce Canadian patriot and brilliant scholar, Lieutenant Colonel Marmo dedicated his  life, from the age of eighteen in the service of his country, first in the Armed Forces for  over thirty years, in which he became a leader as regards Canada's National security. After retiring from the military in 1990 after twenty-six years of loyal service, he moved full-time into national (homeland) security working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). He spoke five languages and was one of the first during the Cold War years to be able to speak fluent Russian. His language facility brought him to the attention of the federal government and set him on the road to military and national security fame. His actions, decisions, policies, and sheer brilliance are legendary in the higher echelons of this country earning him fiercely loyal friends.  LCol. Marmo, also studied for more than two years during his graduate studies years at Carleton University under the tutelage of former Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson. He received a PhD in History.

Like his Tsimshian Warrior Sisters, he feared no one, and his eccentricities were such that he didn't always bother to concern himself with the political  correctness needed to succeed in places like Ottawa. Yet, succeed he did. He marched to his own drummer, made an enormous difference by making the Army a better place, particularly after the Somalian debacle in the 1990's (a whole dramatic story unto itself). He managed to traverse the often treacherous hallways of Ottawa reasonably unscathed for twenty-six years before finally calling it a day! He walked the walk, talked the talk, never wavered in the love of his country and people loved him for it. He was given a full military funeral in Ottawa. I was honoured to stand at his graveside and sing the Tsimshian Warrior's Lament.

"I had a great visit with LCol Colin Marmo and on behalf of the Army thanked him for his remarkable service to the nation and all of us. I presented him with the Army coin, to which he was thrilled, proud and quite emotional. We had a great chat covering all of our past moments together, and received well reasoned advice on how to equip the army of the future, and some thoughts on junior artillery officer training....On behalf of us all I wished him god speed and peace on his last adventure. He is very proud to have served the Guns and Canada and he sends to his many friends his best wishes."
(LGen Andrew Leslie, Chief of Land Staff - January 15, 2009
Photo abover: General Leslie and his Adjutant salute Colin at his funeral)

On January 23, 2009, at his military funeral, the Canadian flag flew at half mast as Lieutenant Colonel Colin William Marmo was laid to rest in the beautiful and historic Beechwood Cemetery, National Military Section in Ottawa, ON.

 To paraphrase the words of the great Shawnee Warrior, Tecumseh,

"Colin's purpose was in the service of the Canadian people. He prepared a noble death song for the day when he went over the great divide. He always gave a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. He showed respect to all people and bowed to none.

When it came for his time to die, he was not like those whose hearts were filled with the fear of death, so that when their time came they wept and prayed for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. He sang his death song and died like a hero going home."

All My Relations.

Stand Easy, Brother, you served your people and your country well. Our Ancestors are well pleased.



Oglala Lakota - Born: November 10, 1939 - October 22, 2012

Russell Means was the first national director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) a role that brought him to prominence during 1972 standoff with the US government at Wounded Knee. In 1987, he joined the US Libertarian party and announced his candidacy for the party's presidential nomination. (He lost the nomination to Congressman Ron Paul.) Since 1992, Means has appeared in the film, "The Last of the Mohicans, " "Natural Born Killers" and other movies. He has championed the rights of indigenous peoples in other countries as well as the United States.

Passive protests at the annual Denver parade honouring Christopher Columbus has been going on for over twenty years.  The latest was on October 6, 2007 when according to Reuters, "About 75 protesters, including American Indian Lakota activist Russell Means, were arrested on Saturday after blocking Denver's downtown parade honoring the Italian-born discoverer Christopher Columbus, an event they denounced as "a celebration of genocide." Like all prominent, outspoken people, he had his fans, and he had his detractors. But, he walked his walk his way.



Copper Thunderbird, Ojibwa
March 14, 1931 - December 4, 2007

Founder of the Woodlands School of Canadian Art, Mr. Morrisseau lived a life that was often tortured but always creative. He was a residential school survivor. He was a self-taught artist who was known for his thick black lines, bold colours and depictions of shamanic stories stemming from his Ojibwa heritage. He helped keep his culture alive and vibrant even though in his early days he was criticized by his own people for painting pictures about Ojjbwa spirituality. He had deep knowledge of Ojibwe oral narratives and his life was a combination of mysticism and the magical world of the Spirit Doctor although he eventually converted to Christianity. He was the founder of the Woodland style of artistic expression, and was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978. He is also a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. His work will live to the end of time.  Travel well, Mr. Morrisseau, you've done well and we are grateful and honoured for your presence in the world. Your Ancestors are pleased and your life was finished in beauty.



Ojibwa, born April  7, 1958

Born on the Garden River Ojibwa First Nation near Sault Ste Marie, Ted is currently the head coach of the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League. As a player he played for both the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburg Penquins.  His head coaching career began in 1988 when he headed the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds where he remained until 1994. He led the Greyhounds to three Memorial cup finals, taking the coveted trophy in 1993. He became an Assistant Coach with the Hartford Whalers in 1994, then assumed head coaching duties with the Buffalo Sabres the following year ending it with the Northeast division title. However, the off-ice drama overshadowed the triumph, with Nolan locked in a toxic situation with the Sabrers brass and hotshot, temperamental goalie Dominic Hasek. Nolan eventually turned down an, in his words, "insulting" offer to extend his contract and his days with the Sabres were over.

Racism reigned supreme and after that he couldn't get arrested in the NHL, and languished for eight years before the Islanders came calling. In the intervening years he returned to Triple A hockey and coached the Moncton Wildcats. The 2005 Memorial Cup was hosted by Moncton and Nolan endured terrible racial slurs and insults from the so-called fans. It left him angry and humiliated. Throughout it all, he traveled widely speaking to Native youth and encouraging them to stay in school and not be afraid to reach for their dreams.  

He has coached the Islanders to winning seasons in his two years as Head Coach.  Classy Move: He brought back long time Islander Head Coach, Al Arbour on November 3, 2007 to coach his 1500th game. Nice.  Ted founded the Ted Nolan Foundation to encourage Indigenous youth to combine education and athletics to help secure better lives.  He broke new ground and in so doing endured racism and rage, but kept his head up and is now a  great role model for Indigenous youth everywhere. Both his sons are top notch hockey players with one in the NHL and the other in Triple A.  He is back as a Head Coach, guess where?  Buffalo Sabres. However, he was eventually fired on April 12, 2015.




Cree - 1952-1971

In 1971, the nineteen-year old Cree student was abducted,  raped and murdered in La Pas, Manitoba. Despite knowing the truth, townspeople refused to to help. Four young local white men were eventually implicated in her death:  Dwayne Archie Johnston, James Robert Paul Houghton, Lee Scott Colgan and Norman Bernard Manger. It was not until December 1987, sixteen years after her death, that any of them were convicted of the crime, and then only Johnston was convicted, as Houghton had been acquitted, Colgan had received immunity for testifying against Houghton and Johnston, and Manger was never charged. The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission conducted an investigation into concerns surrounding the length of time involved in resolving the case. The Commission concluded that the most significant factor prolonging the case was racism.

A formal apology from the Manitoba government was issued by Gordon Mackintosh, Manitoba's Minister of Justice on July 14, 2000. The apology addressed the failure of the province's justice system in Osborne's case. A scholarship was created in Osborne's name, by the province, for Indigenous women. However, to this day, there is a chasm between Indigenous and white people in La Pas and racism deeply divides the town. Recently, there has been a movement by the Indigenous community to make strides in building healthier communities and this is having a positive impact on the town and surrounding community.



Ojibwe -
March 9, 1891 -August 5, 1952

Most highly decorated Native Canadian in the First World War. Awarded Military Medal (MM) plus two bars for bravery in Belgium and France. Most effective Sniper specialist in World War I with iron nerves, patience and superb marksmanship. Credited with killing 378 Germans and capturing 300 more. Served for nearly the entire war until he was wounded in 1919 and returned to Canada. Eventually became chief of the Parry Island Band and later a Councillor. A member of Canada’s Native Hall of Fame. Died on reserve in 1952. A quiet, peaceful man who rarely spoke of his wartime heroics. Stand Easy, Sir. You served your people and your country well. Your Ancestors are well pleased.



Chippewa, Born: September, 1944 - present

An original member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977 he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the murder of two FBI Agents during the 1975 siege at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. There is much debate as to his guilt or innocence, although there appears to be some evidence that he was not even present when the murders occurred. He continues to languish in a penitentiary in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania. Many organizations including Amnesty International consider him a political prisoner.



Pueblo Artist, 1893 - 1949

Quah Ah (White Coral Beads) was the first Pueblo woman artist to throw off the traditional restrictions that were usually imposed upon women tin Pueblo culture, and painted just as freely as her esthetic sensitivity directed. She came from a family of artists, but quickly began to exceed them. She had very little in the way of formal artistic training, her natural talent, however, was unmistakable. She was ambitious and an inspiration to other Pueblo women and artists. At the introductory Exposition of American Indian Art in 1931, her painting, "Spring Dances" was labeled best in show.

She was the only woman in a group of early pueblo artists referred to as The San Ildafonsto Self-Taught Group. She was a successful artist by the time she twenty-five and to this day is still considered one of the best female Native artists of all time. She painted what she knew, Pueblo life which included ceremonial dances and everyday life. The painting at right is entitled: "Buffalo Dance".



Hopi  - 1980 - 2003

Native American tribes united in grief when Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, 23, was killed in action in 2003. Lori Piestewa, daughter of a Hopi man and a Hispanic woman, was the first woman (and Native woman) to die in the line of duty in Operation Iraqui Freedom.  Stand Easy, Private, you served your people and your country well. Your Ancestors are well. pleased.




Member of the Potawatomi Tribe of Crandon, Wisconsin. She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1942 and was assigned to one of the first medical units shipped to the Pacific. The 52nd Evacuation hospital unit was sent to New Caledonia before its members had even received their army uniforms. Julia was assigned temporary duty aboard the ship. The following year, she was transferred to the 23rd Station hospital in Norwich, England, where she was stationed during the invasion of Normandy. She remained in Norwich through V-J Day, returning shortly afterward to the United States. During the Korean War, Julia mobilized with the 804th Station Hospital.


From Heart Butte, Montana, she enlisted in the Marine Corps Woman's Reserve in July 1943. She was the first female Native American to enroll in the Corps. Minnie had worked on her father's ranch doing such chores as cutting fence posts, driving a two-ton truck and breaking horses. Her comment on Marine boot camp, "Hard but not too hard."

Stand Easy, Soldiers. You served your people and your country well. Your Ancestors are well pleased.



Haida, January 12 1920 - March 13, 1998), Artist & Master Carver

"Art can never be understood, but can only be seen as a kind of magic, the most profound and mysterious of all human activities. Within that magic, one of the deepest mysteries is the art of the Northwest Coast -- a unique expression of an illiterate people, resembling no other art form except perhaps the most sophisticated calligraphy."  Bill Reid was born in Victoria, B.C., in 1920. Although in his early years unaware of his Haida ancestry until his teens, he was to become perhaps the single most important figure in the late twentieth century renaissance of Haida culture -- a culture almost destroyed after the European colonization of the Haida homeland on the Northwest Coast. To describe him as a "Haida artist" is, however, not to refer to his ethnic background so much as it is to indicate the school of tradition within which he worked. Gold and silver jewellery bearing Haida designs, worn by his aunts when they visited Sophie, introduced him unknowingly to the art of his Ancestors.

Reid's own upbringing was cross-cultural. His father William, an American of Scottish-German parentage, followed the newly-built railroad into northern British Columbia, where he ran a hotel in Smithers. His mother Sophie was Haida but with an Anglican education and consequently her anglophile cultural values that led her to hide from Bill his Native descent (nor did his father ever mention it).

His most magnificent works are two large bronze sculptures, each depicting a canoe filled with human and animal figures: one black, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, in the United States and one green, The Jade Canoe, at Vancouver International Airport, in British Columbia.

He participated in the blockades of logging roads which helped save the rain forests of Gwaii Haanas (South Moresby); he also stopped work on the sculpture in Washington during this period to protest the destruction of the forests of Haida Gwaii.

Reid received many honours in his life, including honorary degrees from the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, the University of Western Ontario, York University, and Trent University. He received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1994, and was made a member of the Order of British Columbia and an Officer of France's Order of Arts and Letters.



Mohawk - Born: July 5, 1943

 Legendary Musician has sold millions of recordings going way back as a founding member of  "The Band". Inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2003. Bob Dylan hired The Band for his tours in 1965 and 1966.  Dylan famously praised him as "the only mathematical guitar genius I’ve ever run into who doesn’t offend my intestinal nervousness with his rearguard sound." The now legendary Martin Scorcese film, The Waltz (1978)  documents The Band and its subsequent break-up. He has numerous recordings with The Band, as a solo artist and in films. Thunderbird's long held dream is to sing with 'the Mohawk' one day.



Haisla, Born January 19, 1968

She who grew up near Kitamaat, BC. Her previous collection of stories, Traplines, was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best first work of fiction in the Commonwealth, and was a New York Times Editor's Choice and Notable Book of the Year. She lives in North Vancouver. Monkey Beach was published in the New Face of Fiction program in 2000 and she received the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for it. Thunderbird can attest to the fact that it is a wonderful read. Her sister, Carla Robinson is a former Television Journalist at CBC Newsworld.



Cree, Born: February 20, 1941

Singer-Songwriter, Artist and long-time political activist who popularized protest songs in the 1960s about Native conditions and history.

She has worked tirelessly for Indigenous peoples' rights including women's issues. Born on a Cree reserve in Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, she was adopted and raised in Maine and Massachusetts. She received a PH.D in Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts. Her degree in Oriental Philosophy also influences her music, visual art and social activism. She is also a very gifted painter and her magical works are sold all over the world.




Eric Shirt lived in his car and spent every waking hour planning, plotting, scheming and cajoling both his own people and the Alberta government into setting up Canada's first in-patient addictions centre for Native people.  He lived on handouts, donations and the energy of his dream. It took seven years to get the building built, government opposition causing delay after delay, but Mr. Shirt would not go away.  It was his vision that led to the creation of both the Poundmaker and Nechi Treatment Centres in Alberta. No legacy can be greater than one that was built on sacrifice and in service for the greater good of his people.



Cree Ermineskin Band, 1898 - 1984

The Smallboy Reserve was created by Chief Robert Smallboy, the tribes visionary leader out of desperation to save his people, particularly the youth. Alcohol and violence on the Hobben Reserve was at epic proportions and Smallboy elected to take a pro-active stance and move his band  to another area. In 1968 more determined than ever to save his people he moved over one hundred and sixty of them to the mountains, big horn country in Alberta  far away from drugs, alcohol and violence. He set up a survival camp where his people could live according to the traditional ways of their ancestors and begin the healing process. He re-introduced traditional teachings, Drums, Stories, Music giving the Cree a sense of pride in who they are as part of Canada's First People. He fought both the governments of Ottawa and Alberta, insisting that his people had the right to live as they chose on their traditional lands. He was eighty-two years old when he appeared before the government in defense of his people. He had audiences with both the Pope and the United Nations to explain his grievances on behalf of his people.  He spoke only in Cree, refusing principle to speak English until the day he died (1984). He was an accomplished businessman, successful farmer and respected Elder.

Ironically, despite his battles with government, Chief Smallboy was rewarded by his efforts in receiving, among other honours, the Order of Canada in (April 16, 1980.



Six Nations of the Grand River

Grandmother Sara is a member of the Turtle Clan, a wife, mother, grandmother and she lives in Ontario, Canada at the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, ON. She travels widely bringing the sacred teachings of her people to audiences everywhere. She is now a world voice in the ways of the Tree of Peace. She is a powerful speaker with straight eyes and  a determined, soft voice that holds the wisdom of the ages.


Ota Kte, Mochunozhin,  Oglala Lakota Chief

He held various jobs including teacher, minister and clerk. In 1898 he toured with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show which lead him to California and the world of acting. In the 1920's and 1930's he fought to improve conditions for Natives on the reservations, writing several books about Native life and government policy. Standing Bear was a member of the National League for Justice to the American Indian, Oglala Council, Actor's Guild of Hollywood, and Indian Actor's Association. 



Osage/Scottish - Born: January 24, 1925 - April 11, 2013

Acknowledged to be the first Native American-born Prima Ballerina. Daughter of a Scottish mother and a full-blooded Osage Native father, Maria Tallchief spent eight years on the reservation lands of northeastern Oklahoma. Much of the world had never seen anything like her. Admired by millions, she became America's pre-eminent  Prima Ballerina, and in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower declared her "Woman of the Year."
She also originated the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in George Balanchine's version of the Nutcracker. After her retirement she founded, along with her sister, Marjorie the Chicago City Ballet in 19181 and served as its artistic director until 1987. From 1990 to the present she has been artistic advisor to Von Heidecke's Chicago Festival Ballet.



Hadajigrenta (he-makes-the-clouds descend)
ndpiper Clan, Cayuga Nation Hereditary Chief
January 6, 1922 - August 18, 1998

"The sky has opened, the clouds have parted. The Earth Mother weeps for the parting of one of her most giving children. The respect and honour I feel for having known and the wonderful opportunity to have worked with the gifted and inspired Chief Jade Thomas, words cannot describe. I was enlightened by the dedication and teachings of Jade to compose the song on my latest CD, the Code of Handsome Lake. And like the great Seneca prophet, Handsome Lake, Jade devoted his life and work to spreading The Good Word. And for this I know in my soul the Creator has great pride in having bestowed upon this earth the loving presence of Jade Thomas. May we the people of The Longhouse, and people all over the world rejoice in the spiritual teachings of our brother and be ever supportive of his deeper understanding of peace and love among mankind. Bless His Soul." (Robbie Robertson, August 18, 1998.)

Thunderbird also had the privilege of working with Mr. Thomas when she organized an Elder's Gathering at York University a number of years ago. Spending the weekend with such a gifted speaker and educator has been one of the highlights of her life.



Wa-Th-Huk, bright path,
Sac and Fox 
May 28, 1888 - March 28, 1953

Considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports. He won both the decathlon and pentathlon at the Stockholm Olympics. King Gustav V called him the greatest athlete in the world. He replied, "Thanks King." He played professional baseball with both the New York Giants (three seasons) and the Cincinnati Reds.  His final baseball season was in 1919 with the Boston Braves. He also played professional football between 1915-1920 with the Ohio Bulldogs and the Cleveland Indians in 1921.

Of particular note, he played on a professional football teams comprised entirely of Natives. He was influential in forming the American Professional Football Association which eventually evolved into the NFL, National Football League.  After retirement from sports in 1929, he spent time in the movies, as a merchant marine, public speaker on Native issues, Superintendent of the Chicago Parks system. In 1950, the United States Associated Press selected him as the most outstanding athlete of the first half of the 20th Century; in the same year he was also named the greatest American football player. He died of a heart attack at age of sixty-five and had three wives and eight children. In 2001, he was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century.



Tsimshian, Born: June, 1946

Lives and works in Hazelton, B.C. He is married with seven children. He is a prolific artist known for his limited edition prints; he is also a painter, carver and one of the best there is in terms of Pacific Northwest Coast Tsimshian art. His work is sold and exhibited all over the world. He is also an ardent speaker and activist. He is a leader in the Tsimshian community and received many honours and awards for his community involvement.

He has received many other honours including: First Indigenous artists added to the Annual Honour Roll of Extraordinary Canadian Achievers. Maclean's Magazine, 1994: Order of B.C., Province of British Columbia, 1998;  Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, 2003. In 2003, a video featuring Roy was part of the successful Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid. Doin' the Tsimshian proud, Roy.




Plains Cree -1825 - January 17, 1888

"A couple of Cree Chiefs tried to make a difference. For a people starved for their traditional lives. You talk about a rebellion with Riel and Gabriel, I talk about Poundmaker and man named Big Bear. The Peace Chiefs, the Peace Chiefs." (Start of a poem by S. Thunderbird)

Mistahimaskwa, Big Bear was born in 1825.

1876 a year in infamy for Natives everywhere (the year of the enactment of the Indian Act, Residential Schools, Indian Agents). Big Bear wouldn’t settle for scraps although others did. He refused to sign Treaty Six until forced to in 1882 due to the growing despair and near starvation of his people.

In June 1884, a Thirst Dance was held to discuss the worsening situation. By the middle of the month over 2,000 people had gathered. The Thirst Dance celebration was disrupted by the North-West Mounted Police (RCMP) pursuing a Native accused of assaulting a farm instructor on an adjacent reserve. Violence between the bands and the 90-man police force was averted by the peacekeeping efforts of Big Bear and Poundmaker.

They wanted a better deal from Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. The drunk racist wouldn’t negotiate and Big Bear lost face. His peaceful ambitions caused dissent in the bands. The young ones in the warrior societies, led by Wandering Spirit were hungry for revenge and nine white settlers fell to their knives at a place call Frog Lake. Fort Pitt  was burned to the ground only after Big Bear saved the lives of the 44 inhabitants and prevented their slaughter. Although Big Bear showed personal restraint, nonetheless he was the leader and blamed for all that had happened.

Eight Cree and Assiniboine were hanged at Battleford for the deaths at Frog Lake, including Wandering Spirit. Big Bear was found guilty of treason!! Sentenced to three years in jail. He was released after two years due to illness. Media scrutiny regarding his unfair incarceration was on the rise and the government didn't want his death on their hands. He was left to find his own way home. He died a year later broken and alone on the Poundmaker reserve on January 17, 1888. Traditional medicines could not heal a broken heart. Stand easy, Elder, your served your people well.


Big Bear & Poundmaker (Right)




Oglala Lakota Medicine Man
December, 1863 - August 19, 1950
Second Cousin of Crazy Horse

A legendary Oglala Lakota Medicine Man whose great vision formed the basis of the book, "Black Elk Speaks." He participated in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, was wounded at the original Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. He was eventually baptized a Catholic but saw no contradiction in being both a Spirit Doctor and an active member of the Catholic Church. He was a keeper of many of the Lakota sacred rituals which were eventually revealed to author, John Neihardt for Black Elk Speaks.



Mohawk - 1736-April 17, 1796 B

By far the most powerful and influential woman in the Mohawk Nation. She single-handedly is credited with maintaining British loyalty throughout the Haudenosaunne Confederacy.

She was born to a Mohawk father and an Haudenausaunne mother in Conajoharie, New York, the older sister of the famed Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. It was at the age of 17 that Molly met William Johnson, a famous British trader who later became Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the British Indian Department's Northern District. By the time she was 23, she had moved into his home and was fulfilling all the duties of wife, political consort, and hostess of his considerable estate. She had 9 children.  Her skill as a diplomat was admired by the political leaders of the day. Her grace and dignity as a hostess made the Johnson estate a major destination for visitors.

Never shy, Molly used her considerable influence with the British to see that her people were well cared for. In times of disagreement, it was she who traveled into the villages and met with the Sachems (chiefs) to urge their continued loyalty to the Crown. So effective was she that provisions were made by the British to support her financially for her entire life! Her yearly pension even exceeded that of her famous brother, Joseph.

Prior to his death in 1774, Johnson had the foresight to make a will which left all of his wealth and property to Molly. Additionally, he set out political appointments for the children and for Molly's brother, Joseph. As the armies of the American Revolution drew closer to her home, Molly knew that word of her loyalties to the British were too well known for her to be safe there. She gathered her worldly goods and moved to Canada. Until her death, she continued to act as an intermediary between the Haudenausaunne and the British. Stand easy, Madam, you served your people well.



Tushunka-Witco - The Silent One), Oglala Lakota
1840 -September 5, 1877

Respected Lakota Warrior Chief who led the warriors at the Battle of Rosebud Creek and the Little Big Horn in 1876. Both times he routed the American cavalry. He was such a skilled warrior that his tactics are used by West Point Warriors to this day. He was a powerful and unrepentant warrior who fought hard to maintain the land and traditional ways of his people. Despite what some folks like to post on multi media, there are no photographs of him as he refused to allow his picture to be taken lest his spirit be taken from him.  He had a great vision when he was twelve which said he would never be killed in battle. He was injured twice in his life, the second time he died after he  was stabbed by a guard while surrendering at Fort Robinson. No-one knows where he is buried. Black Elk once said that it does not matter for where it is, "it is grass." He was the penultimate freedom fighter. Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.



  Métis 1837-1906

Gabriel Dumont is best known as the man who led the small Métis military forces during the Northwest Métis Rebellion of 1885. He was born in the Red River area, the son of Isidore Dumont, a Métis hunter, and Louise Laframboise.

Although unable to read or write, Dumont could speak six languages and was an amazing athlete, in particular his horseback riding and marksmanship skills were unprecedented. As a result he was a natural-born leader  in hunting buffalo and in warfare, when as a mere lad of fourteen in 1851 he fought against a large contingent of Plains warriors in defense of his ancestral territory. He apparently acquitted himself well. Ironically in 1862 he was part of the negotiating team that reached a settlement with the same Plains group.

In 1872 he became president of a very short-lived government created by the Métis at St. Laurent, located between the Rockies and the Manitoba border. He worked hard fighting for Métis rights but it was to no avail as the newly minted Royal Canadian Mounted Police took up residence in 1875. At the same time buffalo-hunting was on the wane and farming was taking over.  Settlers and the dreaded 'land speculators' began to flood the area. Overwhelmed, Dumont led a contingent to the United States to plea for Louis Riel's return (See his bio below). After Riel's return a provisional government was declared and the North-West Rebellion of 1885 was on. In the early days, the Métis warriors had some success (Duck Lake and Fish Creek). The Métis forces were small and therefore Dumont elected to use more mobile tactics such as raids and ambushes against the less mobile Canadian military. Riel for reasons unknown stopped Dumont's successful tactics and the Métis met their Waterloo at Batoche on May 12, 1885 when they went down to a rousing defeat. It still took the military four days to bring Dumont and his men down.

Dumont was one of the lucky ones and managed to escape to the United States where he performed in  Buffalo Bill Coty's wild west show thrilling audiences with his marksmanship skills.  Amnesty was eventually granted to the rebels  and Dumont slipped back into Canada in 1888.  He lived there quietly at Batoche until his death at the age of sixty-nine in 1906.



 Chiricahua Apache
June 16, 1829 - February 17, 1909


Geronimo fought both Mexico and the United States government for over twenty-five years as they continued to invoke manifest destiny by spreading throughout Apache territory, forcing them to go farther afield to survive. Geronimo never attained the title of Chief, but he was certainly their most prominent military and spiritual leader. He had staggering success in escaping capture for over two decades. He and thirty-five of his followers managed to evade five thousand American troops and Mexican military for over a year before he finally surrendered to Colonel Nelson Miles on September 4, 1886. He was sent to Florida where he lived for several years before being moved to Oklahoma. He died in 1909, after falling from his horse. He lay in the cold all night. He died of pneumonia at age eighty-two.

He is a controversial figure within his own people, many seeing him as a traitor to his people for his head strong and arrogant ways; they claim he us the main reason so many of the Chiricahua suffered at the hands of the US military. Others (many non-Natives) saw him as hero, the last of the freedom-fighters. Like Chief Joseph, he was never permitted to return to his ancestral home, and died a bitter man. His final words were that he'd wished he fought to the death.

"I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say."



Mohawk, Poetess - March 10, 1862 - March 7, 1913

Born at the Six Nations Reservation near Brantford, ON, Pauline Johnson (“Tekahionwake” or “Double Wampum) was the daughter of George Henry Johnson, Mohawk Chief of this great Iroquois tract. Her British-born mother, Emily Howells, was a second cousin of the famous American novelist, William Dean Howells. Her most famous work, Flint and Feather, was published in 1912. Others followed, including Legends of Vancouver (1911) and a collection of short stories, The Shagganappi (1913). Pauline Johnson was a cultural ambassador, a link between her traditional ways and a modern, largely European community.  Bringing two very different but strong-rooted cultures into closer contact and understanding, she was a powerful literary influence. As to why she wore regalia for public appearances (white deer hide dress) for which she was often criticized by her own people, she replied that it was the best way to show who she was and to honour her heritage.



Nimi-ipuu (People of the Hearts Blood), also (Nez Percé*)
Hin-Mah-Too-Yah-Lat-Kekt (Thunder Rolling In The Mountains

iN 1988, spiritual leader, Chief Joseph and his Warrior Chief brother, Olikut, led eight hundred of their people including fewer than two hundred and fifty warriors on an 1800 mile race for freedom as they desperately tried to escape five thousand well-equipped United States cavalry. They were trying to seek refuge in Canada with Sitting Bull and some twenty-five hundred Lakota who'd fled to southern Alberta the year before after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It is a story that emphases that freedom is a basic human right and not a privilege. Staying strong and maintaining his dignity, Chief Joseph gave one of the most powerful surrender speeches ever uttered by anyone.  Overwhelming odds kept their spirits strong as they fought hard for their freedom. Thunderbird's  stage show, Thunder Rolling In The Mountains, takes audiences on a breathtaking recounting of this dramatic period.

*Joseph's people are more commonly known as Nez Percé (meaning "pierced nose").  This name was given to them by a French Canadian Interpreter who was travelling with the famed Lewis and Clarke Expedition in 1805. The new name was always confusing to the Nimi-ipuu because this cultural practice was not common among their people. Their preference, as is the case with all Native people, is to be known by their original name and not something imposed by others -  Nimi-ipuu (People of the Hearts Blood).

JOSEPH SURRENDERS: "Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolshute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, "Yes" or "No." He Who Led The Young Men In Battle, Olikut my brother is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.


Died: 1877
Nimi-ipuu (People of the Hearts Blood), also
Nez Percé*)

Chief Joseph's younger brother and a Warrior Chief (Figure in centre of photo). His tactics were brilliant and through his leadership two hundred and fifty warriors out fought five thousand well-equipped United States cavalry in seven major battles. Each time Joseph, his brother was able to lead their people to safety. Olikut's tactics were taught for years at places like West Point. He fought with almost scientific skills using, advanced and rear guards, field fortifications, skirmish lines. Both General Oliver Otis Howard and Colonel Nelson Miles had great respect for Olikut and Joseph. He died in September, 1877 when he was shot through the head by a Crow Scout riding with the U.S. cavalry. He was just forty miles from  leading his people over the Canadian border into Alberta.

*Olikut's people are more commonly known as Nez Percé (meaning "pierced nose").  This name was given to them by a French Canadian Interpreter who was travelling with the famed Lewis and Clarke Expedition in 1805. The new name was always confusing to the Nimi-ipuu because this cultural practice was not common among their people. Their preference, as is the case with all Native people, is to be known by their original name and not something imposed by others -  Nimi-ipuu (People of the Hearts Blood).

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.



Plains Cree - 1842 - July 4, 1886

Poundmaker was born in 1842, the magic of a Spirit Doctor in his blood. He signed treaty six in deference to the will of his people. They settled on the reserve but all treaty promises were broken by the government. His people could not learn to be farmers when no ploughs, farm animals, seed, etc., was forthcoming. The people starved.

With news of the Métis success at Duck Lake in March 1885, Pitikwahanapiwiyin decided to utilize the unrest and fears of government agents to negotiate necessary supplies. Joined by the Stonies, the Cree went to Battleford, Saskatchewan. His enemies claimed he’d come to kill and conquer. He’d come to plead for food and rations. Indian Agent Rae said no.

Hungry and frustrated, some of Cree and Stonies began looting the empty homes looking for food, Poundmaker couldn’t stop them. They moved west to the Poundmaker reserve and established a large camp east of Cutknife Creek. Lieutenant-Colonel Otter attacked the camp in the early morning of 2 May 1885. After seven hours of fighting, the Cree forced Otter to withdraw. The soldiers had a Gatling Gun, Poundmaker had his brilliant Warrior Chief, Kamiokisihkwew (Fine Day). Poundmaker managed to stop his warriors from attacking the retreating troops. “We have fought, saved ourselves, our women and children. Let them go.”

He wanted to go to Devil’s Lake, but the warriors said no and took the people to join Riel at Batoche. They captured a wagon train carrying supplies for Colonel Otter's column. Poundmaker again prevented bloodshed and the twenty-one teamsters captured along with the wagons were taken prisoner and not killed.

They didn’t reach Batoche, it was too late, the Metis lost, Riel captured. Poundmaker as Peace Chief contacted Major-General Middleton asking for peace terms.

"Everything that is bad has been laid against me this summer, there is nothing of it true....Had I wanted war, I would not be here now. I would be on the prairie. You did not catch me. I gave myself up. You have got me because I wanted justice."

In August 1885 he was branded a traitor and sentenced to three years in the Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba. They sent him home after seven months his health broken. He died on American Independence Day, July 4, 1886.

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.



Métis, October 22, 1944 - November 16, 1885

Louis Riel, a Métis, led two major resistance movements against the central government. He sought to preserve the rights of the Métis people as their homeland fell more and more under the influence of Ottawa and encroaching white settlements. The Red River Rebellion of 1869-70 took place after Riel established a provisional government  in what is now the Province of Manitoba. Sir John A. Macdonald was the newly elected Prime Minister and this was his first major confrontation since the establishment of Confederation in 1867.  To make a long story short, troops were eventually dispatched to enforce federal authority. This was after a very controversial execution of a man named Thomas Scott. Riel fled to the United States before the troops arrived at Fort Garry, but their arrival effectively put down the rebellion. During his period of exile he became probably today what would be termed as deeply depressed and dillusional. He imagined himself a god-like figure and the saviour of his people. He was also elected in abstentia several times but never took his seat in the House of Commons.

Eventually at the urging of Gabriel Dumont, he returned to Canada, this time to Saskatchewan to help represent the interests of the Métis. The result was the North-West Rebellion of 1885. It ended tragically with his arrest and eventual execution as a traitor on November 16, 1885.

Note 1: Riel is sometimes thought of as the 'Father of Manitoba', the man who actually negotiated the terms by which the province would enter Confederation.

Note 2:  Métis (meaning: 'mixed') people, was the first new culture on Turtle Island. A 'pure' Métis were children of marriages between French voyageurs and Woodland Cree, or Ojibwa women.  The next level were children of marriages between Scottish and English Traders and Woodland Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux and Menominee women. Since then, the beleaguered Métis have their name attached to anyone who believes they have a cup and a half of Native blood in them! How the various Métis associations sort this out is beyond the scope of Thunderbird.  They are also known as 'Bois Brule' meaning 'mixed bloods'.

Note 3: Was Riel a freedom fighter, a mad man or a terrorist? The debate goes on.



SACAKAWEA ("Boat Pusher")
 Shoshone (born around 1790).

She was part of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. Contrary to popular opinion, Sacajawea did not serve as a guide for the party. 

She was stolen during a raid by a Hidatsa tribe when she was a young girl and taken to their village near what is now Bismark, North Dakota. Some time afterward the French-Canadian trapper and fur trader, Charbonneau bought Sacajawea and her companion, Otter Woman, as wives. When her husband joined the expedition at Fort Mandan in the Dakotas, Sacajawea was about 16 years old and pregnant. The expedition spent the winter at Fort Mandan and Sacajawea's baby, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, was born on Feb. 11 or 12, 1805. He was also given the Shoshone name, Pomp, meaning First Born.

The expedition resumed the westward trek on April 7, 1805. Their route was along the Missouri River, west to the mountains. On May 14, 1805 an incident occurred which was typical of the calmness and self-possession Sacajawea was to display throughout the journey. The boat she was in was hit by a sudden storm squall. It nearly capsized. As the other members of the crew worked desperately to right the boat, Sacajawea, with her baby strapped to her back, retrieved the valuable books and instruments that floated out of the boat. Thanks to her courage and quick actions, the materials suffered no damage.



Oglala Lakote Holy Man
1831 - December 15, 1890

The discovery of gold in 1875 in the Black Hills of South Dakota triggered the death knell for the Lakota and their traditional ways. Sitting Bull took up arms in protest of the desecration of their sacred territory. He had a great vision that said the Lakota would defeat the soldiers in a great battle at the Little Big Horn River in 1876. He was right. Several thousand warriors were amassed which surprised General Custer but his arrogance was one that forced him to lead his men into what turned out to be a slaughter. It was the last gathering of warriors of this magnitude.  After the battle with a short-lived victory, Sitting Bull and some of his followers found refuge in southern Alberta in May of 1877. The Canadian government under pressure from Washington forced Sitting Bull into starvation which forced him back over the border where he surrendered on July 19, 1881. He rode in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show and became somewhat of a celebrity. He was also a supporter of the Ghost Dance which ultimately led to his second prophecy, his assassination on December 15, 1890 at the hands of a Lakota police officer who shot him along with his son, Crow Foot. His powerful spirit continues to live on in the hearts of many of his people.

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.

TECUMSEH)  Shawnee
March 1768 - October 5, 1813

Tecumseh's Confederacy
was an alliance of Native American tribes that began to form in the early 19th Century around the teachings of his brother Tenskwatawa (called The Prophet, 1775-1836).  Tecumseh and his family believed in their people returning to their ancestral way of life.  Tecumseh also advocated that none of the ancestral land should be sold unless all the tribes agreed. This led to a number of confrontations with the settlers. Tecumseh travelled widely trying to expand the confederacy but was unsuccessful. While he was away, Tenskwatawa was defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 11, 1811.  It was really a preemptive strike lead by General William Harrison on the Confederacy headquarters near Prophetstown in Indiana territory. The Confederacy was never again able to muster its previous strength. Feeling betrayed by the American government, Tecumseh eventually allied with the British, and was a key influence in the saving of Canada from becoming the fourteenth colony of the United States. He is a hero in this country.  Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames (also known as the Battle of Moraviantown) on October 5, 1913.  His brother fled with the British and was not present when Tecumseh died. His death shattered the coalition that he led. In his own words, "he sang his death song and died like a hero going home."

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.



"The Strong Hearted Woman, or less accurately, "The Little Woman Chief," from the Modoc kitchkani laki shnawedsh, "female subchief," was an important figure on the Modoc War of 1872-1873, and in other affairs of her tribe. Her early life was adventurous, and her fearless exploits, such as shooting a grizzly bear and fighting alongside the men in battle, were greatly admired. The 1860's saw growing friction between the Modoc people and the white settlers moving into northern California in ever-increasing numbers. Winema served as an interpreter, with her husband, in the negotiations between the government and the Modoc which eventually led to the removal of the Natives to a reservation in Oregon.

Many of the Modoc never agreed willingly to this move, and Kintpuash and a group of followers frequently left the reservation to return to their traditional homelands. When they were finally pursued by government forces in an effort to round up the band and end the intermittent resistance, they fled to the nearby lava beds. Winema tried to act as a peacemaker between the warring parties, since she was trusted by both sides, and was fluent in Modoc and English. In February 1873, a peace commission attempted to resolve the situation and Winema was able to persuade Kintpuash to meet with them. However, other Modoc opposed the move, and convinced Kintpuash that the leader of the delegation, General Edward Canby, could not be trusted and must be killed. Winema learned of the plot, and warned Canby, but he decided to go ahead with the peace talks. On April 11, 1873, Kintpuash and several warriors attached the camp, and killed Canby and another commissioner, Eleazar Thomas; a third commissioner, Albert Meacham, was badly injured, but Winema intervened and saved his life. With these murders, all-out war began, and although the Modoc held off the vastly superior Army forces for many months, they were finally defeated. She briefly became an actress when the story of the battles was turned into a play by Albert Meacham, She toured for eight years.

Stand easy, Warrior, you served your people well.


1844-1891 - Thocmetony-Shell Flower  

Born in western Nevada, she was the first Native woman to convert to Christianity; she became an educator (established and ran her own school), lecturer and Native rights activist. She was able to successfully defend the rights of the Paiute people and their beliefs and way of life.  

"Between April 1883 and August 1884 Sarah gave nearly three hundred lectures from Boston and New York to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She spoke in the homes of many prominent Indian advocates of the day, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Massachusetts senator Henry Dawes, and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and her sister Mary Mann, the wife of Horace Mann. Her speeches, along with the work of this group, supported the passage of the General Allotment, or Dawes, Act in 1887. It was also during this period that Sarah wrote her book, which was edited by Mary Mann and published in Boston in 1883." (Catherine S. Fowler, University of Nevada, Reno).