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Smith Atimoyoo and four elders presented Chief's headdresses and peace pipes to John Tootoosis, David Knight, Wilfred Bellegarde, and Walter Deiter. The elders also honored these four great Indian gentlemen with Indian names. A banquet by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians was emceed by Hilliard McNab of the Gordons Band who personally knew all the former Chiefs of the provincial organization.
For John Tootoosis, the iron man and the grand daddy of them all, a dream has been fulfilled. He mentioned that his life time dream was to have an established organization of Saskatchewan Chiefs and another on, a federal scale.
The provincial organization of Chiefs, now called the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, was not always termed as such, but had several titles since the Chiefs of Saskatchewan started to organize as a group since 1921. Mr. Tootoosis now a Senator of the FSI, has seen the development of the FSI right from the start.
The present Chief, David Ahenakew, called Senator Tootoosis, a very tough old Buck. In the 1920's, Senator Tootoosis was labelled an agitator and a bad influence by Indian Affairs, as he travelled all over the province armed with "the thought that the Chiefs of Saskatchewan must form an organization. Certainly Mr. Ahenakew's labelling of the Senator as "tough" is true with no travelling expenses, a scorning Indian Affairs agent, and almost no means of travel facing him.
With these great odds facing John Tootoosis armed only with his Treaty number along with his rights, he set out to lay the foundation of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians.
Nineteen years ago, David Knight of John Smith was elected by the Chiefs of Saskatchewan. He too express only happiness for seeing the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians grow into an organization to reckon with. He mentioned the hard work that was done and the hard work that still lays ahead.
Mr. Knight who has been a department employee since retiring from Indian political life, gave praise to the many brave leaders who have passed on and whose spirits of strong unity is still felt within the Federation.
Over a decade ago, Wilfred Bellegarde took on the responsibility of leading the Saskatchewan Chiefs. He said that the FSI organization has come a long ways from the time he has been an active member. He commended highly his former colleagues who were still involved within the organization.
The former Chief expressed the sad part of the absentism of the many Chiefs who were not present in this special meeting. "And yet they are getting paid," he said.
Vice-President Dennis Nicholoo represented the National Indian Brotherhood at the banquet.
Chief Ernie Mike and his wife Flora. Flora was this year's Mother of the Year as chosen by S.I.W.A..
Ida Wasacase and Joe Naytawhow, a student at the Federated College were also special guests at the banquet.
An honor song welcomed the former Chiefs.
He called them "real leaders, and the real Chiefs." It was during the time of Walter Dieter's entrance into the FSI leadership that the organization began to go through a phase of a lot of changes.
Mr. Dieter of Peepeekisis had a dual role of being Chief of the Saskatchewan Indians and also to lead the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada. Mr. Dieter was the last Chief to head the FSI since the takeover of David Ahenakew from Sandy Lake almost a decade ago.
During his time of power, Mr. Dieter began to seek funds to help set up Chief's meeting which was paid by the Chiefs themselves all along. Mr. Dieter was determined to get funds because of non-Treaty Indian organizations were getting full compensation for their expenses and wages.
Mr Deiter stated he knew various important political figures and used these people to recognize the FSI as a powerful group of Chiefs.
Mr. Dieter stated that he used every political trick possible to pressure the Department of Indian Affairs to release monies to help mold the Saskatchewan Chiefs organization.
Thanks to former Chief Dieter's probing, the Indian Affairs barrier of secrecy was finally penetrated and many things the department pulled off on the expense of the Indian people was soon discovered. If there were any similiarities in the American Watergate cover-up, this was it. The department's role of playing "god" was over. The government of Canada began to, recognize the FSI as a strong political force in which the Indian Affairs branch became the servants of Indian people like the way John Tootoosis has been harping all along since the 1920's.
The Indian Affairs branch' were shook up with the boldness of the FSI organization that they released a sum of $70,000 to the organization.
This was more than the amount of monies that was requested by the federation. Since then, the FSI has succeeded to secure funding since the time of Mr. Dieter's leadership who was also credited in introducing the communication program into the All Chiefs organization. The present Chief, David Ahenakew stated, "The FSI thanks to Mr. Dieter has assets of somewhere over $2 million dollars per year for operational costs."
The four former Chiefs were showered with handshakes as the whole assembly congratulated these wise gentlemen. They were also given priceless paintings donated by artists of the Indian Cultural College.
Isabelle McNab, the Saskatchewan Indian Women's organization president, also honored the wives of these former Chiefs with gifts. As they were the ones who stayed home, while their men were gone for many days to attend the Chiefs meetings.
Mrs. McNab was also very pleased to present the Mother of the Year winner Mrs. Flora Mike of the Beardy's-Okemasis Band. This is one of the higher awards an Indian mother could received based on her personality and responsibilities within her community.
Prior to the finals of this special night, Chief Ahenakew praised the four former Chiefs for their bravery, courage and strength they have shown in their struggles to make this organization what it is today. He thanked them for their wisdom and their foresight.
Chief Ahenakew asked these former Chiefs to become special advisors to the Indians of this province.
"We need your wisdom and your guidance," said the present Chief.