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The Chiefs of Saskatchewan and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) honored its past presidents at a dinner held during the Chiefs Legislative Assembly, October 5, 1985.
Each, of the past leaders received the Citizenship of the Year award, parkas, and portraits of themselves in traditional costume and contemporary dress. Cash awards will follow within three weeks once the donations are all in.
"Tonight, we are here as the first citizens of Indian Nations. We are here to celebrate and honor the men who have dedicated their lives to our cause. Not only that but these men have contributed to the laying of the foundation of rebuilding our Indian Nations. I say a sincere thank you," said FSIN Chief Sol Sanderson.
Allan Asapace from Poorman Reserve also won the Albert Bellegarde Memorial Scholarship for academic excellence and leadership skills. He is enrolled at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College.
"Tonight, words are inadequate to express my feelings in being the recipient of this very prestigious scholarship. My memories of the late great chief whom this scholarship is dedicated to are varied indeed... I am proud to be in an institution where he was instrumental in making a reality," said Asapace.
John Tootoosis (1958-1961)
"I'm very thankful for what the FSIN has done for me tonight to show me their appreciation. At my age, I don't know how long I'm going to be with you, although I'm in no hurry. But if I'm permitted to be with you, I'm still going to work for you and educate young people to understand our treaty rights and our obligations when we signed the treaties. We must keep in mind to never, never change a word in our treaties as it was signed. When we do, the white man will keep changing it until there's nothing left. "
David Knight (1961-1964)
"Chiefs, Indian friends, thanks for the award. I came back because you have recognized me here tonight. I'm a fond guy of saying, I'm a man out to teach, but tonight when you look at my work, I pull second because the work I've done, it was we that did it, a handful of dedicated Indians. They said in their mind that
"Tonight, here, I urge you young people and you middle-aged people, you have to work hard, to not only work for yourself but to work for your future generations. Look back and see what we've accomplished and learn from what we've accomplished. I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm leaving but I hope you work hard. This is what being off the reserve, in a hard world is. I did. It's for your child, your future children. Often, we started out late at night talking about young kids Wilfred (Bellegarde) and I. Hilliard McNabb and I travelled down country roads in old model cars... I'm not sorry. I've been involved with my children. I've been involved with the Chiefs. I know what it's like to be a Chief. You have to be sincere. You have to be honest with yourself. With that, I thank you."
David Knight passed away November 6, 1985.
Wilfred Bellegarde (1964-1966)
"I want to take this occasion to thank someone who has always been behind me, my wife."
Walter Dieter (1966-1968)
"I didn't come prepared to give any speech. I don't really feel justified in accepting all these gifts because the fellows that really earned it for me were Senator Hilliard McNabb, Senator Ernest Mike, Delia Opekekew who wrote the first submission for the first bit of money that was given to Indians without government supervision, and the guy that laid the foundation and put me on to set up the National Indian Brotherhood, John Tootoosis. These are the guys I'd like to see get honors."
David Ahenakew (1968-1978)
"To the new executive, my condolences. I want to tell you how grateful we are (myself and my family) for what you are doing for us this evening, for what you have done for us and with us in the past. We are honored to be part of you and always have been and we will continue to be with you in every way we can. It's been difficult, but at the same time rewarding because of the strength of our Indian Nations of this province, the strength of our leaders - past, present, and certainly in the future. Rewarding because of the strength and recognition we continue to convey to our people. That is our future and for that reason we must always, always continue to support these guys in which every way we can, that generation that's coming up. I'm also very grateful and feel rewarded because of the strength that continuously exists and the strength that exists and is exemplified by our Elders and the Senate. I'm not an elder yet, there's a grey hair here and there, but I don't propose to have very many more. But I am truly grateful to all of you for allowing me and my family to continue to work with you. I still have some energy left, like Walter Deiter, John Tootoosis, Dave Knight, Wilfred Bellegarde. I've been very grateful for being associated with you great leaders, to the people of the province. There's been some pretty difficult experiences. But like I say, it's all been worth it. It's us that's going to determine what it's going to be like for the future generations. It's going to be on our shoulders and we can never shirk that obligation. It's a trust conveyed on us. It's a trust we must carry with absolute trust and dedication. This evening, I thank you for the honor, for the tribute. And I speak for my family, not only my sons and daughters but with my grandchildren, my son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws, we are extremely happy to be part of you. Thank you."
Albert Bellegarde (1978-1979)
"On behalf of my family, I thank you." - Edmund and Michelle Bellegarde, children of the late Chief.