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John B. Tootoosis, 1899 - 1989

John B. Tootoosis The political history of Saskatchewan Indians in the Twentieth century was witnessed, lead and supported by John B. Tootoosis. John Tootoosis passed away Wednesday February 1. He was 89.

He was born on the Poundmaker reserve on July 18, 1899 to parents Mary Theresa and John Tootoosis (Sr.). His grandfather was Yellow Mud Blanket, Poundmaker's brother.

In 1929 he married Louisa Angus from Thunderchild who predeceased him by two years.

John's history as a political leader goes back to 1920 when he was appointed Chief of the band. His authority was denied by Indian Affairs because he was not yet 21.

During the 1930's John worked for the League of Indians of Western Canada. He was elected secretary and organizer for the Prairie Region. Throughout this period he didn't earn a salary but relied on donations from supporters to get him from band to band. He would meet with the people on a reserve and following the meeting they would pass the hat and give him enough money to travel to the next meeting.

At that time Indians had to have a permit to leave the reserve, but John never bothered. Once the RCMP caught up with him at Broadview and placed him on a train to Cutknife. The next year when he received his treaty money the train fare had been deducted.

John continued to organize Saskatchewan Indians in spite of attempts by government to restrict his movements, and ban him from reserves. He was also threatened with excommunication from the Catholic church.

In 1946 the protective association and the association of Saskatchewan Indians met to form the Union of Saskatchewan Indians. Over the years John served as both President and executive member for the Union.

In 1959 they reorganized as the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians and John was elected as the first President of the Federation.

In 1970, he was appointed to the newly formed Senate of the FSI and for the next 19 years served his people as an active elder statesman.

John was very active in the Lander lobby to protect Treaty rights and maintain our special link with the Imperial Crown. His efforts and the efforts of other leaders led to the entrenchment of Treaties in the Canadian Charter of Rights as well as to four First Ministers Conferences to define the rights. His ambitious life's work remains incomplete and will be carried on for generations to come.

John is survived by ten sons; Wilfred (Irene), Al (Aldina), Edwin (Millie), Simon, Austin (Harveen), Gordon (Irene), Martin, Eric (Dian), Arsene (Kim), Leonard (Lois) and three daughters; Jean (Ken) Goodwill, Leona (Henry), Shirley (Harold); fifty-one grandchildren and thirty seven great grandchildren.