Previous Article Next Article FNPI Search Home Previous Year Next Year Year List

Smith Atimoyoo Selected 1989 Citizen Of The Year

Gloria Ledoux

Smith Atimoyoo
Smith Atimoyoo
Smith Atimoyoo was selected the Saskatchewan Indian Citizen of the Year at the recent all Chiefs Legislative Assembly In Yorkton.

He was unable to attend and his son Garry was present to accept the award on his behalf.

Smith Atimoyoo was born on the Little Pine Reserve on February 12, 1915. He is of Cree-Saulteaux origin and speaks both languages fluently. In 1949 he married Rose Morin of Paschal, Saskatchewan. Together they have 2 sons and 1 daughter.

Smith received his elementary education at the Little Pine Day School and King George Public School in Prince Albert. He attended St. George's Boys College in Prince Albert and graduated from Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.

To further his education, Smith attended Saskatoon Emmanuel College where he graduated as an ordained Minister of the Anglican Church of Canada. At that time there was no funding for education from Indian Affairs, but the Anglican Diocese was willing to pay the costs. The Anglican Church always played a major role in Smith's life.

Smith was assigned his first school in Pelican Narrows where he stayed for 3 years. A shortage of teachers prompted Indian Affairs to hire Smith as a teacher. Smith taught school along with his duties as the parish Minister. Smith eventually decided to attend Teacher's College where he received his teaching certificate.

Smith taught school in Shoal Lake, Whitefish, Sturgeon Lake and Fort-a-la-Corne (James Smith). He went home to Little Pine for two years and moved to Thunderchild for one year.

During his stay in each community, Smith would start a little league ball team and soccer team. He would wind up his manual gramophone and teach his students to dance the 2-step, waltz, fox-trot, square dancing, etc. Smith believed a healthy mind was inspired by sports and recreational activities.

While in the community of James Smith, Smith started a ball team, later known as the James Smith Redmen. The Redmen are well known internationally as a competitive team and are still active today.

Smith was instrumental in organizing the first CKBI Amateur Hour to be held on an Indian reserve. The Amateur Hour was a weekly radio program to raise funds for Tuberculosis. At that time 8O to 90% of patients in the sanatoriums were of native ancestry. Donations by people helped medical research to eventually eliminate and prevent the spread of the disease. Because of Indian participation, the listening audience in the CKBI area was enjoyed by every Indian home with a radio. James Smith won the Amateur Hour three years in a row for raising the most money in the province of Saskatchewan. This program was not only a fund-raiser but also promoted a lot of talent and pride for the community of James Smith.

In 1970, Smith approached Indian Affairs and the Anglican Church of Canada to start a Cultural Centre. He realized the Indian people were losing their culture, their language and their identity. His dream was to preserve these very essential part of our lives as Indian people. He was finally successful in securing a donation of $3,200 from the Anglican Church of Canada to start a Cultural Centre. With 3 staff members, Smith launched his dream.

With his meagre salary and no expenses, Smith set out on his mission to visit as many elders in the province as he could, gathering stories and information. He walked many miles, sometimes going hungry, always depending on the hospitality of the Indian people for tea and bannock. He does not recall the number of times he slept in his car, because he either ran out of money or gas for his car.

Smith says his rewards came when a young student would graduate or achieve some goal in their lives. His goals have always been geared toward promoting recognition of Indian people and to be proud of their heritage.

Today we enjoy the Cultural Centre as well as the expansion of two more education institutions.

Smith was the founder of the Battlefords Friendship Centre. Through many hours of hard work, patience and perseverance, Smith started the North Battleford Pow-wow. This pow-wow grew to be one of the biggest and the best pow-wow in the province.

During his regime as Director of the Friendship Centre, Smith was instrumental in starting the first all Indian Hockey tournament. The dates in March were carefully selected as the final tournament in the season. He contacted several bands he thought would be interested and invited them to participate for fun and sport with no money involved. Today, this tournament is one of the biggest and best hockey action in the province. This tournament attracts top native calibre hockey in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and as far east as Ontario.

Twice in his lifetime, Smith was stricken with paralysis. His determination and stubborn nature has enabled him to overcome his disability. A year ago, Smith suffered a stroke which left him paralysed on the left side. Two months later he was wheelchair bound. Today, he walks with a cane, by next summer we should see him riding his saddle horse.

Smith is still actively involved in the Elders program at the Cultural Centre. He is always willing to assist in whatever capacity he can, often helping young University students at his home.

Smith always participated in sports, soccer, etc. Not necessarily to be the best, but to help his team-mates. His father always encouraged him to take part. Smith was a playmaker and would be in a position to kick the ball to one of his team-mates and score. This was the pattern he would follow throughout his career, a team maker, with dreams to start the ball rolling.

The Indian in Smith does not allow him to take any credit for his achievements nor to be recognized for his contribution to society. We do not wish to honour Smith, but to thank him for his dedication and work towards the betterment of Indian people. We hope he will continue to serve as a role model to the many students he taught or came in contact with.