Theodore Niizhotay Fontaine
Sagkeeng Anishinaabe First Nation
September 7, 1941
May 10, 2021
Theodore Niizhotay Fontaine, Anishinaabe hockey player, Chief, Elder, author, educator, public speaker.
Theodore survived 12 years incarcerated in Indian residential schools, experiencing sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. The freedom of playing hockey as a child, and later as an adult, was critical to his survival.
Theodore played senior and semi-professional hockey, signing a “C” contract with the Detroit Red Wings, but overt racism led him to give up his opportunity. This lifelong regret led to his determination to succeed in spite of his residential schools experiences.
He graduated in Civil Engineering in 1973, and served as Chief of Sagkeeng First Nation. He played for 10 years with the Sagkeeng Oldtimers, winning international, national and regional awards, including three World Cups.
He initiated donations of personal and hockey artifacts to Canada’s Hockey Hall of Fame and to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Theodore dedicated his career to supporting Indigenous people, including 11 years with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and serving on boards supporting Indigenous participation in the Pan-American Games, sports, social and economic issues.
He taught Indigenous Governance at the Banff Centre for Management and co-founded the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute. His work led to reclamation and commemoration of the Assiniboia Residential School and publishing of survivor stories Did You See Us?.
His national bestselling memoir, Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools, led to public speaking to 1600 audiences from students to professionals in sports, justice, policing, corrections, social services and health care.
He authored the foreword for Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America; the foreword to Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools; and contributed to multiple Indigenous publications and anthologies.
Theodore’s leadership and success through activism and writing are his legacy for Indigenous truth and equity in Canada.
Photos: Theodore at left, Fort Alexander Indian Residential School about 1950
Theodore speaking to health professionals University of Manitoba Grand Rounds