Frederick George Sasakamoose
Plains Cree (nêhiyawak)
December 25, 1933
November 24, 2020
Frederick Sasakamoose was born at Whitefish Lake to a traditional Cree family. As a child, Fred developed a strong bond with his Grandfather. It was during this time that Fred was introduced to hockey by the elderly Sasakamoose. At seven years old, Fred, along with his brother were forcefully removed from their family and taken into the Residential School System. Subjected to the constant of traumatic abuse, Fred found light in recreational sport when a French-Canadian priest encouraged the young boy to take up hockey. It was during his introductory career with his Residential School Hockey team, the St. Michael’s Ducks that Fred shined as a player.
After his departure from St. Michael’s in 1949, Fred would be recruited by the junior ice hockey team, the Moose Jaw Canucks. After an impressive 31 goal season in the 1953-54 regular season, Fred’s talents were called upon by the Chicago Blackhawks where Sasakamoose would become the First Treaty Indian to play in the National Hockey League.
Sasakamoose’s NHL career lasted only eleven games, before loneliness for his homeland struck. He would continue playing for the minor leagues in Western Canada, until finally returning home in 1962 and over twenty years since he was forcefully removed by authorities. Fred lived a life in shadow of his experiences at Residential School; both alcohol and anger shackled him for many decades.
In 1981, Fred became Chief of his band and sobriety of alcohol followed soon. Rather than resenting the past, Fred took the future and became a leader for Indigenous youth. He was a stern advocate for reconciliation and Indigenous sport, and in 2017, headed the inaugural Chief Thunderstick Hockey Tournament; the largest Indigenous hockey event in North America. For his work towards reconciliation and efforts in supporting Indigenous youth, Fred was awarded the Order of Canada in 2018. Fred passed away on November 24th, 2020.
Photograph #1, Profile (Fred as an elderly man): Photograph of Fred Sasakamoose, September 16th, 2020. Credit: Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs
Photograph #2, Action (Fred as a young man): Photograph of Fred Sasakamoose, as a Chicago Blackhawks player. Credit: Sasakamoose family