Actor Gordon Tootoosis funeral held on home reserve

Hundreds of people gathered Friday on the Poundmaker Cree Nation northwest of Saskatoon for the funeral of actor Gordon Tootoosis who died Tuesday due to complications from pneumonia.
A publicity image of actor Gordon Tootoosis from one of his film projects. (Photo supplied to CP)

Hundreds of people gathered Friday on the Poundmaker Cree Nation northwest of Saskatoon for the funeral of actor Gordon Tootoosis, who died earlier this week due to complications from pneumonia.

Tootoosis, 69, was born on the reserve and had made his home there even as he maintained a busy film, television and theatre career.

"He was not just the actor, but he was a man. He was a father. A great husband," Dion Tootoosis, a nephew, said Friday. "It was always great to be around him. There was always jokes. There was always stories."

The funeral service was not open to members of the media.

An obituary notice said Tootoosis was with his family when he died Tuesday in hospital.

"Gordon's wish was for people to celebrate his life more so than mourn his death," the notice said. "He will be missed and so fondly remembered by all of those who knew and loved him."

Tootoosis had an extensive portfolio of roles in over 80 productions ranging from the 1973 film Alien Thunder with Donald Sutherland and Chief Dan George to 1996's Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt.

He was also featured in the CBC television series North of 60.

Tootoosis, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 2004, was also an accomplished stage actor and a founding member of the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company.

Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo called Tootoosis "a Cree and Canadian cultural icon."

He said Tootoosis will be remembered as a talented, dedicated and multi-faceted individual.

Atleo also noted how Tootoosis overcame a difficult time in the Indian residential school system.

"He survived the tragedy of the residential schools and used that experience in a positive way to help his people, serving as a social worker for youth and young offenders."

Despite his success in the entertainment industry, Tootoosis always made his home on the Poundmaker reserve and used to joke that the movers and shakers in Hollywood knew where to find him.

He recently starred in Gordon Winter, a play by Saskatoon playwright Kenneth T. Williams that was featured at the Prairie Scene festival in Ottawa.

Tootoosis was to be buried in a family plot on the reserve.

(With files from the Canadian Press)