Fred Sasakamoose, country's first Indigenous NHL player, to join Order of Canada

Fred Sasakamoose, Canada's first Indigenous NHL hockey player and a tireless promoter of sports, will be invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

Governor General of Canada to invest 30 members, including Sasakamoose, into the Order of Canada

Fred Sasakamoose, who is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, will receive the Order of Canada on Thursday. (Doug Steele/CBC)

Fred Sasakamoose, Canada's first Indigenous NHL hockey player and a tireless promoter of sports, will be invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

The Order of Canada recognizes Canadian citizens who have made outstanding achievements, are dedicated to the community or have served the nation.

Sasakamoose, who is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, made it to the NHL in the early 1950s when he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, cementing his status as a role model to other aspiring Indigenous hockey players. He was the NHL's "first native Canadian player," according to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He would go on to develop minor hockey and other sports programs for youth, first locally, and then through an initiative that would expand across Saskatchewan, according to the citation from the Order of Canada.

"In talking openly about his achievements as well as his struggles, he has become a trusted mentor and a sought-after speaker who promotes healthy life choices to a broad audience," the citation read.

'We must participate'

While Sasakamoose had earlier called it a great honour to receive the award, he told CBC News it was an honour he shared with those who helped him in his journey. 

The 84-year-old expressed his wish to continue promoting sports, saying, "The Indian people and Métis people are ready to participate in the Olympics, and put our children, our players, in sports.

"To put them into the showcase of this world ... we must participate. If we are to try and improve our situation in our communities, then we have to participate in this world."

Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, will invest three companions, 12 officers and 30 members into the Order of Canada during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on Thursday morning.