CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Ralph Steinhauer, lieutenant governor of Alberta

The Story

When Prime Minister Trudeau appointed him Alberta's lieutenant-governor in 1974, Ralph Garvin Steinhauer described it as "the least" of his life's expectations. Steinhauer tells the CBC's Wendy Brunelle that he thought he had a better chance of marrying the Queen. Before he became Canada's first native lieutenant-governor, Steinhauer had to battle his share of racism. In this interview, Steinhauer recalls how his application for the position of assistant postmaster of Vilna, Alta., was refused on racial grounds. But his perseverance and the help of enlightened Albertans would eventually land him the position, paving the way for his appointment as the lieutenant-governor of Alberta.

Medium: Television
Program: Only Yesterday
Broadcast Date: March 23, 1979
Guest(s): Ralph Steinhauser
Host: Wendy Brunelle
Duration: 4:06

Did You know?

• The successful farmer and prominent native leader was born in Morley, Alta., on June 8, 1905. Ralph Garvin Steinhauer died in Edmonton on Sept. 19, 1987. There's an elementary school in Edmonton named after him.


• Steinhauer was a Cree Indian. He was educated at Brandon Indian Residential School.


• The lieutenant-governor is the Queen's representative in Alberta, and exercises Her Majesty's powers in the province.

• On Nov. 20, 1928, Steinhauer married Isabel Florence Margaret Davidson. The couple had five children.


• "I gotta be thankful for the girl I married who stood beside through my whole lifetime and still is the greatest friend I've ever had." — Ralph Steinhauser


• Steinhauer was the founder of the Indian Association of Alberta and a founding member of the Alberta Wheat Pool.

• Steinhauer served as the Chief of the Saddle Lake Indian Band for three years.


• The Indian Association of Alberta evolved from the League of Indians of Alberta (LIA), which was established in 1933 to champion native rights. In 1939, the LIA was reorganized as the Indian Association of Alberta.


• Steinhauer ran as a Liberal candidate in the 1963 federal election in the district of Vegreville but was defeated.

• When Prime Minister Trudeau called to offer Steinhauer the job as lieutenant-governor, he told Trudeau: "I'm not schooled for a thing like this... You're plucking a person out of the farmyard and an Indian at that." Trudeau brushed aside his remark saying: "You be yourself and that's all we ask."


• Steinhauer served as the lieutenant-governor from 1974 to 1979.


• He was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1972.




Provincial & Territorial Politics more