Books·Canadian

Call Me Indian

A book by Fred Sasakamoose.

Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Sasakamoose, torn from his home at the age of seven, endured the horrors of residential school for a decade before becoming one of 120 players in the most elite hockey league in the world. He has been heralded as the first Indigenous player with Treaty status in the NHL, making his official debut as a 1954 Chicago Black Hawks player on Hockey Night in Canada and teaching Foster Hewitt how to pronounce his name. Sasakamoose played against such legends as Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, and Maurice Richard. After twelve games, he returned home.

When people tell Sasakamoose's story, this is usually where they end it. They say he left the NHL to return to the family and culture that the Canadian government had ripped away from him. That returning to his family and home was more important to him than an NHL career. But there was much more to his decision than that. Understanding Sasakamoose's choice means acknowledging the dislocation and treatment of generations of Indigenous peoples. It means considering how a man who spent his childhood as a ward of the government would hear those supposedly golden words: "You are Black Hawks property."

Sasakamoose's story was far from over once his NHL days concluded. He continued to play for another decade in leagues around Western Canada. He became a band councillor, served as Chief, and established athletic programs for kids. He paved a way for youth to find solace and meaning in sports for generations to come. Yet, threaded through these impressive accomplishments were periods of heartbreak and unimaginable tragedy — as well moments of passion and great joy.

This isn't just a hockey story; Sasakamoose's groundbreaking memoir sheds piercing light on Canadian history and Indigenous politics, and follows this extraordinary man's journey to reclaim pride in an identity and a heritage that had previously been used against him. (From Viking)

Fred Sasakamoose is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada. He died in 2020.

More about Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Sasakamoose is the first status First Nations player in the NHL. He broke a trail that many Aboriginal players have since followed. We'll hear his story and the tales of some of the stars that followed. Folks like Brian Trottier and Jordin Tootoo. And these players have made some dreams come true for generations of young players, we'll hear from them. 27:29

From residential school to the NHL

Edmonton

7 years ago
1:49
Fred Sasakamoose became first Canadian aboriginal player in NHL 1:49
Reggie Leach, is a former NHL player, who played in the 1970's and 80's with the Philadelphia Flyers. He shared his memories of the late Hockey Pioneer with us. 17:40
Tributes have been pouring in for former Chicago Blackhawks player Fred Sasakmoose, one of the first Indigenous athletes to play in the NHL. Sasakamoose died Tuesday after being hospitalized with COVID-19. Waubgeshig Rice spoke with Day 6 about what the hockey legend means to Indigenous players today. 8:55

 

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