|Birth: ||Oct. 25, 1941|
|Death: ||Jul. 5, 2011|
"You know I wasn't worthy until I spoke the white man's language, until I was able to go to church every day and receive communion…I wasn't worth anything." – Gordon Tootoosis
Highly respected Cree Activist and celebrated actor, Gordon Tootoosis, passed away Tuesday at the age of 69.
Gordon was influential in the Aboriginal community and is noted for his strong Cree belief system and knowledge of the Cree language, art and way of life.
"Gordon was a role model, as a band member…when he gave me advice and words of encouragement to follow through with my dream," said friend Floyd Favel.
Gordon was born on Oct. 25, 1941 on the Poundmaker Cree Nation Reserve in rural Saskatchewan. He was raised with 13 siblings, 10 brothers and three sisters.
As a young child, he was exiled from his home and forced to attend a Catholic residential school and forbidden to speak his own language. In past interviews, Gordon described the brutality and humiliation he suffered.
His experiences as a child molded him into and inspirational role model for aboriginal youth. He entered into social work and worked with children and young offenders. In 2004, the highly respected Cree activist earned a membership in the Order of Canada for his accomplishments and leadership to the Aboriginal people.
An accomplished native dancer and rodeo roper, Gordon toured with the Plains Intertribal Dance Troupe in the 1960s and 1970s. He travelled across Canada, Europe and South America. He competed in and won many championships on the North American powwow circuit in traditional singing and dancing. He also pursued an interest in art – learning painting, sculpting and drama.
Gordon led a successful career in Hollywood, appearing in more than 40 films and television series including: Legends of the Fall, Crazy Horse, Lonesome Dove and North of 60. His first acting role was with Donald Sutherland in the 1973 film, Alien Thunder. He offered encouragement, support and training to aspiring aboriginal actors.
Gordon founded the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company – a cultural organization that produces artistic presentations by Canadian Aboriginal Artists.
Most recently, he played the lead role in Gordon Winter, a Saskatoon playwright by Kenneth T. Williams that is a fictionalized account of a controversial aboriginal leader inspired by the life and times of David Ahenakew.
Like his father, John Tootoosis, Gordon was also involved in First Nation politics. He served as the chief of his band at one time, was part of the National Indian Brotherhood and was the former vice-president of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Gordon married Irene Seseequasis in 1965. They raised three daughters – Disa, Alanna and Glynis and two adopted sons – Lee and Clint. They also raised four grandchildren after their daughter, Glynis, passed away from cancer over a decade ago.
A memorial service is set for this Friday morning at the Poundmaker Veterans Hall on the Poundmaker Cree First Nation.
Poundmaker Indian Reserve
Created by: Doreen
Record added: Jul 08, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 73030046