Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Tootoosis helped unify aboriginal people


John Baptiste Tootoosis was politicall­y active even if it meant getting arrested.

Tootoosis would travel to communitie­s to meet with aboriginal leaders during the 1930s. At that time, the Indian Act forbade gathering for political purposes. Tootoosis was once arrested on Cowessess First Nation by Indian Affairs officials, and was put on a train back home.

Throughout his life, Tootoosis was adamant that aboriginal people never gave up their right to nationhood. He would go on to become the first chief of the Union of Saskatchew­an Indians, which became the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in 1958, and now represents most of Saskatchew­an’s 75 First Nations.

Tootoosis began to be politicall­y active at a young age. Too young in fact by Indian Act regulation­s at the time. When Poundmaker’s band council had to elect a new chief in 1920, a 21-yearold Tootoosis was their first choice. However, he couldn’t take on the role because the Indian Act required chiefs to be at least 25.

After decades of seeing broken treaty promises, Tootoosis and his colleagues realized their people needed to unite. At a meeting at the Barry Hotel in Saskatoon in 1946, Tootoosis, Henry John and Joe Dreaver held a meeting that would lead to the formation of the Union of Saskatchew­an Indians. Later in his life, Tootoosis served as ambassador to the World Council of Indigenous People conference­s that were held around the world. He died in 1989.

 ??  ?? John Baptiste Tootoosis
John Baptiste Tootoosis

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