Fred Sasakamoose, the first treaty First Nations man to play in the National Hockey League has a day set aside in his honour.
The Province of Saskatchewan and the City of Saskatoon declared May 18 – Fred Sasakamoose Day.
Sasakamoose, from Ahtahkakoop First Nation died from COVID-19 in November at the age of 84.
A statue was announced and that it will go up next to the Gordie Howe statue in front of Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon.
The mayor of Saskatoon, Charlie Clarke says it’s important to acknowledge his legacy in Saskatoon.
“The fact that the very first First Nations NHL player in the league came from Ahtahkahkoop First Nations has really strong roots and relationships here in Saskatoon. I can’t think of anything better than us celebrating Fred,” Clarke said.
“The generosity of this man to our community and the love and commitment he had for especially the young people growing up is something that has made a huge difference in our city and it’s going to be great to pay tribute to him with this statue and sculpture in front of SaskTel centre.”
The day also marked the official launch of Fred’s book-Call Me Indian, which tells the story of his life in his own words.
His son Neil Sasakamoose said many writers approached his dad over the years and he would meet with them, but didn’t agree to go ahead with any of the projects.
That’s until Neil talked to his dad and said it’s time to tell his story and do it his way.
“I said, ‘dad I really think you should get this done. You’re 84 years old I think you should get this done I really think you should put your history down on paper now,’” says Neil.
Neil adds that the book was done with the help of his son Zaine.
“He had one condition he said the only way I am going to get my words on paper is if Zaine, my son, which would be his grandson… I am going to give my story to Zaine. I am going to talk to Zaine he can record me and ask me questions,” says Neil. They started the book in 2018 with Penguin Random House.
They would send a lot of questions and Zaine would spend time with his grandfather asking him those questions and recording them to send back to the writer.
Fred Sasakamoose’s life story tells how he ended up in the NHL, but also gives reader’s an accurate glimpse of what residential school life was like.
Neil adds that the story of his dad’s life includes his dad’s time at the St. Michael’s residential school in Duck Lake.
“You’re going to connect instantly to Duck Lake residential school St. Michael’s that era and the pain, but at the same time those kids found a way to play and have fun,” says Neil.
The Fred Sasakamoose statue will be installed at SaskTel Centre in the fall.
Neil says the image of the statue will show his dad at the age of 25 wearing a headdress.