May 18th is officially known as Fred Sasakamoose Day.
Fred Saskamoose was born December 25, 1933 into a family of 11 children in Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. At the age of six, Fred and his brother were taken from their family and brought to a residential school.
The brothers were taken to St. Michael’s Residential school, 60 miles from their home, where Fred recalls in his now released memoir “Call Me Indian”, “I never heard words of encouragement. Orders and corrections. That’s all we ever got.”
Fred Saskamoose was one of the first* Indigenous hockey players with Treaty status to play in the NHL.
Saskamoose played 11 games in the NHL as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks from 1953 to 1954. Those 11 games have inspired generations of First Nations hockey players to pursue their dreams of one day being in the NHL. His groundbreaking career got him inducted to the Saskatchewan Hall of Fame in 2007.
Saskamoose passed away November 26th, 2020 due to COVID-19 complications.
The legacy Fred Saskamoose left behind still resonates all over North America, he “showed them, showed everyone, that we could make it in the white world,” Saskamoose writes in his memoir.
Fred Saskamoose’s memoir, “Call Me Indian” was released today, May 18th, 2021.
Although Fred’s NHL career ended in 1954, his story was far from over. He played in leagues across Western Canada, he became a band councilor, served as Chief, and established athletic programs for kids.
Fred Saskamoose continues to inspire after his passing through the legacy he left behind, and now with the memoir he left us with.
* Corrected on May 27th, 2021. Originally stated “Fred Saskamoose was the first Indigenous hockey player with Treaty status to play in the NHL.”