George, Chief Dan
Origin: Vancouver, British Columbia
Chief Dan George was born with the names Geswanouth Slahoot (which was anglicized as Dan Slaholt) to a tribal chief on Burrard Indian Reserve No. 3 in North Vancouver. His last name was changed to George when he entered a mission boarding school at the age of 5, where the use of his native language was discouraged, if not forbidden.
After spending much of his early life as a longshoreman, a construction worker, and a school bus driver, Chief Dan George auditioned for the role of Ol' Antoine on "Cariboo Country" (1960), a CBC television series, and was offered the part. On the strength of his performance in the series, and after playing the same part in Smith! (1969) a Disney adaptation of one the show's episodes, based on "Breaking Smith's Quarterhorse" a novella by _Paul St. Pierre_ and starring Glenn Ford, he was asked to play Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man (1970); this role led to a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1970. He continued to appear in a variety of films, and also became an accomplished stage actor.
He became an influential speaker on the rights of the native peoples of North America. He died in 1981 on the same Indian Reserve where he was born.
Was chief of the Burrard Band of North Vancouver, British Columbia (aka the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation today), from 1951 to 1963. Although the position is elected, not hereditary, his son is chief today.
Besides television and the movies, was also a successful Canadian stage actor and appeared in The Ectasy of Rita Joe in 1967
Was a successful poet. Wrote two books of poetry, My Heart Soars (1974) and My Spirit Soars (1982). Also recited his famous work, "Lament for Confederation," at Vancouver, British Columbia's 1967 Canadian Centennial celebrations in Empire Stadium; the speech was a stirring - and unexpected - indictment of colonialism's impact on First Nations people and helped galvanize native political activism in British Columbia, and also created support and awareness among non-natives.
Always insisted on playing "good" First Nation characters.
Until 1959 (when he was 60 years old), he worked as a longshoreman, logger and itinerant musician.
He was awarded the O.C. (Officer of the Order of Canada) on June 25, 1971 for his services to Canada.
Has a public school named after him in Toronto, Ontario.
He is commemorated on one of a set of postage stamps (issued in 2008) honoring prominent Canadians in Hollywood. The other stamps feature Marie Dressler, Norma Shearer, and Raymond Burr.
Actor Donald Sutherland quoted from his poem "My Heart Soars" in the the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010: XXI Olympic Winter Games.