As we are now heading into pow wow season, it is important to know a trailblazer in the pow wow circuit and Chief executive officer at The Professional Pow Wow Association will not be with us in 2017. Indian country has been grieving since February 12th at the passing of Cree artist, linguist and Native rights advocate Tyrone Tootoosis, 58, who passed away from colon cancer at his home near Duck Lake, Saskatoon.
Tyrone Tootoosis was long celebrated as an indigenous First Nations performer and he also made efforts to archive Cree language and history by sitting with elders and recording their stories, as his father had done. This resulted in tens of thousands of hours of recordings.
Two walls of Tyrone Tootoosis’ study are lined with these recordings as well as the transcriptions. Tootoosis called himself a “story keeper.”
Tootoosis was also a central force and organizer of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations pow wow since its beginnings 15 years ago. He was honored last November at the pow wow.
According to the CBC, at that pow wow, elders sat around him during an honor song as tears streamed down Tyrone Tootoosis’ face.
"He was starting to get tired by the end, [but] he was very happy," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said to the CBC.
Tyrone Tootoosis was a key figure in the development of Wanuskewin Heritage Park. He also portrayed Chief Poundmaker, a distant relative of Tyrone Tootoosis, in several feature films.
His First Nations Accountability Coalition pushed for improved ethics in governance at all levels, eventually convincing the Canadian federal government to alter the way it teaches tourists and schoolchildren about the Indigenous-settler relationship at Fort Battleford.
He lived by the words of his grandfather, FSIN co-founder John B. Tootoosis, who repeatedly told him, "You don't have a minute to waste."
He was also a contributor to Eagle Feather News. His publisher, John Lagimodiere, told the CBC that Tootoosis' columns educated the general public, and helped Indigenous youth find their voice and connect with their culture.
"Yes, he's gone, but what he has done will live on forever," said Lagimodiere.
On Wednesday February 15, hundreds of people — including relatives, politicians and other dignitaries from across Saskatchewan — attended the funeral of Tyrone Tootoosis, who was buried on the hillside near his ancestor and relative Chief Poundmaker.
Tyrone Tootoosis is survived by many relatives, including his widow, University of Saskatchewan professor Winona Wheeler.
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