After nearly two years of research for worthy inductees, the Saskatchewan First Nations Sports Halls of Fame is now a reality.
"The Sports, Culture and Recreation Commission talked about it informally and we put together a resolution with the chiefs and it was unanimously passed," said Federation of Saskatchewan Indians vice-Chief Eugene Arcand.
"For 18 months to two years we sought out from the various tribal councils who would be suitable for induction and the five that were picked were continuously recommended."
Fred Saskamoose, David Greyeyes Steele, Paul Acoose, Art Obey and Alex Wuttunee Decoteau are the first athletes to be honored in the Hall of Fame. Only Saskamoose and Greyeyes are still alive.
Saskamoose was born on the Whitefish Lake Reserve in 1933 and at the age of eight he went to St. Michael's School in Duck Lake where he started to play and excel in hockey. As a 15-year-old he went to Moose Jaw to play with the Canucks in the Western Hockey League and following the 1952-53 season, Saskamoose was called up to play 11 games with the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks.
Saskamoose, who was the first treaty Indian to play in the NHL, remained in the Blackhawks' system for three more years before returning back west where he played semi-pro until retirement.
Greyeyes Steele was born in 1914 on the Muskeg Lake Reserve. Greyeyes Steele was a multi-sport athletes, but he gained his highest achievements in soccer. He was named to the Saskatchewan all-star team on three occasions and during those stints played in a number of international contests. During the Second World War, Greyeyes Steele was a member of the Canadian Machine Gun Reinforcement Unit soccer team which won the Overseas Army Championship in 1942.
He also played on the Canadian squad which competed in the Inter-Allied Games following the war.
Decoteau (1887-1917) was one of the best distance runners in Canada in the early 10th century. Introduced to distance running in 1909, Decoteau set a western Canadian record for the five-mile event when he covered the distance in 27 minutes and 45.2 seconds. Decoteau won four gold medals at the 1910 Alberta championships and in 1912 he qualified for the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, where he finished sixth in the 5,000-metre final. Decoteau, who had become an Edmonton police officer after retiring from athletics, was killed in the First World War at the age of 30.
Acoose (1883-1978) was another gifted runner as he was the western Canadian three-and five-mile road champion and the Saskatchewan five-mile track championship by the time he was 25 years old.
After turning professional in 1909, Acoose set a world record for the 15-mile event when he registered a time of one hour, 22 minutes, 22 seconds. Acoose also finished second at a world-class race at New-York's Madison Square Gardens that same year in 1910 he won a 12-mile event. Acoose retired to the farm on the Sakimay Reserve and passed away in 1978 at the age of 95 years.
Obey (1931-1988) was a builder and leader in recreation and sport development for Aboriginal people. Born on the Piapot Reserve, Obey attended the legendary Notre Dame College in Wilcox after which he went on to supervise boys' athletics at the Lebret School.
His major accomplishment include coaching the First Nations women's fastball team and in 1974 initiating the Saskatchewan Indian Summer Games. Obey follows that up with the inaugural Saskatchewan Indian Summer Games in 1988. For nearly two decades Obey worked as a recreation co-ordinator for various native and non-native organizations.
The Muskeg Lake First Nation has graciously turned over space in Saskatoon
to house the Hall of Fame and Arcand said that a number of other individuals are also responsible for where the program currently stands.
Arcand singled out John Dewar and Ches Anderson from the University of Saskatchewan for their assistance in researching the inductees and acknowledged Rob Witeman, the curator of the hall.
"I'm very, very honored and very, very proud to be involved in First Nation development," said Arcand. "For the first time we will be a part of recording our history - to get things straight.
"It also gives our present-day athletes and future athletes a goal," added Arcand. "It makes the descendants of the first inductees very proud."
The Hall of Fame is located at the Bill McKnight Centre on Packham Avenue in Saskatoon.