Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chief Dan George

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears on destroys." Chief Dan George

Chief Dan George was iconic on Canadian Television in the 60's and 70's. For me, he bridged a gap in the understanding between aboriginal and non-natives that has been unprecedented. His credits and my first memory of him is from the CBC TV show - Cariboo County as old Antoine. I remember feeling his immense energy and fell in love with the culture of his people through him. I had past life memories of being one with the land that he helped awaken.

I loved watching 'The Breaking of Smiths Quarter horse' in school as a child, and the wisdom that Chief Dan George shared with the people of British Columbia. He spoke with such a genuine and calming demeanor and shared such basic wisdom. He was not caught up in the drama of being a 'star' and remained in the same little house on the reserve where he was born that he built for his wife and six children. He became Chief Dan George in 1951 when he took over as chief of the Burrard band from his father. He continued in that role until 1963, when his acting career began. Chief Dan George was made honorary chief of two other bands, the Squamish and Shuswap.

He left us with such gifts and wisdom. I am unsure what other cultures know about this great man who came to share with me during my meditation that I felt the urge to write about him and share him with others.

His Early years

(from Wikipedia)
Born as Geswanouth Slahoot in North Vancouver,[1] his English name was originally Dan Slaholt. The surname was changed to George when he entered a residential at age 5.[1] He worked at a number of different jobs, including as a longshoremen, construction worker, and school bus driver,[2] and was band chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963 (then called the Burrard Indian Band).[3]

  Acting career

In 1960, when he was already 60 years old, he landed his first acting job in a CBC Television series, Cariboo Country, as the character, Ol' Antoine (pron. "Antwine"). He performed the same role in a  Walt Disney Studious movie, Smith! , adapted from an episode in this series (based on Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse, a novella by Paul St. Pierre) . At age 71, he won several awards for his role in the film Little Big Man. He received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[2][4] He did a hilarious turn as Clint Eastwood's bumbling traveling companion in "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976).  Harry and Tonto, and Americathon, and on television, including a role in the miniseries Centennial, based on the book by James A. Michener, as well as appearing in a 1973 episode of the original Kung Fu series.[5]
He played the role of Rita Joe's father in George Ryga's stage play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, in performances at Vancouver, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and Washington, D.C..
During his acting career, he worked to promote better understanding by non-aboriginals of the First Nations people. His soliloquy, Lament for Confederation,[6] an indictment of the appropriation of native territory by white colonialism, was performed at the City of Vancouver's celebration of the Canadian centennial in 1967.[7] This speech is credited with escalating native political activism in Canada, as well as touching off widespread pro-native sentiment among non-natives.[7]
In 1971, Chief Dan George was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[8] In 2008 Canada Post issued a postage stamp in its "Canadians in Hollywood" series featuring Chief Dan George.[9]
He died in Vancouver in 1981 at the age of 82. He was interred at Burrard Cemetery.[10]

  Cultural references

Dan George's B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame star on Granville Street, Vancouver, BC
He was included on the famous Golden Rule Poster under "Native Spirituality" with the quote: "We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive".[11 

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.

The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.

And my heart soars.
Chief Dan George

"May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong."

- Chief Dan George

  1. ^ a b Hidden in plain sight: contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian. University of Toronto Press. 2005. p. 14. ISBN 0802088007. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  2. ^ a b Yoggy, Gary A (1998). Back in the saddle: essays on Western film and television actors. Jefferson, NC [u.a.] McFarland. p. 138. ISBN 078640566X. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  3. ^ "First Nations - Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia". Institute for the History of Science - University of Goettingen. 2005. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  4. ^ "CBC News Indepth: Oscars". Cbc.ca. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  5. ^ "Chief Dan George (1899–1981)". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-10-26. 
  6. ^ "Chief Dan George: Acclaimed actor, gentle soul". The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. 2008. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  7. ^ a b "Chief Dan George - CBC Archives". Archives.cbc.ca. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  8. ^ "The Governor General of Canada". Gg.ca. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  9. ^ "Stamp Quest | Stamps : Canadians in Hollywood: The Sequel". Canadapost.ca. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  10. ^ "Chief Dan George (1899 - 1981) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  11. ^ Teasdale, Wayne (2004). Awakening the Spirit, Inspiring the Soul: 30 Stories of Interspiritual .... Woodstock, Vermont : SkyLight Paths Pub. p. xviii. ISBN 1594730393. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  12. ^ Fralic, Shelley (2010-02-12). "Opening ceremony: Canadians strut their stuff". Vancouversun.com. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  13. ^ "Chief Dan George Public School". Toronto District School Board. Retrieved 2011-04-18.

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