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The history of Indigenous sport in Saskatchewan

Sport in Saskatchewan has a rich historic past, with ties to Indigenous culture and heritage. With the help of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, we are featuring a few of the Indigenous athletes and builders who have impacted sport in the province.

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame will have 11 individual Indigenous inductees as of September 2024. Learn more about their lives and influence in sport:

Paul Acoose

Born in Zagime Anishinabek (Sakimay) First Nation, Paul Acoose ran his way to being remembered as an outstanding long-distance runner. Acoose was introduced to running in 1908 and by 1909, he won a race in Winnipeg and set a new world record. In addition to a short but successful sporting career, Acoose defeated famed distance runner Tom Longboat.

Colette Bourgonje

Colette Bourgonje overcame adversity and became one of Canada’s most celebrated multi-sport Paralympic athletes. Originally from Porcupine Plain, Bourgonje was recognized for her outstanding abilities in wheelchair racing and sit skiing, claiming Paralympic medals in both events. She was a 10-time Paralympian and was the first Canadian to compete in both Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

Tony Cote

Tony Cote advocated for more accessible sporting opportunities for Indigenous youth in Saskatchewan and eventually paved the way for Indigenous multi-sport events in the province. In 1974, he created the first Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games, which later expanded to include Winter Games. Decades following the initial Games, the event continues to be held and celebrated today. In honour of his legacy, both the Games have been renamed to the Tony Cote Games.

Alex Decoteau

Born on the Red Pheasant Indian Reserve in 1887 – prior to Saskatchewan’s establishment in 1905 – Alex Decoteau was the first ‘Saskatchewan’ born athlete to compete on the Olympic stage. In the 1912 Stockholm Games, Decoteau finished sixth in the 5,000-metre race. Although he didn’t have a podium finish, Decoteau received an Olympic diploma and a performance medal for his efforts.

David Greyeyes

David Greyeyes is a World War II veteran, who explored his passion for soccer while in active duty. He was a member of the Canadian team that won the Inter-Allied Games in 1946. Greyeyes later coached soccer in the province before he was selected to help represent Saskatchewan against top touring English teams in 1937, 1938 and 1949.

Jacqueline Lavallee

Multi-sport athlete, Jacqueline Lavallee attended the Saskatchewan Summer Games as a member of the track team in 1992, the Western Canada Summer Games in 1995 with the basketball team, and the 1997 Canada Games in soccer.  Following her passion for sport, Lavallee played for Canada’s soccer team at the World University Games twice and was a member of the women’s national basketball team for three years.

Ray Mitsuing- Rodeo

As the most recent inductee, who will officially be inducted to the Saskatchewan Sport Hall of Fame in September 2024, Ray Mitsuing competed as a chuckwagon driver for 36 years. In 1992, he won the Aggregate Championship at the Calgary Stampede for having the fastest combined time of his races. In addition, he won the Fastest Time Award at the Stampede in 2012, 2015, and 2019.

Jim Neilson

Remembered for his commitment to playing more than 1,000 games in the National Hockey League (NHL), Big River’s Jim Neilson continues to be celebrated for his contribution to sport. He spent 16 years in the NHL, playing with New York Rangers, which led him to become a four-time all-star and Norris Trophy candidate.

Claude Petit

Five-time Canadian Army heavyweight boxing champion, Claude Petit was the only Canadian to win the British Army Heavyweight title. Following his time as a competitive athlete, Petit coached Team Canada at international competitions, worked as an official for several years and served nine years as president of the Saskatchewan Boxing Association.

Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Sasakamoose was named the Most Valuable Player in the Western Canada Junior Hockey League. Born in the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, he had a brief stint with the National Hockey League, playing with the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1962, Sasakamoose focused his efforts on the Northern Indian Hockey League as one of the founding members. Sasakamoose has made numerous contributions to Indigenous sport in Saskatchewan, with the Fred Sasakaoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship being established in his honour.

Bryan Trottier

Val Marie local, Bryan Trottier is one of the most successful hockey players to come from Saskatchewan. He won six Stanley Cups, scored 524 goals and had 1,425 points in 1,279 National Hockey League (NHL) regular-season games. Trottier would often speak at schools and inform youth on the importance of education and how it impacted him as a child. In an article her wrote for the NHL, Trottier speaks about how his Indigenous heritage shaped him.

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame continues to expand Indigenous representation in their galleries and now features more artifacts representing the numerous Hall of Fame inductees.

In part of their gallery’s expansion, they recently introduced a new display tablet that features in-depth stories of the lives and triumphs of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous athletes, builders and team members. These individual’s stories are compiled into 5,400 words and are accessible via the tablet.