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  Saskatchewan's Own

The entire Province of Saskatchewan has about the same number of people as the metro area of Salt Lake City, Utah. And yet this place of approximately a million souls has produced a surprising number of people who've gained national and international acclaim for their achievements (page updated 2012).

Below are 25 of them. Some are alive; some are no longer with us. But all are Saskatchewan folks (a few aren't, but we claim them as our own) who've distinguished themselves in their chosen areas of endeavour.

Our list is far from complete - we've already started a second one. If you know of someone you think should be added, drop us a line using the comment form at the bottom of the page.

Joni Mitchell
- courtesy Wild Oscar/
Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell (1943- ) The famous singer/songwriter grew up in Saskatoon. Her mother was a school teacher, her father a grocery store manager. Raised on Robbery, which shared grooves with Help Me and Free Man in Paris on 1974’s Court and Spark album, is said to have been written in and about Regina’s Empire Hotel.

Guy Vanderhaeghe (1951- ) A two-time winner of Canada’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for writing, Vanderhaeghe was born in the potash-mining town of Esterhazy, in southeastern Saskatchewan. His award-winning novel, The Englishman’s Boy, was also a Booker Prize nominee. He lives in Saskatoon.

Tommy Douglas (1904-1986) This Baptist minister, socialist politician and premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961 caused a continental stir by creating North America’s first medicare program, implemented in 1962. Free, Canada-wide health care followed on Saskatchewan’s lead. He’s also actor Keifer Sutherland’s maternal grandfather.

Buffy Sainte-Marie
- courtesy EMI Canada
Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941- ) Born to Cree parents on the Piapot Indian reserve in southern Saskatchewan, folksinger/songwriter Sainte-Marie is best known for her classic tunes Universal Soldier and Until it’s Time for You to Go. She’s a forceful proponent of Native rights and culture.

Gordie Howe (1928- ) Many believe Howe is greatest hockey player of all time. Born in Floral, near Saskatoon, Howe’s 26 years with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings (1946-71) produced four scoring titles, six MVP awards; 21 all-star selections and 801 career goals (a 23-year record broken in 1994 by Wayne Gretzky). Howe played professional hockey until 1980 in the World Hockey League.

Chief Big Bear (Mistahimaskwa) (1825?-1888) Big Bear was born in the Fort Carlton district of what’s now central Saskatchewan. He was a revered leader and visionary who refused to sign Treaty 6 because he believed it condemned his people to perpetual poverty and loss of lifestyle. He worked towards establishing an Indian confederacy to lobby for better treaty terms, but starvation forced him to acquiesce. He counseled peace when extremist followers participated in the violence surrounding the Northwest Resistance of 1885.

Louis Riel
- courtesy RCMP Centennial Museum
Louis Riel

Louis Riel (1844-1885) While born in what’s now Manitoba, Métis leader Riel’s prominent role in Canadian history arises from his actions at Batoche, where in 1885 he established a provisional government to protest Canadian government inaction on outstanding economic, cultural and social claims by Métis (French-Indian) and other settlers. The ensuing Northwest Resistance resulted in Riel being hanged for treason at Regina.

W.O. Mitchell (1914-1998) Writer Bill Mitchell was a two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Award for humour, an Officer of the Order of Canada and a feisty raconteur who was born in Weyburn, in the southeast portion of the province. His novels Who Has Seen the Wind and Jake and Kid, both set in rural Saskatchewan, remain standards of Prairie prose.

Chief Poundmaker (Pitikwahanapiwiyin) (1842?-1886) The adopted son of famed Blackfoot head Chief Crowfoot (Isapomuxika), the articulate Poundmaker initially opposed Treaty 6, agitating for a better deal. He is credited with preventing a massacre of militiamen rebuffed in their attack on Poundmaker followers after the so-called "seige'' of Battleford during the Northwest Resistance.

Pamela Wallin (1953- ) Wallin is Canada's best-known, female, broadcast journalist. Born in Wadena, 140 km northwest of Yorkton, she has worked for two national television networks on numerous programs and projects. In 2002, the much-honoured Wallin was named Consul-General to New York City by Prime Minister Jean Chretien. She was appointed to the Canadian senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009.

Colin James
- courtesy Warner Canada
Colin James

Colin James (1964- ) Blues, rock and swing guitarist Colin Munn was born and raised in Regina. He moved to Vancouver at 19, and changed his last name to James a couple of years later. His self-titled, debut album, released in 1988, was the fastest-selling Canadian album of all time. His biggest hits include Why’d You Lie?, Voodoo Thing, and Five Long Years.

Gabriel Dumont (1837-1906) As a former guide, ferryman, lead buffalo hunter and Indian fighter, Dumont was expert in the art of guerrilla warfare and served brilliantly as Louis Riel’s military commander during the 1885 Northwest Resistance. He fled to the U.S. at the end of hostilities, taking a job as a crack marksman in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He returned to his home when a general amnesty was proclaimed.

The Bronfman Family The family that once controlled Seagram’s Distillery and Universal Studios homesteaded in Saskatchewan on arriving in Canada near the turn of the century. While living in Yorkton in 1919, Harry Bronfman established a liquor re-exporting firm called the Canada Pure Drug Company. The family later moved to Montreal.

Art Linkletter (1912-2010) This Emmy-award winning icon of ‘50s and ‘60s television and radio, famous for programs like People Are Funny, House Party (featuring Kids Say the Darndest Things), was born in Moose Jaw, in south-central Saskatchewan. He moved away at an early age.

John G. Diefenbaker
- courtesy Diefenbaker Canada Centre
John G. Diefenbaker

John G. Diefenbaker (1895-1979) Diefenbaker, Canada’s 13th Prime Minister (1957-1963) and the only one from Saskatchewan, was born in Ontario but his family moved here when he was a child. He served as the Progressive Conservative party Member of Parliament for Prince Albert, in north-central Saskatchewan.

Eduarde Beaupre (1881-1904) "The Willow Bunch Giant’’, who was named after the town located on the south-central edge of the province, stood eight foot two and one-half inches in height. He performed in freak shows across the North America, as well as in the Barnum and Bailey Circus. His tragic life ended early due to complications from tuberculosis.

Ernie Richardson(1931- ) Ernie, his brother Garnet, and cousins Arnold and Wes Richardson are generally conceded to be the best male curlers of all time. With Ernie as "skip’’, the Richardson foursome won four world titles in the five-year period beginning in 1959 (Mel Perry played lead in the ’63 victory). Ernie, who was born in Stoughton but curled out of Regina, was named to the Order of Canada in 1978.

Jim Pattison
- courtesy Jim Pattison Group
Jim Pattison

Jimmy Pattison (1928- ) This billionaire president of Vancouver’s Jim Pattison Group, the third-largest, privately-owned company in Canada, was born in Luseland, about 220 km west of Saskatoon. Pattison launched his business career by purchasing a car dealership in 1961. He now owns companies around the world, including Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Sandra Schmirler (1963-2000) Schmirler, born in Biggar, was the "skip’’ of the best female curling foursome of all time. The Schmirler team, which included Jan Betker, Joan McCusker and Marcia Gudereit, won three world championships and the first-ever gold medal for women’s curling at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. The popular Schmirler died of cancer in 2000.

Brian Dickson (1916-1998) Born in Yorkton, Dickson served as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada for six years ending in 1990. Former chief justice Antonio Lamer said on Dickson’s passing: "With the greatest respect for all of my colleagues in our country, past and present, let me in front of all here today agree with those who would claim that Brian Dickson stands out as our most important judge, and chief justice, ever."

Joe Fafard
Joe Fafard

Joe Fafard (1942- ) Sculptor Fafard is best known for his cows and caricatures, which adorn homes, art galleries and parks around the world. He was born in Ste. Marthe, SK, and his foundry/studio is located just outside of Regina, at Pense.

John Sopinka (1933-1997) Born in Broderick, about 80 km south of Saskatoon, this late member of the Supreme Court of Canada was the leading proponent of a movement to allow justices to publicly discuss controversial decisions. He was the first Canadian of Ukrainian heritage to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Allan Fotheringham (1934- ) Time magazine once called Fotheringham "a tangier critic of complacency’’, but everybody else just calls him "Dr. Foth’’. Born in Hearne, about 70 km southwest of Regina, Dr. Foth’s ‘scribblings’ ran on the back page of Maclean’s Magazine for 27 years.

Catriona LeMay Doan
Catriona LeMay Doan

Catriona LeMay Doan (1970- ) LeMay Doan was winner of gold and bronze medals in the women’s 500- and 1,000-metre speed skating events at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, and she won again in Salt Lake City in the 500 metre. She was born and raised in Saskatoon, where she trained with the Saskatoon Lions’ Speed-Skating Club. LeMay Doan was named Canadian Female Athlete of the Year in 2001 and she won the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian Athlete of the Year in 2002. She retired in 2003.

Dick Assman (1934- ) In the age of the television talk show, some people become "famous’’ for nothing more than their names. Assman, a Regina gas-station operator, got his 15 minutes of fame a few years back when David Letterman made him a household name across North America.

Saskatchewan's Own 2
Saskatchewan's Own 3

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