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.
|- courtesy Wild
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
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.
|- courtesy EMI
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.
|- courtesy RCMP
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
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.
|- courtesy Warner
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
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.
|- courtesy 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.
|- courtesy Jim
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 (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 (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
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