Chief Dan George

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chief Dan George
ChiefDan George.jpg
Geswanouth Slahoot

(1899-07-24)July 24, 1899
Tsleil-Waututh, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
DiedSeptember 23, 1981(1981-09-23) (aged 82)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
OccupationAuthor, poet, actor
Years active1932–1981
RelativesLee Maracle
Columpa Bobb

Chief Dan George, OC (July 24, 1899 – September 23, 1981) was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish band whose Indian reserve is located on Burrard Inlet in the southeast area of the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He was also an actor, poet and author; his best-known written work was "My Heart Soars".[1] As an actor, he is best remembered for portraying Old Lodge Skins opposite Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man (1970), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; also for his role in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), as Lone Watie, opposite Clint Eastwood.

Early years[edit]

Born as Geswanouth Slahoot in North Vancouver,[2] his English name was originally Dan Slaholt. The surname was changed to George when he entered a residential school at age 5.[2] He worked at a number of different jobs, including as a longshoreman, construction worker, and school bus driver,[3] and was band chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963 (then called the Burrard Indian Band).[4]

Acting career[edit]

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 Studios movie Smith! (1969), adapted from an episode in this series (based on Breaking Smith's Quarter Horse, a novella by Paul St. Pierre). At age 71, he received several honors for his role in the film Little Big Man (1970), including a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[3][5] He continued to act in other films, such as Cancel My Reservation (1972), Alien Thunder (1974), The Bears and I (1974), Harry and Tonto (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Shadow of the Hawk (1976), Americathon (1979), Spirit of the Wind (1979) and Nothing Personal (1980), and on television, including a role in the 1978 miniseries Centennial, based on the book by James A. Michener, as well as appearing in a 1973 episode of the original Kung Fu series and in several episodes of The Beachcombers.

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 and touching off widespread pro-native sentiment among non-natives.[7]

In 1971, 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.

Accolades for Little Big Man[edit]

Award Category Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Awards Best Supporting Performance, Male

Musical career[edit]

In 1973, George recorded "My Blue Heaven" with the band Fireweed,[10] with "Indian Prayer" on the reverse. An album, Chief Dan George & Fireweed - In Circle, was released in 1974 comprising these songs and seven others.

Writing career[edit]

George was well known for his poetic writing style and in 1974, George wrote "My Heart Soars" followed by "My Spirit Soars" in 1983, both published by Hancock House Publishers. These two books were later combined to form "The Best of Chief Dan George" which went on to become a best seller and continues to sell well today. One of his better known pieces of poetry "A Lament for Confederation" has become one of his most widely known works.

Personal life[edit]

Dan George's granddaughter Lee Maracle is a poet, author, activist, and professor.[11] His granddaughter Charlene Aleck is an actress who performed for 18 years on The Beachcombers on CBC. His great-granddaughter Columpa Bobb is an actress and poet.

Chief Dan George's grand-nephew, Chief Jesse "Nighthawk" George, currently resides in Chesapeake, Virginia and is the Inter-Tribal Peace Chief for the State of Virginia.

Cultural references[edit]

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".[12]

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland narrated the following quote from his poem "My Heart Soars" in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.[13]

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
And my heart soars.



Written works[edit]

  • George, Dan, and Helmut Hirnschall. My Heart Soars. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1974. ISBN 0-919654-15-0
  • George, Dan, and Helmut Hirnschall. My Spirit Soars. Surrey, B.C., Canada: Hancock House, 1982. ISBN 0-88839-154-4
  • Mortimer, Hilda, and Dan George. You Call Me Chief: Impressions of the Life of Chief Dan George. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1981. ISBN 0-385-04806-8
  • George, Dan, and Helmut Hirnschall. The Best of Chief Dan George. Surrey, B.C.: Hancock House, 2003. ISBN 0-88839-544-2

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Interactive Oceans - My Heart Soars
  2. ^ a b Christine Armstrong, Hidden in plain sight: contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian Identity and Culture, 2005: Univ. of Toronto Press, p. 14. ISBN 0-8020-8800-7. Accessed 2015-10-13.
  3. ^ 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 0-7864-0566-X. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  4. ^ "First Nations - Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia". Institute for the History of Science - University of Goettingen. 2005. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  5. ^ "CBC News Indepth: Oscars". Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  6. ^ "Chief Dan George: Acclaimed actor, gentle soul". The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. 2008. Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  7. ^ a b "Chief Dan George - CBC Archives". Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  8. ^ "The Governor General of Canada". Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  9. ^ "Stamp Quest | Stamps : Canadians in Hollywood: The Sequel". 2008-06-30. Archived from the original on 2011-11-18. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  10. ^ Michael Bennett (30 September 1972). "Western Canada:Activity abounds on all fronts". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.: 48–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  11. ^ Lee Maracle, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Retrieved 14 April 2016
  12. ^ Teasdale, Wayne (2004). Awakening the Spirit, Inspiring the Soul. SkyLight Paths Pub. p. xviii. ISBN 1-59473-039-3. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  13. ^ Fralic, Shelley (2010-02-12). "Opening ceremony: Canadians strut their stuff". Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  14. ^ "Chief Dan George Public School". Toronto District School Board. Retrieved 2011-04-18.

External links[edit]