Chief Roy Bird Remembered

By Morgan O’Neal

Roy Bird, age 57, was a Treaty Status Indian who spent his life as public servant, choosing to pursue a career as a First Nations politician. He recently passed away in hospital, and on the following weekend those who knew him and loved him gathered for a memorial service at the Montreal Lake Cree Nation’s school gymnasium on December 24, 2008. Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Grand Chief Lawrence Joseph was quoted in the Regina Leader-Post saying, “For my part, what I have known him to be is the epitome of a public servant. He never asked for any recognition or anything from anyone.” Joseph said, “He just went about doing his business and operated basically outside the square. He didn’t accept status quo and tried his hand at everything. He competed against the best of them politically and otherwise.” During Bird’s first term as Chief of the Montreal Lake Band, he received the “Citizen of the Year” award in recognition of his significant contributions to the community. Bird had served the band as councilor (4 years), recreation director (2 years), and band administrator (6 years) before being elected as chief. In the nine years he held that position, he created and contributed to numerous opportunities for his people, including building a new school. FSIN Chief Joseph told the Leader-Post, “Being chief has got to be one of the toughest jobs anywhere,’’ Joseph said, explaining Bird was the kind of person who always looked out for the “little guy.” Evidence of Bird’s commitment to action that produces results is found in his work. In 1986, he started the Prince Albert Development Corporation, providing opportunities in security, trucking, real estate, forestry, and other businesses. As chairman of the Saskatchewan Indian Equity Foundation (SIEF) he helped establish the First Nations Bank of Canada. According to SIEF’s website, the organization “has lent more than $54 million to First Nation entrepreneurs” creating over 3,000 businesses and approximately 10,000 jobs, making a significant contribution to aboriginal economic development. Bird also served as chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, and for three years, Bird held the position of Third Vice Chief in the FSIN. Chief Roy Bird was a man with clear vision and a large heart who left the world a better place, and his passing is a great a loss. His life was one of inspirational service and dedicated work that will benefit his people for many years to come.