A former Chief of the Siksika First Nation, Mr. Roy Little Chief, passed away on June 11, 2020 in Calgary. For over 50 years, Roy Little Chief had a positive impact on the rights and causes important to Indigenous communities across Canada. The Blackfoot elder – whose maternal grandfather, Eagle Rib, signed Treaty 7 – was first elected to the Siksika Nation Council in a by-election that led to his election as Chief from 1981-1983.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Roy Little Chief worked with the Indian Association of Alberta and Harold Cardinal, a prominent Indigenous leader in Alberta, to promote the rights and contributions of Indigenous people. He began his activism by opposing a federal government White Paper in the early 1970s that called for the elimination of separate legal status for First Nations in Canada.
In the early 1970s, Roy Little Chief became the Southern Director of the American Indian Movement in Alberta. He was a central figure in the awakening of First Nations political activity, Indigenous spirituality, and cultural expression. He had success in organizing support for the inclusion of aboriginal rights in the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in the early 1980s.
Roy Little Chief, along with Urban Calling Last, founded the Calgary Urban Treaty Alliance. He also became a member of the first City of Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, along with Ralph Klein, when it was formed in 1979.
Roy Little Chief served on many boards and committees over the years, including the National Anti Poverty Organization, and the National Residential School Survivors Society, representing Treaty 7. His efforts contributed to eventual reparations for residential school survivors and the establishment of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Roy Little Chief was vocal in calling out the racial attitudes embodied in law enforcement protocols of the Calgary Police Service and the RCMP that resulted in the unfair imprisonment of Indigenous people. He pushed social welfare agencies to treat their clients, including children, with respect, and to work harder for clients’ benefits. His work during the 1970s was documented in the book, “Wall of Words” by the late Dr. Joan Ryan, Anthropology Professor at the University of Calgary.
As a member of the Indian-Lutheran Race Relations Committee from 1977-1982, Roy Little Chief developed a unique and ground-breaking program of “listening conferences” to build awareness and support for First Nations’ issues with church congregations. In 1979, Roy Little Chief was a member of an Indigenous delegation invited by World Moral Rearmament to participate in reconciliation efforts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. He also pursued theological training in a three year program at the Alberta Bible College.
In the past two decades, Roy Little Chief held various leadership positions, including Chair of the Siksika Police Commission, Chair of Siksika Housing, and Board member of Siksika Resource Development Ltd., the business arm of the Siksika Nation.
Roy Little Chief was the primary organizer, and the last remaining member of the original Blackfoot A1 Drum Group. The award-winning singing, drumming, and dance troupe was formed in the mid 1960s. They were regularly invited to perform at pow wows and cultural events across Canada and the United States, including at Expo 67 in Montreal during Canada’s Centennial year. In turn, they inspired a wave of many similar groups to form in other First Nations.
Roy Little Chief was a friend to many. He built a multitude of lasting relationships across cultures and communities throughout North America. He once said of his life that he, ”… had honourably reached Eldership, with well-rounded life-experience, enjoying life, free of all addictions, with the help of my spiritual beliefs.” He worked and prayed unceasingly for the full participation of all Indigenous people in the political, social, cultural, and spiritual life of their Nation and of Canada.
Roy Little Chief received the Queens Golden Jubilee Medal 2002 for his work to improve the status of First Nations communities in Canada. The medal was presented to him by the late Senator Thelma Chalifoux.
Roy Little Chief was born on August 26, 1938 in the Blackfoot Hospital at the Siksika Nation. He was educated in residential schools at Crowfoot-Blackfoot, Erminskin-Hobbema, and St. Thomas College in North Battleford. He passed away at the Peter Lougheed Hospital. Mr. Little Chief had suffered from failing health in recent months.
Roy Little Chief is survived by his wife, Linda Little Chief (Cheechoo). They have six children, numerous grandchildren, and a great granddaughter.
A memorial service for Roy Little Chief will be held at The Gordon Yellow Fly Memorial Arbour on the Siksika Reserve at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 18.
For comment and further information, please contact:
Ms. Kathleen McHugh (403) 324-0423; firstname.lastname@example.org or
Mr. Faron Melting Tallow (403) 324-7786; (403) 734-0083 or
Mr. Thurman Little Light (403) 901-8808