CALL ME INDIAN is the story of Fred Sasakamoose, the first treaty aboriginal player to make it to the NHL.
Although Fred’s time as a professional hockey player may have been what draws the audience for this book, his story is so much more than that. Before Fred laced up his skates and became something of a hockey prodigy, he spent his formative years inside Canada’s horrific residential school system. While a student at St. Michaels in Duck Lake Saskatchewan, Fred experienced unimaginable treatment from the hands of both the school staff and fellow students alike. The fact that Fred, or anyone else, made it out of that system and carried on a relatively “normal” life is beyond surprising. The stories that Fred recounts are ones I’d rather not repeat, but worth reading so more people can understand the atrocities committed against First Nations communities.
Against all odds, Fred eventually makes it to the NHL in 1953 where he would go on to play eleven games as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately, those eleven games were all he saw in the sport’s highest level of competition. Again, just as I said before about his life, his career ended up being so much more than his time in Chicago. As a hero to indigenous youth, Fred would travel Canada competing in various low-level leagues and inspiring a generation of players to pick up a stick and hit the ice – most notably Bryan Trottier, the NHL alumni who wrote the foreword.
Sadly, Fred Sasakamoose passed away due to complications from Covid-19 in late 2020, so he did not live to see his memoir released to the world. I believe he would have been proud of the reception it’s received and the importance of his life story in both shining a light on the mistreatment of students within residential schools and his role in inspiring others to reach for their dreams.