Chief Dan George
The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
The rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away, they speak to me
And my heart soars.
The Wolf Ceremony~
He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed.
In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage between my grandson and the wolf would be lifelong.
In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat.
In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers.
In my cupped hands lay a spruce seed-- the link to creation.
In my eyes sparkled love. I sang.
And the song floated on the sun's rays from tree to tree.
When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf's reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out.
All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my grandson faith in the past, our past.
At last I could whisper to him: "It is finished!" "Can I go home now?" He asked, checking his watch to see if he would still be in time to catch his favorite program on TV. I watched him disappear and wept in silence. All is finished!
by Chief Dan George
Chief of the Salish Band in Burrard Inlet, B.C.
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. 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, 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. This speech is credited with escalating native political activism in Canada and touching off widespread pro-native sentiment among non-natives.
In 1971, George was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2008 Canada Post issued a postage stamp in its "Canadians in Hollywood" series featuring Chief Dan George.
He died in Vancouver in 1981 at the age of 82. He was interred at Burrard Cemetery.
In 1973, George recorded "My Blue Heaven" with the band Fireweed, with "Indian Prayer" on the reverse. An album, Chief Dan George & Fireweed - In Circle, was released in 1974 comprising these songs and seven others.
Dan George's granddaughter Lee Maracle is a poet, author, activist, and professor. 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.
One of Dan George's sons, Chief Jesse "Nighthawk" George, currently resides and works in Chesapeake, Virginia.
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".
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.
The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
And my heart soars.