Chief Dan George was born with the names Geswanouth Slahoot (which was anglicised as ‘Dan Slaholt’) to a tribal chief on Burrard Indian Reserve Nº. 3 in North Vancouver. His last name was changed to ‘George’ when he entered a mission boarding school at the age of 5, where the use of his native language was discouraged, if not forbidden.
After spending much of his early life as a longshoreman, a construction worker, and a school bus driver, Chief Dan George auditioned for the role of Ol’ Antoine on Cariboo Country (1960), a CBC series, and was offered the part. On the strength of his performance in the series, and after playing the same part in Smith! (1969) a Disney adaptation of one the show’s episodes, based on “Breaking Smith’s Quarterhorse” a novella by Paul St. Pierre and starring Glenn Ford, he was asked to play Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man (1970); this role led to a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1970. He continued to appear in a variety of films, and also became an accomplished stage actor.
Chief Dan became an influential speaker on the rights of First Nations and native peoples of North America. He died in 1981 on the same Indian reserve where he was born.
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