Dion, Joseph Francis

Joseph Francis Dion, political organizer, teacher (born 2 July 1888 near Onion Lake, Saskatchewan; died 21 December 1960 in Bonnyville, Alberta). Dion was central to the shaping of today's Prairie Indigenous political organizations. Born to a status Indian family of Kehiwin's Band on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border - followers and relatives of Big Bear - Dion as an adult abandoned Indian status and became a farmer (1903) and teacher on the Kehiwin reserve (1916-40). In the 1930s he worked with Jim Brady and Malcolm Norris to found what are now the Métis Association of Alberta (1932; president, 1932-58) and the Indian Association of Alberta (1944). Serving in the executives of First Nation, Métis and Catholic Church organizations, he travelled, lectured, recorded living traditions (published as My Tribe the Crees, 1979) and managed a Métis dance troupe. A relatively conservative reformer, Dion promoted the idea of native self-help through local agricultural development and the preservation of traditional culture.