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Jack Jacobs

Jack Jacobs, "Indian Jack," football player (born at Holdenville, OK, 1920; died at N Greensboro, NC 12 Jan 1974). A Muscogee (Creek) Indigenous person, Jacobs joined the National Football League from University of Oklahoma; playing mostly on defence, he was a sure-handed and solid tackler.

Article

Don Ense

Donald Orion Henry Ense, artist, illustrator, poet (b at Mindemoya, Manitoulin I, Ont 17 May 1953). An early member of the Manitoulin group of native painters, he found his theme in the teachings of the Anishabec (Ojibwa) and genre paintings of reserve life.

Article

David Helwig

David Gordon Helwig, author (born 5 April 1938 in Toronto, Ontario; died 16 October 2018 in Montague, PEI). David Helwig grew up in Toronto and at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. He attended the University of Toronto, where he earned a BA, and then completed an MA at the University of Liverpool. First publishing as a poet, Helwig moved on to drama and fiction, including a series of novels focusing on characters living in Kingston, where Helwig lived for many years teaching at Queen's University. He was appointed Prince Edward Island's poet laureate in 2008 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009.

Article

Jovette Marchessault

Jovette Marchessault, novelist, playwright, painter, sculptor (born 9 February 1938 in Montreal, QC; died 31 December 2012 in Danville, QC). Jovette Marchessault was a self-taught multidisciplinary artist. She won major prizes for her literary and theatrical works and made a unique mark on francophone culture. Supported by a deep and lyrical voice, her work celebrates words through myths and liberating poetic language. Her body of work stands as a tribute to women of all backgrounds, notably female artists and writers. She co-founded the international publishing house Squawtach Press, contributed to many publications and was a lecturer in the theatre department at the Université du Québec à Montréal. She won the Prix France-Quebec and the Governor General’s Drama Award, among other honours.

Article

Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman, OC, film producer, director (born 27 October 1946 in Komárno, Czechoslovakia [now Slovakia]; died 12 February 2022 in Montecito, California). Ivan Reitman was one of the most successful Canadian producers and directors to work in Hollywood. He started out in Canada as a producer of grindhouse films, including early films by David Cronenberg. He then produced two of the highest-grossing comedies of all time: Animal House (1978) and Ghostbusters (1984); he also directed the latter. His other movies as director include Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), Dave (1993) and Draft Day (2014). An officer of the Order of Canada, Reitman has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and on Canada's Walk of Fame. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the US National Association of Theatre Owners.

Article

Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler, CC, novelist, essayist, social critic (born 27 January 1931 in Montréal, QC; died 3 July 2001 in Montréal, QC). A singular figure in Canadian literary and cultural history, Richler remained, in the words of critic Robert Fulford, “the loyal opposition to the governing principles of Canadian culture” throughout his long and productive career. His instincts were to ask hard, uncomfortable questions and to take clear, often unpopular moral positions. Born into an Orthodox family in Montréal’s old Jewish neighborhood, a community he immortalized in his work, he was from the start a complex and uncompromising figure, at once rejecting many of the formal tenets of his faith while embracing its intellectual and ethical rigour. That tension, along with an innately absurdist vision of life, a raw, bracing comedic sensibility, and a fearlessness about speaking his mind, as both artist and citizen, ensured that nearly every word he published displayed a distinctive sensibility. No one else sounded like Mordecai Richler, and few other writers in Canada have ever demanded, and maintained, such a high profile as both an admired literary novelist and a frequently controversial critic. A Companion of the Order of Canada, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award (1968 and 1971), and winner of the Giller Prize, Mordecai Richler is without question one of Canada’s greatest writers.

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Red Robinson

​Robert Gordon Robinson, broadcaster, television host (born 30 March 1937 in Comox, BC). A legendary pioneer and icon in Canadian broadcasting, Red Robinson was the first radio disc jockey in the country to regularly play rock ‘n’ roll records, and one of the first in North America.

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Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier

Roch Carrier, poet, writer of fiction and drama, essayist, former National Librarian of Canada (born at the Beauce, Qué 13 May 1937). After publishing 2 collections of poetry, Les Jeux incompris (1956) and Cherche tes mots, cherche tes pas (1958), Carrier offered critics Jolis deuils (1964), a group of bizarre stories that won him a province of Québec award, Les Concours littéraires du Québec (1965).

Article

Susan Jacks

Susan Elizabeth Jacks (nee Pesklevits), singer, songwriter (born 19 August 1948 in Saskatoon, SK; died 25 April 2022 in Surrey, BC). Susan Jacks was the second Canadian woman (after Lucille Starr) to earn a gold record in the US, for "Which Way You Goin' Billy." The song earned her and her first husband, Terry Jacks, two Juno Awards in 1970. Three solo Juno nominations followed, as did a Grammy Award nomination for a children's song. Susan Jacks was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2010.

Article

Earle Birney

Alfred Earle Birney, poet (born 13 May 1904 in Calgary, AB; died 3 Sept 1995 in Toronto, ON). Beginning with David and Other Poems (1942), Birney's poetry consistently explored the resources of language with passionate and playful curiosity.

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Bill Bourne

William "Bill" Sigurd Bourne, folksinger, musician (born 28 March 1954 in Red Deer, AB; died 16 April 2022). An excellent blues and folk guitarist, Bourne was also a distinctive vocalist and songwriter. Among his best-known compositions are "Dance and Celebrate," "Ole Buffalo," "The House," "Pitsberg," "Baggins" and "The Road to Tokyo." He won a Juno Award in 1991 and was nominated for four others.

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Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada

Before European settlement in Canada, Indigenous peoples spoke a wide variety of languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, colonial policies like the Indian Act and residential schools forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages. These restrictions have led to the ongoing endangerment of Indigenous languages in Canada. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there are only about 500 speakers or less. Indigenous communities and various educational institutions have taken measures to prevent more language loss and to preserve Indigenous languages.

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Salome Bey

Salome Bey, singer, actress, songwriter (born 10 October 1933 in Newark, New Jersey; died 8 August 2020 in Toronto, ON). Salome Bey was an award-winning jazz, blues and R&B singer. Known as “Canada’s First Lady of the Blues,” wrote and starred in Indigo, a Dora Award-winning history of the blues, and was part of the all-star lineup of Canadian singers who produced the charity single “Tears Are not Enough.” Bey received a Toronto Arts Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal. She was made an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005 and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2021.

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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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30 Canadian Painters

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, The Canadian Encyclopedia created 30 lists of 30 things that make us proud to be Canadian, from famous people and historic events, to iconic foods and influential artists.

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Sun Dance

The Sun Dance (also Sundance) is an annual sacred ceremony performed by several First Nations in the Prairies. (See also Plains Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) The Sun Dance reaffirms spiritual beliefs about the universe. The Sun Dance was forbidden under the Indian Act of 1895, but this ban was generally ignored and dropped from the Act in 1951. Some communities continue to celebrate the ceremony today. (See also Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton, poet, novelist, essayist (born 14 August 1961 in Toronto, ON; died 19 April 2022 in Kingston, ON). Steven Heighton was known for his award-winning poetry and bestselling fiction. His collection of poetry The Waking Comes Late (2016) won the Governor General’s Award while his novels The Shadow Boxer (2000) and Every Lost Country (2010) were national bestsellers. An accomplished writer who could move fluidly between poetry and prose, Heighton’s work has been praised for its exploration of place, culture and politics and has been translated into ten languages.  

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Drew Hayden Taylor

Drew Hayden Taylor, playwright, broadcaster, writer (born 1 July 1962 in Curve Lake First Nation near Peterborough, ON). Drew Hayden Taylor is a leading Indigenous playwright and humorist. His award-winning plays have been produced in Canada, the United States, and Europe. His novels have been nominated for several awards, including the Governor General’s Award for fiction. He has also written numerous scripts for television series including The Beachcombers, North of 60, and Mixed Blessings. Taylor’s writings have significantly contributed to Indigenous literature in Canada. (See also Influential Indigenous Authors in Canada.)