By Mervin Brass

Fred and Noel

Fred Starblanket and his brother Noel during a scene for the 1973 National Film Board of Canada documentary Starblanket. Credit: National Film Board of Canada.

Fred Marius Starblanket, the long-time speaker of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Legislative Assembly passed away Friday morning peacefully at his home on the Starblanket Cree Nation.

A wake for Starblanket will be held on Monday starting at 4 p.m. at the Wahpiimoostiisis Gymnasium in Lebret with funeral services on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Noel Starblanket says his brother will have a traditional Cree funeral ceremony.

“He very much revered his culture and traditions,” said Starblanket “We will be sending him off in a way that he was part of, that he contributed to, that his children and grandchildren are now carrying on.”

Starblanket says Fred Starblanket’s legacy is moderating three decades of discussions for the leaders of First Nations in Saskatchewan.

To many in Indian politics, Fred Starblanket was simply known as Mr. Speaker.

He spent more than 30 years guiding the FSIN legislative assemblies with firmness but always managed to find something funny to say when things heated up.

“He had that uncanny ability in him to put some humour into some really heated discussions and that’s what everyone really admired and respected (about) him, plus he was very knowledgeable on our legislation,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “Just recently we went to him for some of the advice on some of the events here especially during the campaign period here this fall.”

Former FSIN Chief Lawrence Joseph says Starblanket had a special way of dealing with sensitive political issues.

“He was able to, in a very tactful way, to inject a little bit of humour into proceedings. He had a way of handling that in a way so nobody took offense to that,” said Joseph. “He commanded respect.”

Noel Starblanket says his brother learned to use humour from the old people especially from their dad, Victor Allan Starblanket.

“Our dad was a great leader in his time and used a lot of humour as well in his political leadership,” said Starblanket. “He (Fred) was able the lighten the situation sometime and that was part of his gift.”

In February of 2013, Fred Starblanket formally retired as FSIN Legislative Speaker and was honoured for 35 years of service.

“It’s very easy when you have good help and when people co-operate,” he was quoted at the time in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. “That’s why I stayed so long.”

Fred Starblanket was 73.

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