The Grand Council of the Crees

Sam Blacksmith has died at the age of 95

Posted: 2008-05-14

Below is an excerpt from Boyce Richardson's Eulogy to Sam Blacksmith. For the full text, please visit Boyce's website "Boyce'sPaper" at

An amazing old man, Sam Blacksmith, the central figure in the National Film Board film, Cree Hunters of Mistassini, has died, at the age of, at least, 95.

He is one of the last remaining Cree hunters with a full knowledge of the bush life, men and women who had accumulated a vast storehouse of knowledge of the behaviour and biology of the animals around which they built their life, and whose attachment to the land, so rare among people nowadays, was an essential and irreplaceable value for all Canadians.

Through the medium of that film, which was produced in 1972-74 and achieved a large international audience, Sam, with his simple but profound wisdom, became known and respected in many parts of the world as a quintessential spokesman for the central values of Cree life.

His answers to complex questions were deceivingly straightforward. We made the film at a time when the Crees' ownership of their traditional lands was called into question by the James Bay hydro-electric project. Yet when we asked the question, "Do you own the land?" he didn't embark on a politically-charged statement of ownership, but instead replied, "Well, people tell us we own it. But in reality, everyone dies, so no one can predict anything." No anthropologist on earth would have thought of such an answer.