Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Tooting our horn

Things you might not know about Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s population is 3.2 percent of the total for Canada, but consider our contributions to Canada!

World War I claimed the lives of 4,385 of our servicemen and World War II more than 70,000.

At 651,900 square kms (251,699 square miles), Saskatchewan sprawls over more real estate than all France at 643,801 square kms (248,572 square miles).

Our provincial network of roads and highways measures 228,200 kms, 29,500 of them paved. 

Saskatchewan is indeed Canada’s “breadbasket,” with 37 million acres of crop-producing land, 41.7 percent of the Canadian total. 

Saskatchewan has 10,000 lakes. The deepest is Deep Bay at Reindeer Lake, a meteor crater gouged more than 100 million years ago. 

Saskatchewan is gaining international renown for its subterranean treasure trove of fossils, including dinosaurs and prehistoric marine and winged creatures.

Saskatchewan boasts a dazzling number of firsts related to the achievement of tax-funded hospitalization and Medicare. 

We have more fly-in fishing camps than almost anywhere in the world.

At least twelve Saskies have received the supreme honour, appointment as Companions of the Order of Canada.

At least fourteen Saskies have been honoured by a British monarch, with appointment to the Order of the British Empire. 

At least ten of our writers are winners of a Governor General’s literary award, at least two have won the Scotiabank Giller award, and at least one was awarded the Booker award in Britain.

[; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Archer, Saskatchewan: A history; Lorne Clinton, Alberta Venture 2 May 2008, and other sources] 

“Wrong” sign | unsplash

You’re so wrong!

Common misconceptions about Saskatchewan

Ranging from observations by Captains John Palliser (Palliser Expedition, 1858) and William F. Butler (The Great Lone Land, 1872) to more recent assumptions, usually made by tourists who crossed the province on the Trans-Canada highway.

Saskatchewan is just a vast flatland.” 

Running from the 49th parallel north to the 60th, Saskatchewan is the fifth largest Canadian province. The north is mostly rugged precambrian rock, while the south is largely overlain by glacial deposits, with scattered coulees (former glacial spillways) and a few flat areas (glacial lake bottoms). The Cypress Hills in the southwest, rising to 1,392 metres above sea level, are the highest place between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec’s Appalachians.

“Saskatchewan is a semi-arid prairie province, lacking water resources.”

In fact, the northern half is essentially boreal forest, dotted by 10,000 freshwater lakes. While Palliser’s Triangle in the southwest is the driest part of the grasslands, it usually gets enough rain for dryland farming.

“Saskatchewan was an empty wilderness before European settlers arrived around 1900.”

In fact, since about 9,500 BCE, it was inhabited by diverse indigenous peoples, each with their own cultures and political systems. Southerners depended on vast roaming herds of bison, while most northerners made their living by hunting and trapping in the boreal forests. In both areas, the First Nations had been making deals with Hudson’s Bay Company agents for more than a century before Canadian settlement began.

Saskatchewan is a rural, agricultural province.”

In fact, since 1950, with 70 percent rural population, until now, when it’s only about 30 percent, Saskatchewan has “urbanized” faster than any other province. Though farm output doubled in that period, the non-agricultural sector has become the economic mainstay, as farm mechanization and improved transport led to rural depopulation. 

“Saskatchewan has a diverse, multicultural population.”

In fact, over 80 percent of Saskies were born and raised here, many to the second and third generation. The descendants of European immigrants with distinctive languages and customs have largely blended into the Canadian mainstream. More recent migrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East tend to cluster in the cities, where there are more jobs and more guidance in adapting. Ironically the biggest divide remains between the First Nations and the “interlopers.”

“The people of Saskatchewan are all socialists.

In fact, while it’s true that Saskatchewan was the birthplace of hospitalization, Medicare and other socialist measures under the CCF/NDP, Saskies have been electing Conservative governments intermittently, all along.

Famous Saskies

People everyone should know about

Most Saskies are aware of our superstars such as Joni Mitchell, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe, Buffy Saint-Marie. Here are some who lived in Saskatchewan that you might not know about (more info on them and hundreds more are in relevant chapters).

Comedian Art Linkletter, famous for American radio and television series including “People are Funny” and others, was born 18 July 1912 in Moose Jaw to S.W. Kalle and his wife, but Art was adopted and taken to San Diego. He found this out during a 1974 visit to his birthplace.

Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Herzberg was brought to the University of Saskatchewan by Dr. John Spinks in the 1930s, after they had met in Germany. 

Celebrated NFL football player Reuben Mayes of North Battleford came from a famous African-American family in the Maidstone area, who had led about a thousand ex-slaves to the province in 1910.

Grant MacEwan, who moved with his family to Melfort in 1915, once taught animal science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and was briefly an editor at the Western Producer. He was an MLA and lieutenant-governor of Alberta, best-selling author of fifty-five books, the man with a college named after him.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) lived for a year in Prince Albert after her father moved there with his new wife, but returned to Prince Edward Island to write her remarkable series of Anne books.  

Television broadcaster Keith Morrison of Lloydminster honed his skills as CFQC Saskatoon, and later became a familiar face as CBC-TV anchorman, NBC Dateline.

Leslie Nielsen of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane and the Naked Gun

Celebrated actor and comedian Eric Peterson of Indian Head trained in the U of S drama department. He played the famous flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War and in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, and This is Wonderland.

Actress Shannon Tweed, formerly of Saskatoon, is best known as the wife of Kiss band member Gene Simmons.

Tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert, was an international opera star who performed major roles in London, Milan and New York.

[Linkletter: Not Only a Name: a Long Love Letter from Moose Jaw; MacEwan: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan,567-8 ; Mayes: CBC; Battleford News-Optimist]   

Surprising connections

Famous (and infamous) folks with ties to our province

The legendary American outlaw Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” used to hide out in the Big Muddy badlands in southern Saskatchewan. The caves are still there.

Father Bacchiocci, a Swift Current priest, was said to be the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Al Capone's Hideaway motel in Moose Jaw.
A motel in Moose Jaw commemorates the famous Chicago gangster said to have stayed there often
during the Prohibition era. Photo by Patricia Pavey.

Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have frequented Moose Jaw during the Prohibition era. Saskatchewan authors and the tourism sector have exploited this belief.

Inspector Francis Dickens, son of novelist Charles Dickens, was commanding the NWMP garrison at Fort Pitt during the Riel Resistance, but was persuaded to evacuate his men to Battleford, under threat of attack by militant warriors in Big Bear’s band. 

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s nephew Bertram Tennyson homesteaded at Cannington Manor near Moosomin. His book of poems did not launch a spectacular literary career, but he stuck to his day job, lawyering.  He was also known to have pinch-hit as stagecoach driver from time to time. 

Aristocrat from Whitewood
Count Beaudrap, who lived at Cannington manor for a while, was said to be related to Joan of Arc!

A couple of nobles associated with the French settlement at St. Hubert, were not shy in their claims to historical prestige. French count Paul de Beaudrap de Denneville (Marche) claimed he was a distant relative of Joan of Arc. He farmed for a while at St. Hubert.

Eminent literary critic Northrop Frye was once a student minister and itinerant preacher at Stonepile near the Cypress Hills for about two years.  The problem was, he couldn’t ride horseback. He was later ordained as a United Church minister.

American author Sinclair Lewis in 1924 went on a canoe trip with his physician brother Claude and the “treaty brigade” officials of the Department of Indian Affairs on their annual trek to dispense treaty money to northern tribes. 

Author Gabrielle Roy had a family connection to Eastend (or Dollard just down the road). Her uncle brought French settlers to the area so she had at least one first cousin in the town. Her autobiography, translated into English as Enchantment and Sorrow, received the Governor-General’s award in 1987.

Writer Robert Fulford was the nephew of Theresa Fulford Delaney, one of some eighty white settlers who spent two months in the camp of Big Bear in the 1885 North West Resistance.

Maple Creek rancher and storekeeper Horace Greeley was a second or third cousin of the famous American author and statesman Horace Greeley.

Hollywood horror film star Boris Karlov performed in Saskatchewan during his early acting years, with a repertory theatre company that suddenly folded. But the very next day the “Regina Cyclone” devastated much of Regina, and he got a job helping to clean it up.

William Wordsworth’s wife was reportedly the aunt of Henry Hutchinson, the first settler in the Souris area between Carnduff and the American border.

The famous physicist Albert Einstein played hockey as a youth in Germany. Einstein is famous for having developed the theory of relativity and for his contributions to quantum mechanics theory. Reportedly, one winter while formulating his world-shaking theory, he took a break in Saskatchewan to play for the Canwood Canucks.

Aldous Huxley once carried on a lively correspondence with Humphrey Osmond, who was working on psychedelic drugs at the Weyburn mental hospital. Osmond coined the word “psychedelic.”

Band leader Matt Kearney worked on the harvest excursions at Moosomin, in southern Saskatchewan.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons television series, was the son of Homer Groening, whose name inspired his Homer character. The senior Groening, born in Main Centre, Sask., was a cartoonist too.

Saskatchewan author Fredelle Maynard’s daughter Joyce was a teenager at Yale, on scholarship, when she fell in love with author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and left after a year to move in with him.  He was thirty-five years her senior. A year later he dumped her and she wrote At Home in the World about it all, but it was panned. She did not return to Yale.

People with links to Saskatchewan
Actor and musician Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas’s grandson.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of former premier Thomas C. Douglas, whose daughter Shirley married actor Donald Sutherland. Kiefer plays the highly-principled “accidental president” in the television series Designated Survivor

[Einstein: Saskatchewan Book of Everything, 126. Fulford: Sarah Carter’s introduction to Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. Joan of Arc: Count De Beaudrap from Revue Historique vol 10 no. 2 at U of S Archives & Special Collections; Whitewood Museum; Revue Historique v. 10 no. 2 December 1999. Karlov: G. Ross Stuart, The History of Prairie Theatre, 70. Maynard: Vogue 13 Sept 2018,Vanity Fair September 1998. Napoleon: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Tennyson: Literary History of Saskatchewan, p.46, vol. 1. Count Uytendale, display panel at Whitewood Museum. Fulford: Saturday Night, June 1976, 970. Wordsworth: McCourt, Saskatchewan, 33-4; ]

Portrayed on screen and stage

Outstanding Saskies who inspired dramatic interpretations of their lives 

Archie Belaney is portayed in Grey Owl, a movie directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Pierce Brosnan. Belaney was an outspoken early conservationist, but pretended to be Grey Owl, an Aboriginal in the northern wilds, and was one of Canada’s most intriguing imposters. 

illustration of Big Bear
Illustration of Big Bear by Ruth Millar – based on a photograph]

Chief Big Bear, Cree leader in 1885 Northwest (Riel) Resistance is the subject of a CBC Television mini-series Big Bear based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel The Temptations of Big Bear, starring Gordon Tootoosis. Unlike other Cree chiefs, Big Bear refused to sign Treaty Six until the starvation of his tribe forced him to capitulate.

Hugh Cairns, VC, war hero is depicted in the play The Great War by Don Kerr, 25th Street Theatre. A statue commemorates him in a Saskatoon park.

Morris Cohen, former juvenile delinquent in Saskatoon in the early 1900s, inspired Don Kerr’s play Two-Gun Cohen, and reportedly an early Hollywood film The General Died at Dawn was loosely based on his life. A full-length book, Two Gun Cohen, was published by New York author Daniel Levy.

Nicholas Flood Davin is characterized in Ken Mitchell’s play, Davin: The Politician. A colourful, outspoken journalist, lawyer and MP, he founded the Regina Leader newspaper. He is noted in history for his ill-starred relationship with journalist and author Kate Simpson-Hayes.

illustration of John Diefenbaker
Diefenbaker – illustration by Ruth Millar for

John Diefenbaker, the only prime minister from Saskatchewan, is depicted in the play Diefenbaker by Thelma Oliver. It starred Terrence Slater, Norma Edwards and Patricia Lenyre.

Thomas C. (Tommy) Douglas, a father of Medicare: Prairie Giant, is portrayed in a CBC Television miniseries; and Keeper of the Flame (documentary). 

Gabriel Dumont, Metis leader in the North-West Resistance is depicted in the play Gabriel Dumont by Ken Mitchell. Dumont escaped to the U.S. where he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Father Athol Murray of Wilcox: the play Murray of Notre Dame by Tony Cashman, is the main protagonist in the movie The Hounds of Notre Dame by Ken Mitchell, starring Frances Hyland, and Barry Morse.

Louis Riel, Metis leader in North-West Resistance, is portrayed in The Trial of Louise Riel, a play by John Coulter (1967) based on the transcripts of Riel’s trial.

Seager Wheeler, a plant breeder known as the Wheat King, inspired the play Harvest Moon, shown every year in Rosthern for years. 

Colin Thatcher, son of former premier Ross Thatcher, is depicted in Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher, by Maggie Siggins and Suzette Couture. Colin Thatcher was convicted of having his wife murdered, but he always claimed to be innocent. 

Order of Canada medals
Order of Canada medals

“Knights” of the realm

Companions of the Order of Canada

“Companion” (CC) is the top rank of the Order of Canada (the others are CM, Member, and OC, Officer). The Order of Canada could be considered our version of knighthood. (These are cited elsewhere at more length in this website.) Some were also honoured as Fellows of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Canada (too many to list here).

Lloyd Barber, born in Regina – former president of the University of Regina.

Lloyd Axworthy, born in North Battleford – former minister in Prime Minister Chretien’s government.

Samuel Bronfman of Wapella – liquor industry baron and philanthropist associated with the mighty Seagram’s.

Balfour Currie, Kindersley and Saskatoon – head of physics at the U of S, founder of Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, and other lofty academic posts.

E.M. Culliton, Elbow – former Justice of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan.

Brian Dickson, Yorkton – lawyer, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and later Canada’s fifteenth Chief Justice of Canada.  

Tommy Douglas, Weyburn – former premier of Saskatchewan, one of the two Fathers of Medicare, once voted our country’s “greatest Canadian.”

Willard Estey, Saskatoon – moved to Ontario, appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, became Chief Justice of Ontario, later appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Emmett Hall, Saskatoon – law professor and judge, one of the two Fathers of Medicare. He became Chief Justice of Saskatchewan and chaired several royal commissions and public inquiries.

Gerhard Herzberg – Nobel prize winner and professor at the U of S; he fled to Saskatoon from wartime Germany. His many important posts include that of physics director at the National Research Council.

Ray Hnatsyshyn, Saskatoon, MP and cabinet minister, and later a senator.

Albert Wesley Johnson, Insinger – held several top posts in the federal government before becoming president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Chalmers Jack (CJ) Mackenzie, Saskatoon, former dean at U of S, called the most important Canadian in the growth of science after World War II. In Ottawa he became president of Atomic Energy of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada.

Joni Mitchell, Saskatoon – world-renowned singer.

Hilda Neatby, Saskatoon – academic, professor of history at the U of S, especially noted for her ideas on education.

Jeanne Sauve, Prud’homme – former governor-general.

Walter P. Thompson, Saskatoon, scientist and former University of Saskatchewan president.

Jon Vickers, Prince Albert – a former farm boy who soared to international opera stages, notably Covent Garden in London, England

[The Canadian Encyclopedia and other sources.]

“For King and country”

Saskies honoured by the Order of the British Empire

Being invested in Britain’s OBE carries impressive prestige. A surprising number of Saskies were so honoured, usually for heroic efforts abroad during the world wars. The ranks are: Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), member (MBE).

George Findlay Andrew served in British intelligence in China in both the world wars. Here he wears traditional Chinese garb with pride,
in the country of his birth.

Findlay Andrew (OBE), who moved to Saskatoon in 1959, received his award at Buckingham Palace on July 20th, 1920, for secret war work in China. If secrecy was involved, the OBE handbook often doesn’t cite specific actions of people so honoured. His papers, which include a letter inviting him to London to receive the award, suggest it was for sending vital “intel” to the British from his strategic location in the northwest. Some thought it was for helping prevent a Uighur uprising, which could have led to another pro-German front.

Henry Black of Regina was made a commander of the OBE in 1935 for his work with the Saskatchewan Relief Commission, created by the Anderson government in 1931 to administer relief measures during the desperate days of the Depression. The commission was axed in 1934 by Liberal premier J.G Gardiner due to public criticism.

Elizabeth Cruikshank was a leader in the Local Council of Women in Regina. She was noted for her war work, and was active in the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. She was also an author and a Leader-Post columnist. [Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

Dr. Robert George Ferguson, a heroic figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Saskatchewan,  reportedly was honoured with an OBE. [Star-Phoenix, undated clipping, likely in 1942.

Joan Bamford Fletcher of Regina got her OBE for leading some two thousand women and children to safety out of a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of Sumatra, in twenty separate convoys along dangerous switchback roads, at the close of World War II. The jungles were swarming with hostile Indonesians fighting for independence from the Dutch. Japanese soldiers, now demobilized, assisted her in the hair-raising exodus.

Air Vice Marshall Arthur Clinton Maund (CBE) of the hamlet of Cando was also honoured as Commander of the Order of the Bath, and with the Distinguished Service Order, and received one Russian and two French medals for his military exploits in World War I. He had enlisted in the Saskatchewan Light Horse in Battleford but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he served in Russia, 1919-20.

RCAF Group Captain Ernest Archibald McNab (OBE, CD, DFC) of Rosthern also received a Distinguished Flying Cross. An air ace, he commanded Canada’s first RACF fighter squadron abroad in 1940. Son the McNab who became lieutenant-governor, he got his OBE for outstanding war work.

Violet McNaughton on stage with dignitaries
Farm leader Violet McNaughton addresses crowd at Indian Head celebrating founders of the Territorial Grain Growers Association, August 19, 1955. Also on stage are James Gardiner (left), ex-premier, and T.C. Douglas, premier. Photo by Western Producer, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Violet McNaughton (OBE) was an outstanding feminist, newspaper columnist and women’s editor at the Western Producer, noted for her role as a leader of farm women and in achieving the franchise for women. She was active in many important early farm organizations. In 1924 King George V conferred to her the OBE for services to rural women.

Ellaf Olafson (MBE), a war hero born in Shaunavon and brought up in Eston, studied engineering at the U of S. In World War II, as a captain in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he designed an innovative portable bridge that was built in record time to expedite Allied river crossings in Italy.

George Porteous (MBE) of Saskatoon was posted to Hong Kong with the Winnipeg Grenadiers during the Japanese siege of 1941 when more than 1075 Canadians were killed or wounded; others were taken prisoner. He was awarded his MBE for maintaining morale among his fellow prisoners, who for four years suffered unspeakable ordeals. A Scot, he had come to Canada in 1910 and attended high school and university in Saskatoon. Long after the war he became the 14th Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan.

Alleyre Sirois (CM, MBE) originally from Vonda, was invested as a member of the OBE for his war work in intelligence for the British Special Operations Executive in France. He also received the French Croix de Guerre. On his return to Canada he studied law and, practiced in Gravelbourg before becoming a Queen’s Court judge in Saskatoon in 1964.

Dr. John William Tranter spinks, former president at the U of S, – Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections.

John William Tranter Spinks (CC, MBE, SOM), president of the University of Saskatchewan 1960 to 1975, was invested as a member of the Order for his work in Britain during World War II, “developing search and rescue procedures for missing aircraft.“ He was also named a Companion of the Order of Canada, member of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and a Saskatoon Citizen of the Year.

Harry Thode, born in Dundurn, received two degrees at the U of S followed by a PhD in the U.S. Noted for his work in atomic research, he was honoured by the Order of Canada and the Order of the British Empire, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. He became president and chancellor of McMaster University in 1961. [Star-Phoenix 14 April 2017]

Plant breeder Seager Wheeler (MBE) known as the Wheat King, helped boost Saskatchewan as the “bread basket of the world.” He assisted mother nature in selecting the best wheat seeds (some from mutants) he had grown, exhibiting them at agricultural fairs around the world and developing new strains.

Pilot Officer E.A. Wickenkamp (OBE) of Stenen joined the RAF in 1938. He received the OBE for rescuing two crew members after the crash of his aircraft. A month later, he was shot down and killed during an attack on a battleship.

[Andrew: unpublished ms. by Ruth Millar. Black: Commander_of_the_Order_of_the British_Empire. Fletcher: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Maund: Canadian Virtual War Memorial and other websites. McNaughton: Herstory, 1971. Olafson: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Porteous: Sirois: Green & White fall 2005. Spinks: Canadian Encyclopedia. Other sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia]

Saskatchewan emblems

In 1941, the western red lily was chosen as our official flower. It grows in meadows and semi-wooded areas where its flaming red blossoms stand out like flames against a natural green background. 

The sharp-tailed grouse was selected as the provincial bird emblem in 1945.

Our official flag was adopted in 1969. It features the provincial shield of arms, with the western red lily. The flag’s upper half is green, symbolizing northern forests; the lower half is gold, symbolic of southern grain areas.

The Saskatchewan fish is the walleye.

Saskatchewan’s fruit is the Saskatoon berry

In 2001, needle-and-thread grass was chosen as our official grass. It’s a native bunchgrass common to the dry, sandy soils of the northern plains. Its seeds are sharply pointed and have long, twisted, thread-like fibres.

Our provincial district tartan features the colours gold, brown, green, red, yellow, white and black. Registered in Scotland in 1961, it was introduced in 1997 for highland dancers. 

In 1988, the white birch was adopted as Saskatchewan’s official tree. This hardwood tree is found across the northern 75 percent of the province. 

Sylvite, a.k.a. potash, is Saskatchewan’s official mineral. We are the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash, over 95 percent of it used for fertilizer.

The white-tailed deer became our official animal in 2001. It tends to be larger in the north than in the south. Adults have a reddish-brown summer coat and a greyish-brown winter coat, with white underparts. 

Curling became our official sport in 2001. It has a rich history here, from the Richardson brothers in the 1950s to Sandra Schmirler in the 90s. 

“From Many Peoples Strength”: The provincial coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986, adapted from the 1906 shield of arms. With a crest of a beaver and crown on top, a lion and deer flank the shield, which displays the royal lion and three gold wheat sheaves. Western red lilies form the base.

Cast in stone (or bronze, or…)

Saskies immortalized in statues & monuments

Chief White Cap and Saskatoon founder John Lake are depicted in a sculpture near the east end of the newly-built Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. 

Chief Payepot (Piapot), cast by Lyndon Tootoosis, marks the signing of Treaty 4 in Regina. 

Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont in a Saskatoon Park.
Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont
in a Saskatoon Park.

Metis leader Gabriel Dumont is commemorated in a statue in a riverside park in Saskatoon.

A statue of Metis Leader Louis Riel in Regina showing his private parts so offended the Metis Association that the offending image was banished to the basement of the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

First premier Walter Scott is depicted in a statue in Regina.

A statue of Edouard Beaupre, the Willow Bunch giant, stands in front of a local museum named in his honour.

A full-length statue of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, World War Ihero, is in Kinsmen Park in Saskatoon.  

A life-size equestrian statue of artist Count Berthold von Imhoff adorns the village of St. Walburg. 

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin by Earl G. Drake graces Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.  

A statue in Saskatoon by sculptor Bill Epp immortalizes the Saskatchewan-born senator Ramon Hnatyshyn, an esteemed Ukrainian-Canadian hero and governor general of Canada for five years.

Statues depicting an encounter between newsboy John Diefenbaker (later prime minister) and Wilfred Laurier is prominently displayed at 1st Avenue and 21st Street in Saskatoon.

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin is in Ottawa.

Statue of writer Farley Mowat
Statue of writer Farley Mowat on
the U of S campus

A statue of Farley Mowat, famous author, graces the U of S campus.

Famed hockey star Gordie Howe, can be seen in effigy at Sasktel Centre.

Popular radio host Denny Carr’s statue is located in a Saskatoon riverbank park. 

A statue of luminary Frederick W. Hill in Regina, was created by Russian artist Leo Mall (Leonard Molodozhanyn).

In the College of Education Building, University of Saskatchewan a new bust stands in the main hallway to commemorate beloved professor David Kaplan, who was a vibrant and influential mentor in the music world in Saskatoon. His Klezmer Band was and is extremely popular amongst Jews and gentiles alike,

That’s Entertainment!

That’s Entertainment!

Actors from Saskatchewan, both in the movies and on the stage. We also list some of the many obscure movies made here. Loss of government tax incentives has hampered the home-grown film industry in our province.

Well-known actors on the Big Screen

You’ll recognize many of these, as they performed in film, nationally or internationally. Most got their start on the stage here in Saskatchewan, many through university drama programs.

Kim Coates studied drama at the U of S, appeared in Saskatoon plays, at Stratford Shakespeare Festival, on Broadway, and several Hollywood films. His TV credits include Miami Vice, Prison Break, Smallville and Sons of Anarchy. He received at least three American acting awards, and a Canadian Dora Mavor Moore award.

Shirley Douglas of Weyburn appeared in movies such as Lolita and Shadow Dancing, the TV shows Street Legal, Wind at My Back, and DeGrasse: The Next Generation, and plays such as the Glass Menagerie at the National Theatre. She is Tommy Douglas’s daughter.

Tom Jackson (OC) from One Arrow Reserve appeared in several films, and such TV series as Star Trek: The Next Generation, North of 60. He received a Governor General’s award, two Queen’s Jubilee and two centennial medals. He was also chancellor at Trent University 2009-2013.

Kari Machett of Spalding acted in plays at Stratford, in the films Apartment Hunting, Angel Eyes and Maudie, and in the TV series The Rez, Earth: Final Conflict, Heartland, Power Play and Saving Hope.  

Tatiana Maslany, born in Regina,appeared in the TV series Heartland, Being Erica and Orphan Black. Her awards include ACTRA, Canadian Screen and Golden Globe. She also appeared in films, such as Defenders of the Dead, Violet and Daisy, and The Vow.

Leslie Nielsen (Order of Canada) of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane, and the Naked Gun. On TV, he was in Littlest Hobo, Bonanza and Police Squad. His laurels include an ACTRA, and Emmy and Oscar nominations. Nielsen’s name graces Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and Canada’s too.

Eric Peterson (Member of the Order of Canada) born in Indian Head, is another celebrated actor and comedian trained at the U of S who starred in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, This is Wonderland, and a new film Claws of the Red Dragon, playing the Canadian ambassador to China. His awards include five Gemini, a Dora, and an ACTRA.

CFQC_TV studio scene
Peter Scott, later known as Scott Peters, in the CFQC-TV studio in Saskatoon. Photo QC-1244-1 by CFQC staff ca. 1960, from Local History room, Saskatoon Public Library .

Peter Scott aka Scott Peters aka Peter Sikorski, was a well-known TV celebrity in Saskatoon before he moved to Hollywood and became Scott Peters. His flicks included They Saved Hitler’s Brain.

Gordon Tootoosis (CM) appeared in such TV shows as North of 60, Big Bear and a British hit comedy series, andin at least three Hollywood movies including Alien Thunder. Tootoosis was chief of Poundmaker Reserve, and was outspoken on native issues. In 1999, he helped found the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company, later renamed in his honour.

Hollywood actor John Vernon, born in Zehner as Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz, studied in Regina, Banff and London, England. He is best known here for the TV series Wojeck. He performed at Stratford, Toronto and New York, and in such movies as Dirty Harry, Topaz and Animal House, and TV shows Gunsmoke, and Mission Impossible.

Murray Westgate’s voice was well-known in commercials during Hockey Night in Canada. He began with radio dramas in Regina, and appeared in films like Blue City Slammer, Two Solitudes, and the TV series RCMP, Seaway and Seeing Things. He won an ACTRA award for the TV movie Tyler, and a Genie.

Janet Wright, “gravelly-voiced” star of Corner Gas, carried on valiantly after losing both parents and her sister in a fire, and a daughter in a vicious shooting incident. She starred in many Saskatoon plays before moving to Toronto, and won a host of acting and comedy laurels, including Genies, Geminis, and Canadian Comedy awards. Her list of films goes on for pages.

[Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia, Canadian Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, IDBm,]

Movie dramas

With a Saskatchewan connection or filmed here

Some American movies purporting to take place in Saskatchewan have mountains in them (tsk, tsk, Hollywood). Because of the vagaries of film distribution in Canada, some were only seen on television, except those made by Hollywood or British film companies. Pity.

Big Bear portrait
Outspoken Cree chief Big Bear, subject of a disturbing movie about the Northwest Resistance. Photo LH 2775, ca. 1880, from Local History Room,
Saskatoon Public Library

Alien Thunder (1974), about Cree fugitive Almighty Voice, starring Gordon Tootoosis and chief Dan George. During a famine, A.V. steals a government cow. Suspecting him of murder, a Mountie (Donald Sutherland) pursues him relentlessly. Written by George Malko.

Big Bear (1998), a CBC movie and television mini-series about the unbending, far-seeing Cree chief who refused to sign Treaty Six, until his band was starved into submission. Based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel, The Temptations of Big Bear, it was shot partly at Pasqua First Nation near Fort Qu’Appelle.

Big Muddy (2014), written and directed by Jefferson Moneo, shot in Saskatoon and in the Assiniboia region. Moneo was born in Saskatoon.

The Canadians (1962, 20th Century Fox), filmed in the Maple Creek region, was loosely based on the coming of the Sioux in the 1870s. Saskatoon’s Scott Peters (aka Peter Scott) was in its cast, and extras were brought from nearby reserves.

Conquest (1998, Heartland Motion Pictures) with Saskie actors Susan Williamson, Chrisse Bornstein, Jean Freeman. 

Corner Gas, the Movie (2014), based on the hit TV sitcom Corner Gas set in the fictional Dog River and filmed in Rouleau. Its stars included Janet Wright, Brent Butt and Eric Peterson. It was also made into an animated television series.  

Drylanders (1963) a drama directed by Don Haldane, screenplay by Charles Cohen. A National Film Board production, it tells a classic story of homesteaders in the early days of settlement. It starred Frances Hyland, and James Douglas. 

Grey Owl (1999), a drama about Englishman Archibald Belaney, alias Grey Owl, who pretended to be a native trapper but wasn’t. Directed by Richard Attenborough, it stars Pierce Brosnan and Annie Galipeau, with cameo appearances by Graham Greene and others. It was partly shot in Saskatchewan’s north, where Grey Owl lived with his partner Anahareo. Their cabin is still a popular tourist attraction near Waskesiu.

The Northwest Mounted Police (1940), a Cecil B. DeMille drama, stars Gary Cooper as a Texas cowboy involved in the Northwest Resistance (even though it’s set in the mountains — which are rather scarce in Saskatchewan). Author Pierre Berton had a field day with movies like this in his book Hollywood’s Canada.

Paperback Hero (1973) shot in Delisle. Saskatoon actress Jacqui Presley appeared in it, along with Hollywood actors Keir Dullea and Elizabeth Ashley. It’s about a small-town hockey player who imagines himself to be an Old West gunslinger. Not very Canadian, and not at all like the 1999 Australian film of the same name starring Hugh Jackman.

Pierre of the Plains (1942) an American western film set in Saskatchewan (though it also features mountains!), directed by George B. Seitz with stars John Carroll and Ruth Hussey.

Saskatchewan (1954): a Hollywood drama about the Saskatchewan River, starring superstars Allan Ladd and Shelley Winters. It’s a remake of O’Rourke of the Royal Mounted, and has nothing to do with our province except the title.

Who Has Seen the Wind (1977), based on a classic book by W.O. Mitchell, starred Gordon Pinsent and Jose Ferrer. Shot in Arcola, it was directed by Allan King. In its day, it was a film not to be missed.

Why Shoot the Teacher (1977) based on a popular book by Saskatchewan author Max Braithwaite. It’s about a young man from the city arriving from the east to teach in a one-room school, a tiny building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The novel is another prairie classic, as many Saskatchewan residents still alive attended such one-room schools where up to eight grades were taught in one room. Gifted students could eavesdrop on the curricula of upper grades and then sail through them when they attained that grade. Those who don’t remember those schools can see recreated classrooms in many prairie museums, or authentic ones preserved from decades past. The Little Stone Schoolhouse on the U of S campus is an authentic example, although it was not isolated in the countryside. (See also our section on education, “The Halls of Academe).”

And finally, although A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court had little to do with us, it was the comic incantation “Saskatoon Saskatchewan” at the precise moment of an eclipse that saved the protagonists’ bacon.

Obscure Saskatchewan movies

These are movies made in, or about Saskatchewan that you might not have seen, or don’t remember.

Chained (2002), a slasher movie.

Crisis, aka Deadend, (2002) a mob story shot in Saskatoon, debuted at

Decoy (1995) filmed in Indian Head: about an heiress.

A Dog Named Christmas (2009) filmed in Regina: boy rescues dog from a shelter.

Dolan’s Cadillac (2009) a horror/crime film based on a Stephen King novel.

Gungapore (2005), a made-for-TV movie by La Ronge filmmaker Ray Ramayya.

Just Friends (2005), shot in Regina: a teenage romance.

The Lost Daughter, (1997) shot at Last Mountain Lake, thriller starring Richard Chamberlain, about a woman moving to a small town.

The Messengers (2007), a supernatural horror show shot in Regina.

The Rink (1997) by Saskatoon playwright Rod McIntyre, shot in Saskatoon.

Rescued from Death in Siberia (2014) documentary, about Poles who were moved into Siberian camps in 1939.

Skipped Parts (2000) filmed in Indian Head, Lebret, Regina and Vibank about a mother and son banished to a small town in the 1960s. It starred Drew Barrymore.

[Newspaper clippings; internet]

Strutting the boards

In Canada and beyond

Actors on stage and screen tend to migrate back and forth from theatre roles to movies and television. Here are a few of many who have performed here and/or beyond our borders.

Linda Griffiths, actress, producer and playwright performed on Saskatoon stages (including Paper Wheat) before moving to Toronto. She helped found 25th Street Theatre, and was a director of Theatre Passe Muraille. Her play Maggie and Pierre even showed off-Broadway. She appeared in several TV series and movies, and won a Gemini and four Dora Mavor Moore awards (Doras).

Arthur Hill was born in Melfort and moved to England at twenty-six to become a prominent stage presence there, and later on Broadway in New York.  He won a Tony in 1963 and a New York Drama Critics award for his performance as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Hill also landed major roles in many bigtime movies and starred in his own TV series.

Frances Hyland in a university play.
Frances Hyland in a Greystone Theatre play at the U of S, while she was a student. Photo A 3657 from University of Saskatchewan Archives.

Frances Hyland, born in Shaunavon, used to be one of our best-known actresses. She studied drama at the U of S drama department, and in England. Her acting credits are legion. She played with such stars as John Gielgud and Christopher Plummer, and appeared on Broadway and in London, the Shaw Festival, the Stratford Festival, and the National Arts Centre.

In 2019, Regina’s Tatiana Maslany (mentioned above) was appearing on Broadway in Network, not to mention many roles in other media.

Two actors in play Picnic. At right is Eric Peterson.
Actor Eric Peterson performing in “Picnic” at the Greystone Theatre. He was a drama student, aged about eighteen. Photo from University of Saskatchewan
Archives & Special Collections.

Eric Peterson of Indian Head studied drama at the U of S and began his stage career at Tamahnous Theatre in Vancouver and later Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. One of his best-known stage roles portrayed a famous Canadian flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War, but Peterson is better known for his television roles, such as Corner Gas and Street Legal.

Tom Rooney of Prince Albert has a bachelor’s degree of music in performance from USask.  He has acted at many Canadian theatres including ten seasons at Stratford, and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and in various film and TV shows. He won a Dora award in 2013.

Henry Woolf & wife Susan Williamson are seasoned British actors long resident in Saskatoon, where he headed the U of S drama department and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. They hopped across the pond now and then to appear on London stages. A lifelong friend of Harold Pinter, he has appeared in many films, including The Lion in Winter, Rocky Horror Picture show and Gorky Park, and she has appeared in plays and films including Conquest and Betrayed.

John Wright, one of the famous Wright family thespians, studied drama at the U of S where he shocked audiences as a nude in Equus. Now based in Alberta, he starred in stage roles across Canada, too many to list here, but Shakespeare was a specialty. His face also appears regularly on TV and movie screens.

Portrait of Susan Wright
Susan Wright, Saskatoon actress. one of the famous Wright family of thespians. Photo from City of Saskatoon Archives, StarPhoenix collection.

Susan Wright co-founded Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon with her sister Janet, and Brian Richmond. A notable early role was in Cruel Tears. Later she appeared on stages across Canada, including seven seasons at Stratford. She also appeared on television and film, winning two Dora awards for best actress. Tragically, she died in a fire in Stratford in 1991.

Radio and television shows, and their creators

Theatre, television and radio shows also migrate back and forth among media … some on to movie screens. Here we mention a few dramatic shows with Saskatchewan connections

Corner Gas, a popular TV sitcom, was created by Brent Butt, who was born in Tisdale and started as a stand-up comic. It has since morphed into a feature film, and an animated TV sitcom with the same bucolic setting and characters that are the spitting image of the living ones. He has won multiple awards for comedy, including the Gemini.

InSecurity, a comedy TV series involving inept spy-catchers, takes place at a fictional Canadian National Intelligence and Security Agency in Ottawa but was produced and chiefly filmed in Regina. It ran from January 2011 for two seasons but CBC cancelled it in April 2012 due to budgetary cuts,

The Jake and the Kid series by W.O. Mitchell on CBC Radio delighted listeners across Canada in the 1940s and 1950s. These iconic stories about a boy and a hired hand on a farm near the fictional prairie town of Crocus also appeared in Maclean’s Magazine before publication as a book by the same title.

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story (2006). A CBC-TV mini-series produced by Keven DeWalt. Well-known Saskie actors appeared in it, including Sharon Bakker, Tatiana Maslany, Walter Mills, Robert Benz, and others. It won a cornucopia of awards for Mind’s-Eye Pictures including an ACTRA and a Gemini.

The ground-breaking television series Little Mosque on the Prairies, though not scripted by a Saskie, was filmed here and in Ontario. In a time of religious distrust, it depicted ordinary Muslims and their amicable capers with Christians. 

Two of Maggie Siggins’s books were made into television mini-series. A Canadian Tragedy, Love and Hate, is the story of Colin Thatcher and his role in the murder of his wife JoAnn. Revenge of the Land chronicles ambition and skulduggery associated with sections of land near Moose Jaw.

Greg Nelson, a U of S alumnus, has penned scripts for television, radio and theatre, including episodes of Orphan Black, Frontier, Afghanada, Rookie Blue and Played (both police dramas), Saving Hope and Remedy {medical dramas) and others. He won the Canadian Screenwriting Award in 2007 and 2008, international radio awards in 2008, and a U of S alumni award in 2018.

[Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Brenna, Our Kind of Work; and other online sources]