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Respected Saskatchewan Indigenous elder Noel Starblanket dead at 72

Noel Starblanket, a respected elder and leader in Saskatchewan’s Indigenous community, has died.

Family confirmed to the Leader-Post that Starblanket passed away at 12:33 a.m. at the Regina General Hospital on Monday due to complications from diabetes. He was 72.

Starblanket became a leader in Saskatchewan’s First Nations community at a young age. At just 24, he became chief of his reserve, StarBlanket Cree Nation. At 29, he was elected president of the National Indian Brotherhood, what is now known as the Assembly of First Nations. He was re-elected in 1978.

At the end of his second term, Starblanket decided to break away from politics. A residential school survivor, Starblanket had previously used alcohol to cope with his trauma. That changed when he decided to quit drinking and reconnect with his culture.

Starblanket spent decades learning about Indigenous spirituality from elders. He eventually became involved in education when the Office of the Treaty Commissioner asked him to conduct a history seminar with teachers for their treaty certification. This led to a newfound career for Starblanket.

He later became the elder-in-residence at Scott Collegiate, providing guidance and spiritual teachings to Indigenous youth.

Starblanket suffered from diabetes. In recent years, he had made multiple trips to the hospital due to low blood sugar. Death wasn’t a taboo subject for Starblanket. He had begun making end-of-life plans last year, and had decided what kind of ceremonies and singers he wanted at his funeral.

Although he had an illustrious career in politics, Starblanket considered his work in education to be his true calling.

“If I die tomorrow I will have at least said I’ve lived my dream,” Starblanket said in a Leader-Post interview in April of 2018.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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