Memorable Manitobans: David Courchene (1926-1992)
Born at Sagkeeng on 1 April 1926 into a long line of Aboriginal Chiefs, his early education took place at the Fort Alexander Residential School until he was expelled in grade 9 for refusing to go to daily confession. He worked as a hunter, trapper, and heavy machine operator and was elected Chief of Sagkeeng in 1965.
In 1967 while taking a course in Ottawa, Courchene was asked to help form the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood (MIB), and in 1968 he was elected the first President of the MIB. As President he focused on community development programs for northern Manitoba, he also established lines of communication between the northern communities and Winnipeg. Under him, the MIB produced “Wahbung: Our Tomorrows” in response to Prime Minister Trudeau’s “White Paper.” He retired as President in 1974. He served on the board of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation.
In 1970 he was the first Aboriginal person to receive a honourary doctorate from the University of Manitoba. The same year he received a Manitoba Centennial Medal from the Manitoba Historical Society. In 1971 he was the first person ever named Grand Chief of Manitoba. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1987.
He and wife Margaret “Marge” Fontaine (1926-2005) had seven children, including David Courchene.
He died at Pine Falls on 8 August 1992 and was buried in the St. Alexander Roman Catholic Cemetery.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 11 August 1992, page 14.
Obituary [Margaret M. Courchene], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 2005, page 25.
This page was prepared by Angela Graham and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 14 April 2022