The community of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is mourning the loss of The Honourable
Bill McKnight, who passed away Oct. 4 in Saskatoon at the age of 79. McKnight was recognized in 1988 by Muskeg Lake as an Honorary Chief, with the Cree name “kihiw mîkwan” (pronounced key hue me kwon), which means “Eagle Feather.”
McKnight served as a Member of Parliament in the Government of Canada from 1979 to 1993. He was the federal Minister of Indian Affairs from 1986-1989, where he distinguished himself as a trusted ally and advocate for First Nations people – A place he worked hard to get to despite the complex times he faced as Minister, including the failed First Minister Conferences on Indigenous issues.
The relationship and respect between McKnight and Muskeg Lake was built on his commitment and effort to working in partnership with First Nations people. McKnight regularly met with First Nations citizens on Muskeg Lake land, attending community events, graduations and meetings. He often attended Remembrance Day activities in the community, recognizing Muskeg Lake for having the largest number of World War II veterans per capita among First Nations.
Honorary Chief “kihiw mîkwan” brought an innovative and visionary approach to the relationship between Muskeg Lake and Canada. His work on Treaty Land Entitlement resulted in Muskeg Lake acquiring land in Saskatoon – the first time a First Nation purchased land within an urban setting.
“Honorary Chief kihiw mîkwan held a special place in our communities,” said Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Chief Kelly Wolfe. “He would come to our Nation and enjoy a hot cup of tea and a visit with our people. He took the time to understand our history and our hopes for the future. His work on TLE helped us build a stronger foundation for the
future. We are grateful for his work and will always remember his contributions.”
Former chief and current council member Harry Lafond described McKnight as the type of leader who set the standard for building relationships.
“Mr. McKnight lived with the spirit of reconciliation long before the rest of Canada was ready to do so,” said Lafond. “He came to our Nation and spent time with our people. He knew that our nations would travel farther working together. He was a leader, listener and teacher – like a good chief should be.”