Born as Geswanouth Slahoot in North Vancouver, his English name was originally Dan Slaholt. The surname was changed to George when he entered a residential school at age 5. He worked at a number of different jobs, including as a longshoreman, construction worker, and school bus driver, and was band chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951–63 (then called the Burrard Indian Band). In 1960, when he was already 60 years old, he landed his first acting job in a CBC Television series, Cariboo Country, as the character, Ol’ Antoine (pron. “Antwine”). He performed the same role in a Walt Disney Studios movie, Smith! (1969), adapted from an episode in this series (based on Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse, a novella by Paul St. Pierre). At age 71, he won several awards for his role in the film Little Big Man (1970). He received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He continued to act in other films, such as Cancel My Reservation (1972), Alien Thunder (1974), The Bears and I (1974), Harry and Tonto (1974), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Shadow of the Hawk (1976), Americathon (1979), Spirit of the Wind (1979) and Nothing Personal (1980), and on television, including a role in the 1978 miniseries Centennial, based on the book by James A. Michener, as well as appearing in a 1973 episode of the original Kung Fu series and in several episodes of The Beachcombers. He played the role of Rita Joe’s father in George Ryga’s stage play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, in performances at Vancouver, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and Washington, D.C.. During his acting career, he worked to promote better understanding by non-aboriginals of the First Nations people. His soliloquy, Lament for Confederation, an indictment of the appropriation of native territory by white colonialism, was performed at the City of Vancouver’s celebration of the Canadian centennial in 1967. This speech is credited with escalating native political activism in Canada and touching off widespread pro-native sentiment among non-natives. In 1971, George was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2008 Canada Post issued a postage stamp in its “Canadians in Hollywood” series featuring Chief Dan George. He died in Vancouver in 1981 at the age of 82. He was interred at Burrard Cemetery.
- July, 24, 1899
- Tsleil-Waututh, North Vancouver, British Columbia
- September, 23, 1981
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Burrard Cemetery
- North Vancouver, British Columbia