Remembering Alex Decoteau: Olympian, soldier, Canada’s first aboriginal police officer

The legacy of Alex Decoteau
WATCH ABOVE: Alex Decoteau was a man of many firsts. He was Canada's first indigenous police officer and the Saskatchewan-born man also served in the First World War. Ryan Kessler has the story of his legacy.

Alex Decoteau, born in 1887 on Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant reserve, was only 30 when he died, but he left a lasting legacy for athletes, law enforcement, the military and more.

Recorded history suggests Decoteau lived a happy childhood until the murder of his father in 1909, according to Sheila Kelly, executive director of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.

READ MORE: Edmonton school kids following footsteps of first Aboriginal police officer

Decoteau attended a residential school called the Battleford Industrial School for Indians, where he competed in foot races.

“He became encouraged by his sister as well as other friends that said, ‘you know you obviously have a talent here. It’s something that you love to do. Maybe you should channel some of that into some formalized races,'” Kelly said.

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His family moved to Edmonton, where he excelled in long-distance running. By the time qualifiers came around for the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, he’d become a well-known name.

“He actually beat one of the favoured runners from Montreal, so a re-race was called,” Kelly said.

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He won that race too. Decoteau went on to finish sixth in the finals of the 5000-metre in the Stockholm Olympics.

In 1912, Decoteau became the first indigenous police officer in Canada when he joined the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).

“He’s a great role model for our youth of today and also for other police officers,” Const. Lisa Wolfe with the EPS said.

READ MORE: Edmonton park honouring Canada’s first aboriginal cop inching closer to reality

After reaching the rank of sergeant, Decoteau left Edmonton to serve in the First World War. He was shot and killed by a sniper during the Second Battle of Passchendaele on Oct. 30, 1917.

“He eventually gave his life in the service of his community for what he believed in,” Wolfe said.

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Today he is remembered with a commemorative run, a park in downtown Edmonton and a comic book created by the EPS.

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