Jackson, Tom (1948-)

Born on October 27, 1948, on the One Arrow Reserve and raised in Winnipeg, Tom Jackson quit school at 15 and chose to live on Winnipeg’s back streets, where he developed his skills as a multi-talented entertainer and entrepreneur. He became a household name with his role as Chief Peter Kenidi in North of 60, and has appeared in a number of other series including Sesame Street, Street Legal, Star Trek: the Next Generation, Shining Time Station, and the Longhouse Tales. Theatre and acting roles include The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Medicine River, The Diviners (Gemini nomination), Loyalties (Genie nomination), Grizzly Falls, and Water Giant. Jackson’s strong bass baritone is widely recognized as the narrator, among others, of The Snow Eater, Great Canadian Rivers, Chiefs, and 500 Nations. As a singer and songwriter he has recorded twelve albums (two of which have received Juno nominations), but claims that while music is his first love he feels his true calling is helping people whose plight is ignored by the larger society. Jackson is well known for organizing the Huron Carole benefit concerts which for the past sixteen years have raised money for the Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB); in addition to donating his time, Jackson offers his share of sales from his seventh album, That Side of the Window, to the CAFB.

His continued desire to help others is inspirational, and many individuals and organizations donate their time and facilities in support of his initiatives. Further examples are the Red River Relief Benefit (1997), for flood relief in Manitoba; Say Hay (2002), for drought-stricken prairie farmers; his collaboration with Calgary-based industries to create Beef Relief (2003), which provided cash and beef contributions for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank; and his many appearances on Saskatchewan’s Kinsmen Telemiracle. Jackson came face to face with a tragic event in October 1996 when a fellow North of 60 cast member committed suicide: in response, Jackson initiated the Dreamcatcher Tour, a sixteen-stop tour delivering a message of empowerment to communities suffering the loss of life to suicide. So great was the response that the tours continued for the next eight years. Jackson’s urge to help others has earned him the David Crowchild Award, the C.F. Martin Humanitarian Award, the Saskatchewan Country Music Association International Achievement Award, the Saskatchewan Distinguished Service Award, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award. He has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada (2000), has received the Queen’s Jubilee medal (2002), and was named one of Canada’s prominent activists by Time Magazine. Jackson has received honorary degrees from several Canadian universities.

Christian Thompson