Indigenous athletes

Rouge National Urban Park

Cogwagee - Tom Longboat

Named after the world-famous Onondaga distance runner, Cogwagee (English name, Tom Longboat) (1887 – 1949). Born at Six Nations of the Grand River, Longboat grew up to become the greatest distance runner of his era. He was the first member of a First Nations community to win the Boston Marathon, beating the existing record by five minutes. He represented Canada in the 1908 Olympics and in 1912 set a world record for the 15-mile race, finishing in just one hour and 18 minutes. Longboat spent his childhood in Canada’s Residential School system, escaping, significantly, by running away twice. Longboat gave up his athletic career in 1916 to join the Canadian forces serving in the first World War, where his skills at running was utilized as a messenger on the front lines.

Throughout his career, he endured racist discrimination and criticism in the press as he rose to become one of the greatest distance runners of his generation. Longboat died in 1949, and was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame six years later, being recognized as “Canada’s greatest long-distance runner”.

In Onondaga, Cogwagee means “everything.”

Fred Simpson

Named after Fred Simpson Sr. (1878 – 1945) – the renowned Mississauga Ojibway marathon runner from Alderville First Nation. Less than two years after taking up road racing, Simpson rose through the ranks to become one of the first Indigenous athletes to compete for Canada in the Olympic Games.

In 1908, he finished sixth in the Olympic marathon event from Windsor Castle to Shepherd’s Bush in London, England, out-distancing fellow Canadian Cogwagee (Tom Longboat), and 50 other of the world’s best runners. Nicknamed the “Ojibway Thunderbolt,” Simpson ran in the North American professional circuit from 1909 until retiring in 1912 to spend time with his family in Hiawatha.

Albert Smoke

Albert Smoke (1891 – 1944), was a Mississauga Anishinaabe long distance runner from Alderville First Nation and raised in Curve Lake First Nation.

While fellow runners Tom Longboat and Fred Simpson were at the height of their fame, Smoke was just beginning his career as an amateur road racer, competing as a junior in the Peterborough Examiner Road Race.

Though small in stature (only 4’ 10”), Smoke was considered one of the best long distance runners of his time and went on to represent Canada at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp.

He would be the last Mississauga Anishinaabe marathon runner to compete in the Olympic Games.

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