“Indian Ernie” talks leadership

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Best known in Saskatoon as “Indian Ernie,” retired Saskatoon Police Service Sgt. Ernie Louttit was in Prince Albert on Tuesday to share his leadership advice.

 

At the local First Nations University of Canada campus, Louttit addressed a mainly First Nations and Métis audience, during which he talked about his debut autobiographical book, “Indian Ernie.”

“In the book itself there’s lots of messages in there if you’re an aboriginal person,” he told the Daily Herald prior to his presentation.

“If you stay clear of crime and gangs and apply yourself, this is probably one of the best times to be a native person in Canada, I think,” he said.

“What a glorious time of opportunity. We’ve got a red-hot economy. The only one who can make you fail is yourself.”

Although things are improving, racism remains a barrier, and as only the third native police officer in Saskatoon, Louttit said that he is familiar with the concept and remembers being nicknamed “chug” by one of his peers.

“There were times when my being native mattered more to other people than it mattered to me,” he said.

“When you ignore people who are hateful, they’re harmless, unless they actually try to physically harm you, that’s a different story.”

“But for the most part if a person’s a hateful, racist person, don’t give them any power -- don’t even acknowledge them. That’s one of the messages I try to get across to kids I talk to … You can render a racist powerless by refusing to acknowledge him.

“It’s just like the drunk guy,” he said. “If you leave him outside the bar yelling at everybody else because he wants a fight, if nobody fights him, what is he? A dumb drunk guy.”

Initially one of only three native police officers in Saskatoon, there are now about 60, Louttit said -- “Which is more representative of the community, for sure.”

When Louttit talks leadership, he does so with authority.

During his almost 30 years with the Saskatoon Police Service, there were a number of special projects he took on that others were reluctant to.

He told Tuesday’s crowd about his central role in diminishing a solvent sniffing problem Saskatoon faced in the ’90s, as well as his role in ending a Chinese cooking wine sales ring.

It was just part of his role as a police officer, he said, noting that a good officer will identify problems in one’s community and do something about them.

However, he clarified that this ideal is not limited to police officers.

“Everyone of you, just by being here, is starting off as a leader,” he said during his presentation, addressing First Nations University of Canada students.

“You don’t have to be the be the top boss to be a leader. You can be a leader whoever you are … Everybody’s a leader at one time or another in their life -- everybody. If you lead by good example or bad example or whatever.”

For the most part if a person’s a hateful, racist person, don’t give them any power -- don’t even acknowledge them. That’s one of the messages I try to get across to kids I talk to … You can render a racist powerless by refusing to acknowledge him. Ernie Louttit

Taking the issue of alcohol abuse, which has hit Prince Albert harder than any other city in the province, he discouraged scoffing at those who are intoxicated, and to instead lend them a helping hand.

Pick up an extra coffee the next time you’re at Tim Hortons, he said, and give it to one of the downtown area’s regulars.

“All you can do is show them little ways to get better.”

Louttit’s debut book, “Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership,” was released late last year by Purich Publishing.

The book is only the first, Louttit said, noting that he’s already started work on a followup, since he has more advice and stories from his time at the Saskatoon Police Service to share.

Louttit spoke as part of the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples’ Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Project series.

In addition to the First Nations University of Canada, Louttit is speaking at local high schools.

It’s an important series to support, First Nations University of Canada library technician Glenda Goertzen said.

“It’s a way to promote First Nations and Métis culture and history of oral traditions, and of course the university and libraries that support them.”

Organizations: First Nations University of Canada, Daily Herald, Saskatoon Police Service Prince Albert Tim Hortons Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Canada, Saskatchewan

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  • Concerned Grandmother
    February 27, 2014 - 10:51

    If anyone is going to make a big impression on Native youth, this man will. I have read his book and he is right, dead on. There is no future without education and without working. Thankfully many are seeing this.