Home Actors Johnny Yesno

Johnny Yesno

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B: 1938 in Eabametoong Lake (Fort Hope) First Nation, Ontario
D: March 20, 2010 in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Born in 1938, Obediah, as he was named, was the oldest of 11 children. He spent his first few years at the Eabametoong Lake (Fort Hope) First Nation before being shipped off at the age of five to the Pelican residential school near Sioux Lookout.In Grade 12 he was awarded an academic scholarship and he gravitated toward performance arts. He won the North American Indian Dancing Championship in 1963, and took an interest in acting.He made his debut in 1966 in the premiere episode of Wojeck, playing the role of an Ojibway man who ends up killing himself in jail. The role earned him an acting award at that year`s Monte Carlo Film Festival. Just one year later his big break had amounted to nothing and he was broke and willing to take any work he could find. But in the up and down world of acting, later that same year he was cast as the lead in a Disney movie about a ranch foreman who befriends a bear. King of the Grizzlies was filmed over two years in the Rocky Mountains. By time the film was released in 1970, Yesno had moved into radio, hosting and producing CBC radio’s Indian Magazine. It was the first Canadian radio program about aboriginals and was later evolved intoa program called Our Native Land. Yesno seemed comfortable away from role playing and his career expanded toward broadcast journalism on the CBC newsmagazine Take 30. In the 1970s, Yesno became quite vocal about the plight of First Nations people, complaining at one point that the CBC was out of touch and failed to present an accurate picture of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. He was recognized with the Order of Canada in 1976 and, as director of the Chiefs of Ontario, met Queen Elizabeth II shortly after. He worked for the Ontario government for much of his later life, primarily as a government-First Nations liaison starting in 1988. In 1997 he moved back to Sault Ste. Marie as an aboriginal adviser for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. He retired in 2002. Although he had been diagnosed with diabetes, few people knew he was ill when he died in Sault Ste. Marie. His funeral was held in Thunder Bay, Ontario where most of his family lived.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

King of the Grizzlies (1970)
The Inbreaker (1974)
Cold Journey (1976)

The Courage of Kavik, the Wolf Dog (TV-1980)

TV Series – Guest apperances:
Wojeck (1966)