Ralph Steinhauer

Ralph Garvin Steinhauer, OC (June 8, 1905 – September 19, 1987) was the tenth Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, and the first Aboriginal person to hold that post.

The Honourable

Ralph Garvin Steinhauer

10th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta
In office
July 2, 1974 – October 18, 1979
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralJules Léger
Edward Schreyer
PremierPeter Lougheed
Preceded byGrant MacEwan
Succeeded byFrank C. Lynch-Staunton
Personal details
BornJune 8, 1905
Morley, District of Alberta, North-West Territories
DiedSeptember 19, 1987(1987-09-19) (aged 82)
Edmonton, Alberta
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Isabel Florence Margaret Davidson

Personal lifeEdit

Ralph Garvin Apow (later Steinhauer) was born on June 8, 1905 at Morley, Northwest Territories (prior to the formation of the province of Alberta), the second of four children to Josiah Apow and Amelia Mildred Mumford. Steinhauer was a Treaty Indian of Cree descent. Steinhaurs's father Josiah would die in 1908, and his mother would marry James Arthur Steinhauer on October 12, 1910, a descendant of the Cree Methodist Missionary Henry Bird Steinhauer.[1][2]

He married Isabel Florence Margaret Davidson on November 20, 1928 and had five children. In 1937, Ralph Steinhauer was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a decision was made to send the three eldest children to a residential school. After his recovery, his wife Isabel would educate the children at home after their request to have the children educated at a community school was denied on the basis of their Indigenous heritage.[2]

Steinhauer would become a farmer and began clearing a 16-hectare homestead, and would continue farming until his death in 1987. During the Great Depression Steinhauer would supplement his farming work with other labour such as logging and cutting fence posts.

He died in Edmonton on September 19, 1987, following pulmonary problems.[3]


Ralph Steinhauer moved schools several times as a child due to his father's work as a missionary. Steinhauer would attend the residential school in Red Deer, the Doucet, Roseneath, Vilettea and Stry schools in northern Alberta and for three years starting in 1920 the Brandon Indian Residential school in Manitoba, and finished with a Grade 8 education.[3] When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asked him to be the lieutenant-governor of Alberta, he responded, "I'm not schooled for a thing like this... You're plucking a person out of the farmyard and an Indian at that."[4][2]


In the 1920s, he became district president of the United Farmers of Alberta. He was a founder and the president of the Indian Association of Alberta.[3][2]

He ran unsuccessfully as the Liberal candidate for the House of Commons of Canada in the Alberta riding of Vegreville in the 1963 federal election, placing a distant third behind Progressive Conservative Frank Fane and Social Credit candidate Metro Tomyn. Steinhauer would be the second Treaty Indian to run as a candidate in a federal election.[2]

He was chief of the Saddle Lake Indian Band for three years between 1966 and 1969. He would establish the Saddle Lake Centennial Development Association which became a successful farming venture for the First Nation.[1][2]

10th Lieutenant Governor of AlbertaEdit

On the advice of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Ralph G. Steinhauer was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta effective July 2, 1974. This appointment was made by Jules Léger, Governor General of Canada. His Senior Aide-de-Camp was Lieutenant-Colonel John H. Quarton, and his Secretary was M. Patricia Halligan. Federal Justice Minister Otto Lang would explain the significance of the appointment to the Edmonton Journal saying "The Queen's appointment of an Indian is historic in that it was the Queen [Victoria] who built a trust with the Indians of Canada so many years ago."

Steinhauer was known for voicing his personal opinions regarding Indigenous issues in Canada while holding the generally apolitical role as Lieutenant Governor. In 1977, during the opening of the third session of the 18th Alberta Legislature Steinhauer would read the speech from the throne while dressed in the full regalia of a Nehiraw Chief, and on one his final days in the Legislature, Steinhauer while giving Royal Assent to legislation reflected on his time as Lieutenant Governor and in thanking the members of the assembly remarked "May the Great Spirit remain with you, and will you always carry on such a well-done job", becoming the first time the Great Spirit had been invoked in the provincial legislature. In a 1976 speech delivered at the University of Calgary, Steinhauer presented a list of injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples, and going so far as to suggest he might withhold Royal Assent for legislation affecting First Nations until there was some improvement.

In July 1976 Steinhauer headed a delegation commemorating the signing of Treaty Six and Seven to Buckingham Palace. He had convinced Premier Peter Lougheed to support and finance the trip as well as received the support of the Governor General noting "it is the wish of the native people that a representative deputation of Chiefs…should visit the United Kingdom". However, the Governor General and federal government wanted assurances that the visit to England would not be a political event and Steinhauer agreed to ensure the occasions's apolitical nature. Upon being presentedto the Queen, disregarded apolitical protocol and proceeded to raise Indigenous issues. On his return to Edmonton, Steinhauer's account would be printed in the Edmonton Journal "I was just stating facts. Because of the Indian Act, aren’t we wards of the government? Isn’t that a fact? You should read the act. Just about every clause begins ‘With the consent of the governor-in-council the Indians shall…".[5]

Later in 1977 Steinhauer would be approached by several First Nations, the Alberta Human Rights and Civil Liberties Association about the potential effects of the proposed Bill 29 Land Title Amendment Act and the potential effect of amendments on Treaty rights in Northern Alberta. Steinhauer had the legislation studied by a legal firm and in the end granted Royal Assent.[6]

Ralph G. Steinhauer served as Lieutenant Governor until his successor was appointed effective October 18, 1979. He then returned to his farm at Saddle Lake.[7]


In 1967, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1984, he was inducted into the Alberta Agriculture Hall of Fame. Steinhauer would also receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Alberta in 1976, and the University of Calgary in 1979. In addition an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Stephen's College, Edmonton in 1985. As well, he was a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1975).[7] The Ralph Steinhauer Award of Distinction a collegiate scholarship provided by the Government of Alberta recognizes academic achievement.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The Honourable Ralph G. Steinhauer, 1974-79". Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Archived from the original on July 18, 2015. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Perry, Sandra E.; Powell, Karen L. (2006). Massolin, Philip A. (ed.). On Behalf of the Crown, Lieutenant Governors of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1869-2005. Edmonton, Alberta: Legislative Assembly of Alberta. pp. 549–557. ISBN 0-9689217-1-X. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Meili, Diane. "Ralph Steinhauer: Prominent Native leader passes away suddenly". Windspeaker. AMMSA. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  4. ^ "Ralph Steinhauer, lieutenant governor of Alberta". CBC.ca. CBC.
  5. ^ Neitsch, Alfred Thomas. "A Tradition of Vigilance: The Role of Lieutenant Governor in Alberta" (PDF). Canadian Parliamentary Review (Winter 2007): 23–25. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  6. ^ Tidridge, Nathan (2015). The Queen at the Council Fire: The Treaty of Niagara, Reconciliation, and the Dignified Crown in Canada. Dunduron Press. ISBN 978-1-4597-3066-3.
  7. ^ a b "The Honourable Ralph G. Steinhauer, 1974-79". Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Retrieved March 23, 2020.

External linksEdit