The Honourable Ralph G. Steinhauer had the distinction of being the first person of Aboriginal heritage to be appointed Lieutenant Governor of a Canadian province. He was actively involved in Alberta Aboriginal and community affairs.
Ralph Garvin Steinhauer was born on June 8, 1905, at Morley, Alberta, which was then located in the Northwest Territories. He was the son of Josiah Apow and Amelia Mildred Mumford. Following the death of his natural father in 1908, his mother returned to Saddle Lake, Alberta, and eventually married James Arthur Steinhauer who adopted her children, including Ralph. Ralph G. Steinhauer was a full Treaty Indian of the Cree tribe and great grandson of the famous Methodist missionary, Henry Bird Steinhauer, Ralph G. Steinhauer was educated at the Brandon Indian Residential School and was a member of the United Church of Canada.
On November 20, 1928, he married Isabel Florence Margaret Davidson, daughter of O.G. Davidson of Buffalo, New York. They had five children: Muriel Ann, Doreen Margaret, Kathleen Amelia Jean, Isabel June, and Kenneth Davidson.
Ralph G. Steinhauer started work as a clerk in a general store at Vilna, Alberta. His first application for the position of Assistant Postmaster of Vilna was refused on racial grounds. However, he was eventually appointed to this position. His farming career began when he cleared a forty acre homestead tract. He owned a farm near Brosseau, Alberta, on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve.
In 1923, Ralph G. Steinhauer joined the United Farmers of Alberta. He was the Liberal candidate for the federal electoral district of Vegreville in 1963, but was defeated.
Ralph G. Steinhauer was a founding member of the Alberta Wheat Pool and District President of the Farmers' Union. For thirty-four years, he served as Councillor and for three years as Chief of the Saddle Lake Indian Band. He founded and was President of the Indian Association of Alberta and was President of the Alberta Indian Development Corporation. He helped launch and was a member of the Saddle Lake Centennial Development Association, a successful farming venture on the Saddle Lake Reserve. He was a member of the Two Hills Chamber of Commerce and was a Life Member of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. He served five years on the Board of Directors for Alberta Newstart and was a Council Member for the Northern Alberta Development Council. He was President of the Alberta Indian Development Systems Limited and served on the Board of Directors of the Brosseau Mutual Telephone System, the Indian Eskimo Association, and the Rural Electrification Association. He was also involved in the Alberta Rural Development Authority and the Federal Indian Economic Development Authority.
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. 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.
Ralph G. Steinhauer received the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Medal of Service of the Order of Canada (1967) which was superseded by his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada (1972), Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Alberta (1976) and the University of Calgary (1979), and an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Stephen's College, Edmonton (1985). As well, he was a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1975).
Ralph G. Steinhauer died at Edmonton on September 19, 1987, and was buried in the United Church Cemetery at Saddle Lake, Alberta. An elementary school in Edmonton is named in his memory.