John R. McLeod was born in 1922 and raised on the James Smith Reserve. He is best known for his work with the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College between 1970 and his death in 1980. Prior to this work, John was a driving force behind many of the school committees formed on reserves in the 1960s; and in 1970 he was appointed co-chair of the Task Force on Indian Education. Throughout his life, John R. McLeod was committed to Indian control of Indian education, the first arena from which elements of self-government have emerged. While some were devastated by the residential school experience, it solidified McLeod’s resolve to survive as an Indian. In 1975 McLeod was asked to be the Chair of the Treaty 6 Centennial Commemorations, and from that point he became an earnest student of Cree traditions. He spent a great deal of time with the Old Ones, including the late Jim Kâ-Nîpitêhtêw, who adopted McLeod as his son.

Neal McLeod