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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Archie Belaney… Grey Owl!

I think it is most likely most of you have never heard of him. If you are from Canada you might have, depending on your age. Archie was a beloved public figure in Canada, Britain and the U.S.
Readers were more than thrilled with his tales of life in the Canadian bush. They loved his hardscabble background. He claimed his father had been a Scotsman adventurer on the American wild west. His mother an Apache indian. After growing up on the frontier, he went to Canada and ranged across the country’s vast wilderness, as a trapper, woodman and riverman.
He embraced the indian heritage earning the Ojibway name Wa-Sha-Quon-Asin, or He Who Walks By Night, something for which he was known to do on most of his land and river travels. With four books under his belt ” The Vanishing Frontier , Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin he was firmly established as charming story teller and a passionate lover of nature. There was no doubt he could back up everything he wrote about. In 1938 he died suddenly, at age 50. It was then a startling truth came out. He was not the man he claimed to be. He was in fact and Englishman who emigrated to Canada in 1906, at the age of 18. Even his close friends and associates had no clue, including his book publisher.
No doubt can be cast of his sincerity of his passion for nature, as reflected in the life style he rarely strayed from, as found in his book, ‘Tales of an Empty Cabin,” published in 1936, two years before his death.
His first hand look at the wonders of the forest is still compelling, regardless of the fact he was not an Indian. He had two pet beavers who lived in the cabin with him and he raised from the time they were kits. He named them Jellyroll and Rawhide. He had been a beaver trapper, but after raising his two beavers he never trapped beaver again.
His knowledge was very real, I have found his books a joy to read. A movie of his life was made and played by Pierce Brosnan and followed his life pretty well. As a young boy in England, he found
himself captivated by the American Indians, so when he showed up in Canada he aligned himself with Indian mentors and learned to live as an Indian. His skills were real and for years earned money as a trapper. He married an Indian lady who never knew he was not an Indian. He also wore makeup to look darker—how he got away with the wife not knowing is a mystery if in fact she did know she never said so.
You may know him as… Grey Owl!

By Dude McLean

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