Thursday, 28 May 2015

Grey Owl

One of the more interesting writers of the 1930s was Grey Owl (1888-1938).  He was well-known in the 1930s from a series of books and lectures extolling the Native American way of life and nature conservation, particularly of  beavers, then still hunted for their skins.  He went on many lecture tours (my father heard him in Manchester).

After his death it transpired that he was not the child of a Scottish father and an Apache mother born in Montreal (or the US or Mexico) as he claimed, but Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, born in Hastings, Sussex.  He had emigrated to Canada in 1906 where he became a trapper before falling in love with the First Nations.  In addition, he was a bigamist, by some accounts being married five times.

For many years Grey Owl's lies overshadowed his environmentalist message, but recently he has been re-evaluated.  He was the subject of a 1999 film by Richard Attenborough and is admired by promoters of woodcraft, such as Ray Mears.

This post is prompted by the following new addition to our stock, one of his books for children in which Sajo, a young Ojibwe Indian girl, and her older brother adopt two young beavers, Chilawee and Chikanee, and try to save them from fur traders.
The Adventures of Sanjo and Her Beaver People, Lovat Dickson Ltd, London (1937 printing).  hb, 256pp, plates and illus, no d/w.  Spine slightly stained and faded. Signed by author. Ownership inscription.  £7.00.

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