Biography and Memoir


Ambrose, S. E. 1996
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Simon and Schuster, New York, USA 521 pages.
AEU HSS F 592.7 A49 Written in the style of an adventure story, the tale of a band of men travelling across the west in 1805-1806. Ambrose's tone is highly adulatory throughout; clearly Lewis is a great hero in his eyes. The book is well- written, sprinkled with quotes from the expedition's letters and records. But some things stand out clearly. Lewis and Clark were not, for most of the way, going into territory that was unknown to EuroAmericans. Many of the Aboriginal villages that they visited, especially the Mandan, had European or Métis traders in the community. I suppose that these people left no written records and so their presence has been largely ignored. It was not until Lewis and Clark got to the Foothills that they met the Nez Percé who had no Europeans with them. But even these people had some European trade goods and many horses. Lewis' encounter with the Blackfoot, which ended badly, resonated through the rest of the century and affected EuroAmerican and EuroCanadian expansion. The expedition included Clark's slave, York. Despite his contribution to the expedition, Clark refused to free him on return to the east and even kept him away from his wife. Lewis apparently suffered from depression and drank heavily. His end (1809) was self-inflicted. Perhaps he should have stayed in the west where he was productive and happy. (26/Oct/2001).

Ambrose, S. E. 1998
Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery. National Geographic Publishing, Washington DC, USA 256 pages.
AEU HSS F592.7 A488 Recounts the story of Lewis and Clark's travels across North America in 1805-1806, including extracts from their writings. Interspersed with Ambrose's accounts of his travels, with his family, following in their footsteps, beginning in 1976. This is richly illustrated with historical images, such as painting reproductions, photos of artifacts but, best of all, photos by Sam Abel of the landscape they travelled through. This is a visually fascinating book. (25/Jun/2010).

Bond, M. S. 2001
Way Out West: On the Trail of an Errant Ancestor. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 237 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3205.4 B65 Bond is the great-great- grandson of Viscount Milton (of Milton and Cheadle fame). This book is an account by him of his attempts to recreate the journey of his ancestor, a personal voyage of discovery. He starts in Winnipeg, and walks and hitchhikes to central Saskatchewan, north of Prince Albert, trying to find the descendants of the Cree people who befriended Milton and Cheadle during their winter stay in the area in 1862-63. Then he goes on a pack-horse trek through the Snake Indian and Snaring River country to Jasper, to get a flavour of travel in the Rockies, before heading to Victoria. He clearly admires his ancestor and doesn't like Cheadle much. Bond recounts some tall tales (buried pemmican for one) but his memoir paints an interesting picture of a modern Englishman abroad. (12/Apr/2004).

Deane, R. B. 2001
Mounted Police Life in Canada: A Record of Thirty-one Years' Service. Reprint of 1916 edition published by Cassell and Company, London, UK. Prospero Books, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 312 pages.
AEU BARD FC 3216.2 D28 Deane (1848-1930) came to Canada in 1883, after military service in the Royal Marines in the UK, to join the NWMP. His first job was to codify the rules and regulations governing police conduct. In 1885, he was posted in Regina and was the officer in charge of guarding Riel during his imprisonment, trial and execution. He gives an interesting account of the trial, as seen from his perspective, in which he makes clear that there was considerable friction between Riel and his defence counsel. Deane spent the years between 1888 - 1898 as officer in charge at Lethbridge, watching the town grow to a substantial community. He was also posted for a while at Maple Creek and Macleod, before finishing his career in Calgary (1906-1914). He watched Calgary grow into a significant urban centre also. The death of his second wife in 1914 marked the end of his service, with his intention to retire to the UK. Deane seems to have been utterly convinced of the rightness of his actions in every situation and appears to have been a harsh and inflexible martinet. Not surprisingly, he was in frequent conflict with his superiors. (20/Jun/2003).

Dempsey, H. A. (editor) 1973
William Parker: Mounted Policeman. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada xviii + 163 pages.
AEU HSS HV 7911 P24 A4 1973 Parker served with the Northwest Mounted Police, 1874-1912. His biography forms an interesting contrast with that of Denny. It is clear that Parker was far from the centre of decisions, he just followed orders and didn't seem to have a great grasp of situations. However, his account contains far more of the nitty-gritty of camp life and daily routine as a police officer. This mostly seems to have consisted of unremitting hard work! (09/Jul/2000).

Dempsey, H. A. 1978
Charcoal's World. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 178 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 K15 C45 D38 The following summary is based on Dempsey's telling of the story and interpretation of events. Charcoal was a Blood Indian from SW Alberta. In 1896, he shot and killed another man, Medicine Pipe Stem, who had seduced his wife. Convinced that the white men would hang him anyway, he determined to die in the old way, the warrior way, by first killing an important person to go ahead as an announcer to the spirit world. Unfortunately, his attempts to do that failed and so he was on the run in SW Alberta with his family dragged unwillingly along. For several weeks he lead the NWMP on a chase through the foothills. The NWMP were commanded by Sam Steele, who saw Charcoal simply as a renegade in need of capture, though he did develop an unwilling respect for him and his bushcraft. Charcoal was captured after he killed a NWMP officer, Sgt W. B. Wilde, which act sealed his fate. He was captured when he went to his brother for help. Steele had brought immense pressure on the family to turn Charcoal in, doing a deal with them to dismiss charges of cattle-stealing against one member in exchange. Charcoal was hanged, as he knew he would be. Father Legal, a Catholic priest, refused to allow the family to give him a traditional funeral, insisting on an interment - the fate above all that Charcoal dreaded since he believed this would trap his spirit forever in the ground. As Dempsey tells it, this is a tale of a clash of cultures, a complete misunderstanding on both sides. Dempsey feels that Charcoal may not have been severely punished after the first murder, since most juries would have considered that he was provoked. Ironically, his wife, Pretty Wolverine Woman, the cause of the trouble, lived another 50 years. Well written and sharply observed; illustrated with maps and black and white photographs of many of the protagonists. (13/Jan/2002).

Dempsey, H. A. 1984
Big Bear: The End of Freedom. Greystone Books, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 227 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 C88 D38 Big Bear (1825 - 1888) was a Cree leader on the Canadian prairies. He is best known as one of the leaders imprisoned after the Second Riel Rebellion and after his band was implicated in the Frog Lake killings. Dempsey sets these events in context by showing how Big Bear had tried to negotiate a meaningful treaty for his people over many years. Dempsey notes that by the time of the events at Frog Lake, Big Bear's influence within the band had diminished as age and lack of success eroded his position. Dempsey describes how Big Bear had often restrained his people from violence and advocated a non- violent approach to dealing with the encroaching Europeans. By the time of the Frog Lake incident, frustration among the band, coupled with prolonged malnutrition, led to an explosive situation that he was unable to control. Ultimately, a sad story because Big Bear's imprisonment at the Stony Mountain penitentiary probably hastened his death. (01/Jan/2003).

Dempsey, H. A. 1995
Red Crow: Warrior Chief. 2nd edition. Originally published 1980. Fifth House Ltd, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 283 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 S54 R4 D38 Biography of the Blood chief who led his people through the final decline of the buffalo into the first decades of reservation life. A time when the tribe was almost wiped out by smallpox, and then by whisky, and still by intertribal warfare, especially with the Cree and Gros Ventre/Assiniboine. Starvation rations from the Government were an attempt to keep them docile. The Blood Reserve remains one of the largest in Canada, mainly because Red Crow realised that all they had left was the land and stubbornly refused to sell it or allow it to be sequestered away from the tribe (e.g., to the Mormon settlers). An interesting biography of a strong leader and a canny politician. (27/Jul/1997).

Dempsey, H. A. 1997
Tom Three Persons: Legend of an Indian Cowboy. Purich Press, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 159 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 K15 T57 D38 Tom Three Persons (1888 - 1949) was a member of the Blood. His father was a European, a trader and bootlegger, his mother was a Blood. His father was never part of his life and, after some years at a Residential School (Dunbow), he grew up with the Blood, learning to ride and working with cattle. Rodeo was just starting up as a summer event in southern Alberta at the time. Tom went to the Calgary Stampede in 1912 and won the bronc-riding competition, against professional riders from the US, the only Canadian to win that year. He became a local hero and continued to compete in rodeos subsequent years, though sometimes prevented from doing so by injuries. At the same time, he was involved in ranching on the Blood Reserve, and became successful and wealthy. Later, he bred race horses and rodeo horses. His personal life was troubled, dominated by drinking and violence. Withal, he always had friends and women around him. Dempsey appears to be seeing him as representative or emblematic of the Aboriginal society of the time. People are now being brought up on the Reserve and in the Residential School system and developing skills in ranching (especially) and farming. Familiar names from other historical accounts by Dempsey also are mentioned in this biography. (13/Apr/2005).

Denny, C. E. 1972
The Law Marches West. Second edition. Edited by W. B. Cameron. J. M. Dent and Sons (Canada) Ltd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada xiii + 319 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3216.2 D412 1972 Recollections of a life as an Inspector in the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) and afterwards. Denny participated in the March West, although his career encompassed more than this. He helped in construction of Fort Macleod. He was involved in Indian affairs, being one of the signatories to Treaty 7. He worked as an Indian agent to the Blackfoot for several years before resigning in protest at the Canadian Government's actions (especially cutting rations). He was clearly part of the network of influence in the West. He does not conceal his disgust at some of the actions of the Federal Government and the bureaucratic rule from Ottawa, by people that knew nothing of the land and had no sympathy with the West. (09/Jul/2000).

Erasmus, P. 1999
Buffalo Days and Nights. Edited by I. Spry. Fifth House, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada xxxii + 343 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3213.1 E73 A3 1833 - 1931. Born in Red River settlement, Erasmus lived much of the history of western Canada, accompanying Palliser on his expedition, and acting as an interpreter at the negotiations for Treaty Six. His adopted son, Peter Shirt, is part of the lore of the Riel Rebellion. A physically strong and able man, Erasmus acted as a guide to many expeditions and missionaries. He was well educated, having been selected by his uncle, Rev. Henry Budd, to be trained as a missionary. However, his active and restless nature did not suit him for that life and, wisely, he decided to make his life elsewhere. Much of his life is associated with events in Alberta. He married the daughter of chief Pakan and lived for many years at Whitefish Lake. He worked for the HBC and then as an independent trader. He participated in the Métis and Aboriginal buffalo hunts and describes how they were organized. Although his mother was Aboriginal or Métis, he stands apart from them and clearly through his reminiscences does not feel himself to be part of their groups. He lived through, and helped to shape, significant events in western Canadian history. The volume comprises Erasmus's reminiscences, as he told them in his old age to Henry Thompson. Thompson's notes form the basis of this volume which was edited by Irene Spry. She also contributed an informative introduction which sets the historical context for the events described by Erasmus. (30/Jun/2002).

Grant, G. M. 2000
Ocean to Ocean: Sandford Fleming's Expedition Through Canada in 1872. Reprint of original, published in 1873. Prospero Books, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 371 pages.
AEU HSS FC 73 G75 This is a lively and humorous account of a journey that must have been quite gruelling - up before daylight, on horseback for 12 to 14 hours, and camping after dark. The reason for the journey was to survey the prospective route for the cross-Canada railroad. Sandford Fleming, always called "the chief," was also checking up on his surveying parties, who were also working under difficult and stringent conditions. The story is enlivened by accounts of the characters they met along the way. They skirted the northern edge of the Palliser Triangle, retracing Milton and Cheadle's route for part of the way and recognising landmarks from that journey. Grant was a clergyman who was taken along partly to keep an account of the journey and act as secretary to Fleming. (30/Nov/2003).

Herriot, T. 2000
River in a Dry Land: A Prairie Passage. Stoddart, Canada 356 pages.
AEU HSS Fc 3545 Q3 Z49 A delightful book. An extended meditation on the meaning of place and relationship to the land. Concerns the Qu'Appelle (Calling River) Valley in Saskatchewan, and especially the eastern part, near the Manitoba border around the village of Tantallon where his mother's family came from. Describes the complex interweavings of the pioneer families, complex despite being less than a century old, and the loss of community and heritage from the breakdown of those linkages as the children grow up and leave home, unable or unwilling to carry on the farming tradition. A society that grew up, flourished, and has all but gone in less than a century. He notes that some of the children, like him, are drawn back to the area by their roots, but rarely go to live or make a living there. The first part of the book describes the river valley, especially dealing with the history of dam construction and the impact it had on the river regime and landscape. Tells the story of the big rock (cf. Okotoks) which was, finally, blown up as an attempt to "save" it - a sad tale. Generally a well-written book and highly readable. (10/Aug/2002).

Hopwood, V. G. (editor) 1971
David Thompson: Travels in Western North America 1784-1812. Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 342 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3212.1 T4 A4 David Thompson (1770-1857) was born in London, of Welsh descent, and when a lad of 14 was sent to Hudson Bay as a clerk to the HBC, mainly because of his aptitude in mathematics at his school, the Grey Coat School. He arrived on the Bay 1784. This account is derived from Thompson's own writings. He was preparing his diaries and notes for publication when he died. The account here covers his life in western Canada. After he left the west in 1812, he never returned and the rest of his life was spent mainly in Quebec. In 1799, he married Charlotte Small at Isle-à-la-Crosse. She was the daughter of a North West Company trader, Patrick Small, and an Indian woman. They were married for 58 years and she bore him seven sons and six daughters. Unlike other traders, he did not abandon his mixed-blood wife and children, but they went east with him to Montreal, where their marriage was solemnized and became official. The first few years of his time in Canada, he spent learning his trade on the Bay and in Musk Rat Country, basically northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He spent the winter of 1787-1788 wintering with the Peigans, somewhere in the vicinity of Calgary. There he met an elderly man, Saukamappee, who was a Cree, originally from Musk Rat Country. Thompson was able to tell him of the changes that had taken place there. Saukamappee told Thompson many tales of his life as a young man, including his first sight of a horse and getting guns. Thompson estimates that Saukamappee was around 90 years old at this time, and so his stories do back to the early 1700s. While wintering at Manchester House in 1788, he fell and broke his leg. His recovery was long and slow and took almost a year. In 1789, he was sent to Cumberland House to complete his recovery. There he met with Philip Turnor, who had been hired as a surveyor to HBC. Turnor saw the aptitude in Thompson and taught him surveying. Peter Fidler was there at the same time and was also taught by Turnor and the next spring Fidler went with Turnor as his assistant. Thompson now had this valuable extra skill which he was able to employ in the service of HBC and later the North West Company, which he joined in 1797. After joining the North West Company, Thompson surveyed and mapped in the Red River areas of southern Manitoba and northern US. In the winter of 1797, he undertook a hazardous journey across the plains to the Missouri to visit the Mandan villages (several years before the Lewis and Clark expedition visited them). He was accompanied by a guide and seven French Canadians who were going to the villages to trade. The journey was very harrowing since they were caught in winter blizzards and they were also in great fear of the Sioux, who had recently been attacking and plundering trading parties. In 1798, he journeyed to the upper Mississippi, attempting to fix the location of its source, an important consideration in the boundary discussions between British and US governments. Under the leadership of Duncan McGillivray and James Hughes, Thompson was involved in explorations in 1800-1801 to find a route through the Rockies to establish trade with the Kootenays on the west of the Rockies. The Piegan were trying to discourage this and harassed their group constantly. Thompson returned to Rocky Mountain House in 1806, and in spring 1807, crossed the Rockies through Howse Pass. He spent most of the next five years exploring the interior of BC and the Oregon country (which he thought should be part of Canada not US), establishing trading posts on the upper Columbia and doing lots of mapping. The trade west of the mountains and in particular the journey back across the mountains each year with the furs was made hazardous by the continuing hostility of the Piegan. It became clear towards the end of this interval that a northern pass through the Rockies was needed to be found and that a practical route to the Pacific would be advantageous so that the trade west of the mountains could be carried on from the coast without the arduous and dangerous inland travel. In 1810, John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company established a trading post at the mount of the Columbia. Thompson was sent to try to establish posts to cut this trade off. He was unable to get west by Howse Pass, being prevented by the Piegan, and he established another route to the north, following the Athabasca River over the Athabasca Pass in January 1811. This route (Jasper House, to Athabasca Pass, to Boat Encampment) became the regular route across the mountains for most of the next fifty years. Interestingly, his crew was rather nervous about travelling this route because they believed that this valley was the haunt of mammoths! After some diversions, he followed the Columbia River to its mouth at Astoria on the Pacific coast. The mapping that he did, although mostly unacknowledged, formed the basis of maps of the western interior for most of the next century. J. B. Tyrrell was so impressed by these maps during his work (1883-1898) that he sought out the originals and found Thompson's manuscripts, which he edited and were published by the Champlain Society in 1916. The accounts were never published in Thompson's lifetime and, but for the interest of Tyrrell, he may have been entirely lost to slight in Canadian history. His accounts are direct and lively and include observations on and stories from the Aboriginal group he travelled among and lived with and observations on the wildlife and country through which he travelled, which are also acute and detailed. (14/Jan/2006).

Inglis, A. 1978
Northern Vagabond: The Life and Career of J. B. Tyrrell - the Man who Conquered the Canadian North. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 256 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3217.1 T9 I24 Tyrrell (1858 - 1957) worked early in his professional life for the Geological Survey of Canada, surveying in southern Alberta and finding the dinosaur-rich deposits of the Red Deer River valley and coal in the south, before making the journey into the barrenlands that made his name. Constant friction between him and the GSC administration led to a parting of the ways and in 1899 he went to the Klondike where he became a successful mining consultant. Back in Ontario, he acted as a mining consultant for the north of Ontario, eventually developing the Kirkland Lake Mine for gold. All this before the age of 60. In his writings, he provided some early insight into the glaciation of Canada. (07/Sep/1988).

Kane, P. 1968
Wanderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancouver's Island and Oregon Through the Hudson's Bay Company's Territory and Back Again. Originally published in 1859. M. G. Hurtig Ltd, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada lx + 329 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3205.1 K16 The main part of Paul Kane's journey took place in 1846-1848, following a shorter excursion to the upper Great Lakes in 1845. The second expedition was by far the most arduous and interesting. Kane spent considerable time around the Edmonton area in Alberta and near Fort Carlton in west central Saskatchewan. He describes attending a hunt at a buffalo pound near Fort Carlton and how the pound operated. He describes winter travelling by horseback and dog sled, especially the traverse of the Rockies and the journeys between Jasper House and Fort Edmonton. He describes the memorable characters, many of them Aboriginal people, that he meets along the way. The main objective of his travels was to paint, especially to paint portraits of Aboriginal people. He describes some of their dress and customs (such as different hunting methods) and diet (salmon, bison, rice harvesting on Lake Winnipeg environs). Several of his paintings have become virtually iconic images, especially the winter travel by dog sled painting. The book is written in a flowing discursive style that is easy to read and entertaining. Other notable events: seeing Mount St Helens emitting smoke and steam, catching and eating pigeons (?passenger pigeons), noting coal along the North Saskatchewan River, meeting with Colin Fraser, description of the Christmas feast at Fort Edmonton, and descriptions of river travel by canoe. (18/Dec/2005).

McDougall, J. 1971
Pathfinding on Plain and Prairie: Stirring Scenes of Life in the Canadian North-west. Facsimile reprint of original 1898 edition. Coles Canadiana Collection, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 277 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3213 M133 John McDougall was the son of George McDougall (1821 - 1876) who was a Wesleyan missionary and founder of the mission at Victoria settlement and later Edmonton. John (1842 - 1917) was also ordained and worked as a missionary in Alberta. This book describes several years of his life, beginning in 1865 and ending in 1868. During this time he set up a mission at Pigeon Lake, then in the dangerous zone between Stony, Cree and Blackfoot people, and married (to the daughter of another missionary, Rev. H. B. Steinhauer). Interestingly, although his daughters are named in this account (Flora and Ruth), his wife is never named. Presumably, this wife must have died and he remarried, since the Canadian Encyclopaedia (p. 1263) gives his wife as Elizabeth McDougall, née Boyd, and says she arrived at the Morley mission in 1873. This account of his life is well- written with much keen observation. JM is trying to learn as much as he can about the people he is living among, although he reacts in righteous horror from their religious or spiritual practices, nevertheless he describes many aspects of life in the bush. It is clear that he is fascinated by these people. The McDougalls' lives were filled with hardship, clearing land, building their own homes, and an endless search for food, fishing, trapping, and hunting buffalo and moose. He describes many times of scarcity, especially in winter, when bison can't be found in the woods, or only a few, but he does describe seeing a massive herd out on the plains during one summer's hunt. Many other names from Alberta history appear in this account: Maskepetoon, a Cree leader from the area north of Victoria settlement; Richard Hardisty, the factor at the newly- built Rocky Mountain House HBC post; and Gladstone, the carpenter who helped build the Victoria mission. He describes in a matter of fact manner very long and arduous journeys through the winter by dogsled, running behind the sled on snowshoes for miles, or going ahead to break trail, covering huge distances in a few days. Very few roads or permanent trails. His self-righteous moralizing about his missionary work is truly nauseating. Nevertheless, this is a hugely interesting and well-written account of a hard life at a time when things were changing so rapidly here in Alberta. (12/Jan/2002).

Viscount Milton, and W. B. Cheadle 2001
The North-West Passage by Land: Being a Narrative of an Expedition from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Facsimile reprint of original 1865 edition. Prospero Reprints, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 400 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3205.1 M66 The account of a journey undertaken in 1862-63. Travelled from the UK and up the St Lawrence to Toronto, thence to Detroit and Chicago, to St Paul in the Mississippi. Thence to the Red River and down the river to Fort Garry (Winnipeg). They travelled across Saskatchewan to Fort Carlton and wintered in a cabin not far from there. They describe the hardships of wintering in the area, with bison few and starvation always close. They set out in the spring of 1863 for Edmonton, then to Jasper, across the Yellowhead Pass to British Columbia, and on to Kamloops. This part of their journey was very trying - their food almost ran out, they lost part of their equipment in fording rivers, and the traveller they had agreed could accompany them - Mr O'Byrne - turned out to be a lazy complaining freeloader who impeded their progress. Their plan was to head for the goldfields of the Cariboo but this route proved impractical so they headed off south to Kamloops, getting close to starvation before they got there. Travelling at least partly over new made roads, they arrived at New Westminster, and then took a less strenuous route back inland to the interior to the Cariboo, following a route that was well-travelled by miners. Returned to the UK via California. Cheadle seems to have done most of the hard work of the trip, the hauling and hunting, and it is probably mainly due to his strength and determination that they got through. Written with a good deal of humour and astute observation, this is a great read. It is clear that, by the time of their journey, buffalo were getting scarce on the northern plains. They report instances of starvation among Aboriginal people in the Fort Carlton area (including mention of Fort à la Corne) and the rarity of finding large groups of bison in these woodlands. They also mention finding the corpses of Aboriginal people killed by smallpox on the British Columbia side of the mountains. (06/Jan/2002).

Nabokov, P. 1967
Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA 226 pages.
AEU HSS E 90 T9 A4 An interesting contrast to Black Elk Speaks. Two Leggings, a Crow, lived at about the same time as Black Elk, i.e., the mid to late 19th century, and in the same area, the Black Hills. But his experiences were totally different. He is completely consumed with ambition, with the effort to become a chief and gain spiritual power. He does not come across as a likeable person, seeming petty and mean-spirited. He never did become a leader. In his eyes, the old way of life died with the last war party since that is the only way he recognizes of gaining power and status. (07/Feb/1998).

Nisbet, J. 1994
Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America. Sasquatch Books, Seattle, USA 280 pages.
A retelling of David Thompson's life in the west, mainly based on his Narrative and his journals. The account is interspersed occasionally by Nisbet's revisits to some of the key places in the story, including Athabasca Pass, Rocky Mountain House, Canal Flats, and points along the Columbia River. The retelling of the events is quite well done and is supplemented by some useful maps which make it easier to follow the route. This is an easy read and account of a fascinating and adventurous life. (22/Jan/2006).

Palliser, J. 1969
Solitary Rambles and Adventures of a Hunter in the Prairies. Reprint of original, published in 1853. Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, Vermont, USA 326 pages.
AEU HSS F 593 P16 A journey undertaken in 1847-1848, when Palliser was a comparatively young man. He travelled to the upper Missouri and hunted in the Montana, Dakota, and Wyoming area, including Yellowstone and perhaps as far as southern Canada (his route is difficult to trace). His main objective was in hunting and so he takes much pleasure in tracking and killing things and recounts these adventures with much zest. The accounts of slaughter become tediously repetitive after a while. However, he also relishes the travel and "roughing it" and describes these aspects of his life in great detail. It is clear that he took to this wandering life readily and that he greatly enjoyed the travelling and the country, even when the conditions were quite difficult. When he returned to North America in the late 1850s, he really wanted to re-capture the carefree and happy irresponsibility of the days described in this book. But it was not to be. He found himself the leader of an expedition and burdened with responsibilities. To his credit, he carried out this task excellently, but I wonder if he felt regret at times and thought back to these early adventures. (30/Nov/2003).

Roe, F. G. 1982
Getting the Know-How: Homesteading and Railroading in Early Alberta. NeWest Press, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 200 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3672.1 R6 A4 This book falls into two parts, with the first more relevant to the Palliser Triangle. The first part describes his experiences as part of homesteading family, arriving from England in the late 1800s. Roe was a younger member of the family - his father was already elderly by the time of the move. Taken in by the promotional literature, the family took up a homestead near Blackfalds in 1894. They found breaking land difficult and it soon became clear that the homestead was never going to provide more than a bare living, certainly not economic security. So Frank Roe gave up the homestead, his father having died, and moved his mother to Edmonton, where he joined the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, first as a coal shoveller and then later as an engineer. This move occurred in 1908. The descriptions of the railroading experiences, which form the second part of the book, are very much of the "you had to be there" variety and are probably more interesting if you know the jargon. Some descriptions of homesteading, such as fighting prairie fires and a winter journey to Calgary by oxcart and back, are very interesting. But his pontifications on the "types" that he identifies among the fellow settlers are rather unpleasant reading. (12/Jan/2002).

Siggins, M. 1995
Riel: A Life of Revolution. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada xviii + 507 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3217.1 R53 S54 1995 A popular biography of Louis Riel (1844-1885). Although he had a short life, Riel has spread an immense shadow across the history of western Canada. He played pivotal, decisive and leadership roles in two armed conflicts: the Red River Rebellion (1869-1870), which led to the establishment of Manitoba as a province, and the Northwest Rebellion (1885). This latter conflict decisively set the course of western Canadian history and ensured it would be Anglo, Protestant, and European-derived, rather than French, Catholic, and Métis. This was inevitable anyway, given the policy of the government in Ottawa and the flood of immigrants from (mostly) northern Europe and eastern Canada. But the events of 1885 probably hastened the consolidation of this social orientation. Riel's activities also turned the central government's attention westward and probably prevented the threat of annexation of the Red River areas by the US. At the time, most of this area looked south, to the, now, small town of Pembina, just across the border. This was the main transport route and the way most goods and visitors appeared in the Red River settlement. At the time, many Métis families had members spread throughout this area, both north and south of the border, which seems to have been mainly nominal and no real barrier to movement. Riel's cause was land rights and justice for Métis people. Siggin's account highlights the anti-Catholic, anti-French, and anti-Aboriginal cast of mind in eastern Canada, as represented by Ontario, at this time, and the role that rabidly bigoted Orangemen and the Orange Order played in these events. The Métis, being all three, were completely despised. However, Siggins makes it clear that there was a great deal of distrust between all groups. There was also tension and distrust between the Métis and Aboriginal groups too, which occasionally flared into violence. Throughout, Siggins emphasizes the role of the Catholic church and priests in the development of Métis society. Their religion became very much entwined with Métis identity. Riel's role was as a leader and agitator, a focus for coalescence of discontent. Articulate, educated, and intelligent, he was able to translate the feelings of frustration into words and petitions to the federal government. Most of these were ignored or merely taken as evidence of the "uppityness" and presumptuousness of people who did not know their place. Despite his positive qualities, Riel does not come across as a likable or sympathetic person. He was extremely religious, and an exaggerated religiosity dominated all his actions. Towards the end of his life, his religious ideas became distinctly unorthodox. As summarised by Siggins, he saw himself as a prophet of the New World and the Pope as a betrayer of Catholicism. He wanted to establish a new reformed Catholic church with its HQ in North America. Practically, he did help to bring about the establishment of Manitoba as a province, albeit with the Métis people playing a very minor role in the political life of that area from then on. A complicated and tragic character. (09/Jan/2006).

Smith, J. K. 1971
David Thompson: Fur Trader, Explorer, Geographer. Oxford University Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 128 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3212.1 T4 S648 A brief biography of David Thompson, based on his Narrative and other papers. Essentially it covers the same material as Hopwood's book but in much briefer form. Includes some quotes from Thompson's writings. A linear accounts that simply presents the main events of his life and sets his achievements in context. (15/Jan/2006).

The Earl of Southesk 1969
Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains: A Diary and Narrative of Travel, Sport, and Adventure, During a Journey Through the Hudson Bay Company's Territories in 1859 and 1860. Reprint of original, published in 1875, pp. 448 pages. M. G. Hurtig, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
AEU HSS FC 3205.1 S72 A4 Southesk travelled up the Assiniboine and Qu'Appelle river valleys, over to Fort Carlton, with the rest of the journey mainly on the North Saskatchewan. The Earl was wealthy and his main objective, like Palliser before him, was to travel and shoot large animals. This was essentially a journey of pleasure, and could be described as an early tourist journey. This volume is his record of this journey. Southesk is concerned with getting trophy specimens that he can display in his home in Scotland. He is also interested in the performance of the various firearms that he has brought along and he always includes information about which gun shot which animal. His observations on the country are interesting, if somewhat superficial. Unlike Palliser, he was not interested in mixing with common folk, but used his wealth to insulate himself from them. He describes taking along a bathtub (made of rubber so presumably collapsible) so he could bathe in comfort. There are passages where he describes sitting in his tent in the evening and reading the plays of Shakespeare. He provides us with his thoughts on the characters and plot lines. At several places, he describes the tediousness of travelling alone, despite the fact that he was accompanied by his Scots manservant and had many other people around as well supporting his travels. It would have been interesting to have a parallel account by the manservant of what he thought of the trip. (06/Dec/2003).

Steele, S. B. 2000
Forty Years in Canada: Reminiscences of the Great North-west with Some Account of his Service in South Africa. Prospero Books, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 428 pages. Reprint of the 1915 edition published by Dodd, Mead and Co.
AEU HSS FC 3126.3 S7 A4 Sam Steele (1849-1919) is an almost mythic figure in the history of western Canada. By his own account, he certainly seems to have had a varied and adventurous life. He was born in Ontario, of Scots descent. His father served in Nelson's navy in the Napoleonic wars and emigrated to Canada in 1832. Sam joined the militia at the age of 16 in 1866. He served under General Wolseley as part of the Red River Expedition (Riel Rebellion) in 1870. He subsequently joined the newly-formed NWMP as an officer in 1873, participating in the Great March West. From then until 1899 he remained in western Canada. Much of his reminiscence is concerned with his duties with the force, especially in southern Alberta. In 1898- 1899, he was stationed in the Yukon (where another former NWMP officer, MacLeod, was Commissioner), trying to police the territory, especially the route over the Chilkoot Pass, as people poured into the region for the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1900, he was involved in the formation of Lord Strathcona's Horse, a new regiment, and sent to South Africa where he served until 1901. Then he was appointed Colonel in the newly-formed South African Constabulary, another force formed for the purpose of establishing civil life in South Africa following the Boer War. The book closes as he returns to Canada in 1907 to take charge of a military training camp in Calgary. Sadly, he died of 'flu in 1919, a casualty of the great influenza epidemic. Steele was clearly a man of his time as his remarks about the indigenous people of Africa and Canada clearly show. He comes across as a stickler for procedure, dedicated to record and document-keeping and efficient organization. He must also have had a strong constitution, since much of the life he led sounds quite gruelling. (24/May/2003).

Stocken, H. W. G. 1987
Among the Blackfoot and Sarcee. Reprint of 1976 edition. Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada xv + 76 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 S54 S86 Stocken was a comparatively young man (just 27 years old) in 1885 when he was sent out from London by the Church Missionary Society to work as an assistant at the Anglican mission to the Blackfoot near Gleichen. Apart from a few years on the Sarcee Reserve (1888 - 1895), he worked with the Blackfoot until his retirement in 1923, when he moved to Victoria, dying in 1955. His observations are interesting because they reflect the collision of mutually uncomprehending cultures. Stocken has no real understanding of the people he is among, clearly thinking that they are childlike, uneducated, and incapable of deciding what was best for themselves. The other theme that stands out from this memoir is the intense rivalry with the Roman Catholic missionaries. Some of the effort of Stocken and his colleagues is directed at thwarting the efforts of the Catholics. This must have been rather confusing for the people they were both trying to convert. Nevertheless, Stocken does come across as a likeable character, with an ability to laugh at himself and see the wry humour in some of the situations he got into through his inexperience with the country. (13/Dec/2003).

Street, A. G. 1983
Farmer's Glory. Originally published in 1932. Oxford University Press. 292 pages.
AEU SCI S 521 S9 F2 This memoir describes his life in farming, growing up on a mixed farm in Wiltshire in the late 19th and early 20th century. Born in 1892, he left home at the age of 18 to go to Canada and work on a farm there with a view to eventually buying his own place. That was around 1910. At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 he came home to help his father run the farm and enlist. The "Canadian Interlude" occupies the middle part of the book (Chapter VIII to XIV, pp. 97-180). He describes life on a remote pioneer place,working a small homestead with two other men, breaking the land and bringing it into production, wheat farming. It was very hard physical labour but it is clear that he loved it and would have liked to have stayed and gotten his own place. The winters were long and very lonely though and there was not as much social life as back on the UK farm. The homestead was near Barloe, Manitoba, which I can't find on any map or gazetteer. He describes it as about 150 miles west of Winnipeg, west of Portage La Prairie. The land was owned by George Hartley, another Englishman. By most standards this wasn't really remote. They had a phone and neighbours on adjacent sections. There was still lots of bush to clear before they could plough. They went occasionally to the nearby town of Beaver Lake - mainly because there was a bar there (Barloe was dry). He describes a land of willow scrub and poplar. Interestingly, he doesn't mention poison ivy which is prevalent in southwestern Manitoba. He waxes lyrical about ploughing, which he regards as a highly creative activity of which he is proud. He broke about 60 to 70 acres in the first summer. Here's his triumphant description of ploughing:
The ploughman is master of the situation. Nothing can stop him. Little by little he changes the surface of the earth. The plough may be slow, but it is so very sure. As the strip of black on the east side of that piece of prairie grew slowly wider and wider until it neared the west boundary, I was forced to marvel at the relentless power of the plough.
Possibly this rhapsody on ploughing will seem absurd to many people, but no one can doubt my competence to sing on so noble a theme. If there by any such doubting Thomas, I would refer him to that quarter-section of land in North-West Manitoba. There have I written my signature with the plough, a signature that will stand after I am long forgotten, a signature of which I shall never be ashamed. And if ploughing generally be conceded a pleasing thing to do, then to plough virgin land is a pure joy. The thought that you are ploughing the land for the first time since the world began satisfies your innermost soul. Each furrow is such a definite little stride in the world's history.
That piece of breaking is a thing to which I look back with considerable pleasure, and were it possible I would do it again gladly. (pp. 131-132)
It seems that he never did revisit Canada or return to this homestead but spent the rest of his life working his farm in England. He also became a prolific writer on country matters and a broadcaster. He died in 1966. (27/Nov/2014).

Symons, R. D. 1997
Where the Wagon Led: One Man's Memories of the Cowboy's Life in the Old West. Originally published in 1973. Fifth House, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 343 pages.
AEU BARD F 5606 S98 A memoir from a man who came out to Saskatchewan just before WWI and spent most of his life working on the range, in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. He worked partly as a ranch hand and cowboy, then as a game ranger, then as a homesteader and rancher. Throughout his working life, he spent much of his time with horses, which remained his passion, and we learn much horse lore. He laments the passing of the horse from the prairies and from agriculture and is quite vitriolic about the problems of pollution and mechanization which he sees transforming prairie life into a cash economy and taking the farmer away from the land. He really has little time for farmers (though someone had to grow the beans and flour he ate on the trail!) (16/Aug/1997).

Utley, R. M. 1993
The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull. Henry Holt and Company, New York, USA xvii + 413 pages.
AEU HSS E 99 D1 S625 The biography of a complex and complicated personality. Told partly through the European records about him and his words at various treaty negotiations and partly from records of interviews given by his family and associates much later (in 1920s when they were elderly). Sitting Bull is famous mainly for his participation in the Little Big Horn incident, yet this account shows that his influence and exploits were far more extensive than that. By the time of this incident (1876), Sitting Bull (1834? - 1890) was already middle-aged and he did not play a big role in the battle. His main role was beforehand in welding, however temporarily, the Sioux and other tribal groups into a loose coalition that was able, for a time, to present determined resistance to the cavalry. Utley shows that factionalism and inter-tribal dissention and warfare had as much to do with the defeat of these groups as the Cavalry. Once the US authorities had learned how to play off factions against each other, the outcome was inevitable. Utley also shows that many times, attempts at peace were defeated by the young tribal warriors who saw warfare as the only legitimate route to power and were eager to perform great feats of bravery and win renown. Fighting was always an individual affair and this lack of cohesion and discipline was also implicated in the ultimate defeat. Throughout most of his life, Utley's account shows that Sitting Bull was more concerned with feats of derring-do against the Sioux's traditional enemy, the Crow. The increasing number of EuroAmericans in the area were seen originally as an irritant not a threat. Certainly, on the periphery, there was no hint of the population numbers and technology to the east, poised to move west. By the time Sitting Bull took the threats seriously, it was already too late. His final few years make sad reading, including the flight to Canada, the gradual starvation because of the disappearance of the buffalo, imprisonment and confinement on a reservation, the Ghost Dance fever, and death at the hands of his own people (tribal police sent to arrest him). (10/Nov/2001).

Waiser, W. A. 1989
The Field Naturalist: John Macoun, the Geological Survey, and Natural Science. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 253 pages.
AEU HSS QH 31 M17 W143 Macoun (1831 - 1920) was born in Ireland but came to Canada in his late teens with his family, settling in Ontario. Always a keen naturalist and outdoorsman, he spent much of his time botanizing in southern and central Ontario while working as a schoolteacher. Then he was the botanist for Sandford Fleming's survey of the Yellowhead route (in 1870s) travelling to western Canada and returning to Ottawa with ever more glowing reports of what he had found and the agricultural capabilities as he saw them of the west. This helped him to find favour in Ottawa. In 1875, he began his long association with the Geological Survey of Canada by being appointed botanist on Selwyn's expedition to the Peace River country. (Selwyn was GSC Director at the time). From then on, until his retirement in 1912, Macoun was associated with the Survey, though his employment situation was at times ambiguous and uncertain. He spent as much time as he could in the field, collecting not only plants but also other items of fauna (birds and mammals mainly). Waiser makes it clear that Macoun was a collector, not a taxonomist or a biologist, and was quite at odds with the increasing trend of specialisation, though he was glad to send off plants to other specialists to identify. Unfortunately, most of those specialists were in the US, and so Macoun's work gained kudos for those experts but little profile or visibility for Canadian science. Nevertheless, Waiser points out that Macoun's collections, however imperfectly documented or curated, did form the foundation of collections at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Waiser describes the increasing agitation and scheming to give Canada a national Museum, built up from the collections amassed by the Natural History section of the Geological Survey. The size and fragility of these collections (especially the plants) were often advanced as evidence in favour of establishing a Museum. The Museum was built eventually (Victoria Memorial Museum) and the Survey started moving into it in 1910. The tale of the building of the Museum is quite instructive. The allocation of funds was mired in political quagmires for years and the chosen site was underlain by clay which caused numerous construction problems. The Museum was built too mainly for utilitarian reasons - to show off Canada's natural "wealth" - rather than for research or educational reasons. When Macoun retired, he moved to Vancouver Island and continued his natural history collecting there. His daughter married A. O. Wheeler - another example of the interconnectedness of Canadian society at the time. Macoun certainly led a full and interesting life! (08/May/2004).

Weekes, M. 1994
The Last Buffalo Hunter. Re-issue, originally published 1939. Fifth House Publishers, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada x + 181 pages.
AEU HSS FC 3213.1 W35 A33 This is the life story of Norbert Welsh, as narrated to Mary Weekes in 1931, when he was an old man of 87. Born in 1845, a Métis, he travelled out onto the Plains as one of the buffalo hunters and traders in the 1860s and 1870s. He saw the decline and passing of the buffalo and the transformation of the west from open prairie to farmland. He was part of the Métis group that wintered in the Cypress Hills, near Fort Walsh, in the 1880s. Fascinating stories of life on the plains, continually on the move, living in temporary camps and shelters, and covering vast distances. He had great respect for Aboriginal people, regarding many as friends. He also knew Riel and Dumont but had very little time for them or their Rebellion. (11/May/1997).
Number of citations: 32
  Poetry Art and
Photography
Natural
History
Biography
and Memoir
Stories History
Essays Archaeology Ethnology Geology and
Palaeontology
 
This presentation has been compiled and is © 1998-2014 by
Alwynne B. Beaudoin (bluebulrush@gmail.com)
Last updated December 1, 2014
You are visitor #4870

For optimal viewing, the following browsers are recommended:
Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and SeaMonkey.