Grey Owl (1888-1938), an Englishman, immigrated to Canada as Archibald Belaney in 1906 and quickly constructed an identity as a Native, assuming the Ojibwa name Wa-sha-quon-asin and eventually settling in Saskatchewan on Ajawaan Lake. He spread his message of preservation through multiple bestsellers, including The Men of the Last Frontier, The Adventures of Sajo and Her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin.
The Men of the Last Frontier
In 1931 Grey Owl published his first book, The Men of the Last Frontier, a work that is part memoir, part history of the vanishing wilderness in Canada, and part compendium of animal and First Nations tales and lore. A passionate, compelling appeal for the protection and preservation of the natural environment pervades Grey Owls words and makes his literary debut still ring with great relevance in the 21st century.
By the 1920s, Canadas outposts of adventure had been thrust farther and farther north to the remote margins of the country. Lumbermen, miners, and trappers invaded the primeval forests, seizing on natures wealth with soulless efficiency. Grey Owl himself fled before the assault as he witnessed his valleys polluted with sawmills, his hills dug up for hidden treasure, and wildlife, particularly his beloved beavers, exterminated for quick fortunes.
The features of this book such as pictures, poetry quotations by Lord Byron, Longfellow, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc. and the order of presentation, produce a readable and informative book that is not designed as a textbook, but could easily be used as one.
"Many of his stories... are hair raising and heart breaking."
James Polk has written on animal story writers in articles, reviews, and a book, Wilderness Writers. He was publishing policy adviser in the Ontario government and is the author of a novel, short stories, and a play. He lives in Toronto.