2016 Ontario Historical Society Joseph Brant Award — Winner • 2017 Speaker's Book Award — Shortlisted
A man of two cultures in an era where his only choices were to be a trailblazer or get left by the wayside
Dr. Oronhyatekha (“Burning Sky”), born in the Mohawk nation on the Six Nations of the Grand River territory in 1841, led an extraordinary life, rising to prominence in medicine, sports, politics, fraternalism, and business. He was one of the first Indigenous physicians in Canada, the first to attend Oxford University, a Grand River representative to the Prince of Wales during the 1860 royal tour, a Wimbledon rifle champion, the chairman of the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario, and Grand Templar of the International Order of Good Templars. He counted among his friends some of the most powerful people of the day, including John A. Macdonald and Theodore Roosevelt. He successfully challenged the racial criteria of the Independent Order of Foresters to become its first non-white member and ultimately its supreme chief ranger.
At a time when First Nations peoples struggled under assimilative government policy and society’s racial assumptions, his achievements were remarkable.
Oronhyatekha was raised among a people who espoused security, justice, and equality as their creed. He was also raised in a Victorian society guided by God, honour, and duty. He successfully interwove these messages throughout his life, and lived as a man of significant accomplishments in both worlds.