Sleeping Island - Dundurn

Sleeping Island

A Journey to the Edge of the Barrens

Published March 2006

$ 19.95


In an age when bush planes and outboard motors were opening up previously inaccessible regions of the Canadian North, Prentice G. Downes, a graduate of Harvard who worked as a schoolteacher just outside Boston, chose to travel alone by canoe to explore the Great Barren Lands. Sleeping Island is the sensitively written and moving account of one of his trips, a journey made in 1939 to remote, and at that time unmapped, Nueltin Lake. Downes records a North that was soon to be no more, a landscape and communities that had experienced little contact with European settlers. Downes describes the excitement of wilderness canoe travel, the delights of discovering the land, and his deep feeling for the people he met along the way. His respect for the First Nations and their ways of life, as well as his love of their land, shine through this richly descriptive work.


Prentice G. Downes

Prentice G. “Spike” Downes (1909–1959) was an American school teacher and author, who travelled by canoe to explore the Great Barren Lands and learn the ways of the Cree and Dene people. Downes’ journals record a disappearing people, and a landscape unknown to all but the Canadian natives at that time. His daughter Annie Downes Catterson said of him that he traveled a great distance “in order to learn the things of long ago.”

Book Details

March 2006
6x9 in
268 pp