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Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Conservation icon Grey Owl left a complicated legacy
Charles Hamilton, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Grey Owl, born in England in 1888 as Archie Belaney, emigrated to Canada as a teen, where he assumed the identity of a First Nations man and became an early icon of the conservation movement.
Grey Owl is this province’s, perhaps this country’s, most beloved imposter.
He became the first face of Canada’s conservation movement. He lived in the forest, in a small log cabin. His neighbours were a family of beavers. He wrote books and toured the world, speaking passionately about the need to conserve the natural world.
“No man was more important to the Canadian environmental consciousness,” wrote Kenneth Brower in Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1990.
All those years living in northern Saskatchewan, writing books and living off the trap line, he was believed to be an Ojibway man.
Only after his death in 1938 was it revealed he was lying about who he was.
Grey Owl was actually an English man named Archibald Belaney. Despite dressing like an Ojibway man, living off the land, he was an imposter...
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