On August 24, 2014, Friends of the Park, a nonprofit organization in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, in Prince Albert National Park, hosted a Tribute to Grey Owl and Anahareo. They invited Anahareo’s family and four authors of books related to Grey Owl and Anahareo to attend the Gala evening, and kindly put us up at the beautiful Hawood Inn in Waskesiu.
I had my misgivings. A tribute to Grey Owl and Anahareo? Was that going to translate into yet another story of how Anahareo is important insofar as she tells us something about Grey Owl? And in a National Park no less—with its troubled history with Indigenous communities? At the same time, I was very excited to check out Waskesiu, the nearest town to Ajawaan Lake, the place where Grey Owl and Anahareo shared their cabin with their beaver, Jelly Roll and Rawhide.
Copyright Parks Canada
We decided to go as a family and, like all great Canadian journeys, our first stop was Tim Horton’s (not yet renamed Burger King North®) in the Saskatoon International airport. There we met our friend and colleague from SFU, Deanna Reder, who took this photo:
We got on a long, straight, Saskatchewan road and headed north…
With a few diversions down sideroads.
David on another long Saskatchewan road
The next day we went to the Friends of the Park Bookstore for a meet-and-greet with the other authors: Dorell Taylor, editor of Waskesiu Memories; Jane Billinghurst, Grey Owl: The Many Faces of Archie Belany; Grit McCreath, editor of Waskesiu and its Neighbours; me, with Anahareo’s Devil in Deerskins; Kristin Gleeson, Anahareo: A Wilderness Spirit; and Donald Smith, From the Land of Shadows.
The bookstore had a number of early editions of Anahareo’s work and a ton of memorabilia, including a replica of the cabin, and a collage of photographs of Anahareo, Grey Owl and the beaver.
The new critical edition of Devil in Deerskins, along with Donald Smith’s In the Land of Shadows and Kristin Gleeson’s Wilderness Spirit.
The evening of the Gala began outside the Community Hall with dance and music by Cree performer, Joseph Crowe. Anahareo’s niece, Carole Crowe, acknowledged Treaty 6 land, touching briefly on the history of tensions between the National Park system and Indigenous peoples. The guests responded politely, but ultimately moved quickly into the Community Hall following the performance. It was striking to me how the interaction strongly reinforced the legitimacy of the National Park, while the Indigenous critique was literally kept outside the main events of the Gala.
Joseph Crowe, Carole Crowe (Anahareo’s niece), Shirley Dawn (Anahareo’s granddaughter), me, Katherine Swartile (Anahareo’s daughter), and Kristin Gleeson (Anahareo’s biographer).
At the same time, there were some great presentations during the evening. I was very moved by the words of Katherine Swartile, Anahareo’s daughter, who made the closing remarks.
Katherine and her daughter Shirley Dawn
I was particularly happy that Warren Cariou, the series editor of First Voices, First Texts, was able to come to the Gala. Warren had driven down for the evening with his brother Glen, from their place in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, a journey of about 4 hours. Warren deserves special mention here as the true instigator of the project. It was Warren who initially brought together a group of scholars and Indigenous writers to discuss which Indigenous-authored books, currently out of print, needed to be back in circulation. Devil in Deerskins is the first book in the series. The second, George Kenny’s Indians Don’t Cry, will be launched in October 2014. Another special presence for me was Deanna Reder, who is also a member of the First Voices, First Texts editorial collective. She was doing some research on an ongoing project related to her grandmother, who was a well-known healer in the area.
Glen Cariou, Warren Cariou, and Deanna Reder
Galas are fun, but debriefing afterwards is even better!
Many thanks to the Friends of the Park, especially Bentley Crozier and Natasha Levesque, for organizing the events and for being such kind and generous hosts. Thanks also to Anahareo’s family, especially Katherine, Shirley Dawn, and Carole and Joseph Crowe. Thank you to Warren and Deanna for being such supportive friends, and thanks to everyone at the University of Manitoba Press for making such a beautiful book. Thank you to David for everything, and also to our kids, for listening well and patiently attending what they liked to call “The Grand Galloping Gala.”
Zipping around Waskesiu on a quadracycle
Sophie McCall is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. View books by Sophie McCall.