The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 436
Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly
childhood dreaming about American Indians, and conjuring an imaginary
world inhabited by loving parents, his fictitious Apache mother and her brave
Belaney's fantasy became so compelling that he emigrated to Canada in
19o6, making his way to northern Ontario where he eventually became a trap-
per. There he met Ojibwa Indians, and struggled to learn their language. He
married an Qjibwa, the first of a number of women, Indian and non-Indian,
who became his wives. After abandoning his Ojibwa wife and their young
daughter, Belaney fought with the Canadian army in Europe in World War I.
After the war he married and then abandoned an English woman before re-
turning to Canada.
By the 192os Belaney was a chronic alcoholic, and he had deluded himself
that he was indeed an Indian. Certainly by 1931 when his first book Men of the
Last Frontzer appeared, Belaney expected the public to regard him as Grey Owl,
a Native American. For a while Canadians, Americans, and the British believed
him, accepting Belaney's dyed hair and cosmetically altered complexion as
"genuine." Native Americans who met Grey Owl were very dubious about his
claim, but they usually kept their doubts to themselves. This troubled man was
a gifted orator and a capable writer who produced wildlife films featuring him-
self, and in the 193os he undertook speaking tours in Great Britain, Canada,
and the United States, becoming one of the best-known spokesmen for wildlife
conservation in the 1930s. Belaney died in 1938 just as journalists were begin-
ning to investigate his true identity.
Donald B. Smith's From the Land of Shadows provides a fully detailed and quite
readable portrait of Belaney, an imposter who for awhile fooled them all, even
himself. My only minor criticism of From the Land of Shadows is that a sterner
copy editor should have restrained Smith's tendency to move forward and
backward within the chronology of Belaney's life.
Basically, Smith's book is fascinating on two levels. First, it is a well-done biog-
raphy of a lonely, troubled man who accomplished the considerable feat of
prodding deep public concerns about wildlife during years when people were
preoccupied with the Great Depression. Also in his own curious way, Belaney
called for equitable treatment for Indians.
From the Land of Shadows is also a revealing glimpse of how Canadians, Ameri-
cans, and the British were more willing to believe and to accept a walking, talk-
ing, fictional Indian out of the pages of Longfellow rather than listen to au-
thentic Indians who were then writing books and working assiduously at all
levels for the rights of their own peoples.
Center for Western Studzes, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha JOSEPH C. PORTER
The Edge of the West and Other Texas Stories. By Bryan Woolley. (El Paso: Texas
Western Press, 1990. Pp. 220. Introduction. $25, cloth; $15, paper.)
Bryan Woolley, author of four novels, including November 22, one of the best
novels ever written about Dallas, and three works of nonfiction, is a newspaper
journalist and feature-writer for the Dallas Morning News. This collection draws
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page .
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/496/ocr/: accessed April 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.