Tourism Saskatchewan

Grey Owl

A dedicated conservationist

Born in England on September 18, 1888, Archie Belaney became interested as a child in stories about North American Aboriginals. At 17, he came to Canada and lived with a group of Ojibwas in northern Ontario and learned their way of life; he claimed that he was the child of a Scotsman and an Apache woman, and began to use the name Grey Owl.

He enlisted and served in World War I, then returned to Canada. In the early 1930s, he came to the recently established Prince Albert natinal Park to run a program on beaver conservation. The beavers, which had been the basis for the fur trapping industry in central Canada for centuries, had been greatly reduced in numbers.

He wrote three popular books on the importance of maintaining the species: Pilgrims of the Wild, The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People, and Tales of an Empty Cabin. The public interest in his books and talks paved the way for programs stressing the importance of Conservation of species and their habitats.

Grey Owl died at Prince Albert on April 13, 1938. At his death, it was discovered that his claims of Native ancestry were false. For a number of years, the story of his subterfuge overshadowed the importance of his conservation work.