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Kids' Activities: Resource

Jane Lind presents ...

Grey Owl's Favorite Wilderness Revisited

A Study of Northern Canadian Literature

By Allison Mitcham/p>

Theme: Resource Books on the North—The Environment

Grey Owl's Favorite Wilderness Revisited

This book is a revised and enlarged edition of Allison Mitcham's earlier study of Grey Owl after she revisited Temagami and Biscotasing in the summer of 1991. The author interviewed his daughter and others who knew him to get his complete story.

Grey Owl, sometimes called the Canadian Thoreau, came from England as Archie Belaney and roamed northern Ontario between 1907 and 1924. He was determined to become an Indian, and he became Grey Owl and an Ojibway, a member of the Bear Island band. He also wrote about his beloved North country and intuited what might happen to it and to Canadian art and culture. "Not until the average Canadian ceases subconsciously to calculate the number of feet of board measure in every tree that he passes will we be able to produce an important Canadian art..."

Grey Owl understood the link between materialism and the destruction of the forests, and the divorce from the human spirit that results in the midst of materialism.

In visiting Grey Owl's beloved North, the author discovered how the materialism affects the forests--hills shaved clean of trees but with a rim of forest around the edges to protect appearances. These forestry practices counter the attitude of the Native people of using only what we need for survival.

The author includes a summary of the struggles to protect the ecological survival of the area, through to the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision rejecting the Bear Island band claim for the Temagami forest. One wonders whether Grey Owl could have possibly imagined that this would be the circumstances close to a century since he began his journey in the North.


Divide the class into two groups. Let one group look through back issues of local newspapers to find stories about the impact of industry on the environment—how the activities of people destroys parts of the ecosystem. Let the other half of the class look for accounts of people trying to work to stop the destruction of the environment. The students can clip the stories and post them on a large bulletin board and summarize their research.

from the
Theme Catalogue and Teaching Guide for Children's Books
written for Penumbra Press by Jane Lind
© Jane Lind

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