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Interesting People

Grey Owl (1888-1938)

Photograph of Archibald Belaney at the age of thirteen, 1901

Archibald Belaney at the age of 13 in Hastings, England in 1901. Belaney later became known as Grey Owl

For years Grey Owl wrote magazine articles and books on wildlife and the preservation of the forest, wild animals and Native culture. He spoke eloquently on their behalf during his numerous lecture tours across North America and Europe. He became a celebrity. For a time Grey Owl worked for the Canadian National Parks Service and helped set up conservation reserves for beaver. Imagine the world's shock when after his death, it was discovered that Grey Owl was not an Aboriginal person at all. He was actually Archibald Belaney, born in Hastings, England. How was he able to fool everyone?

At 17, Archibald had left England for Canada. He befriended the Ojibwa of northern Ontario and learned their language, skills and traditions. After a time he grew his hair, wore Native clothes and took on the name Grey Owl. When asked, he said that his father was Scottish and his mother Apache. He published his first book as Grey Owl, entitled The Men of the Last Frontier, in 1931. Originally a trapper, he became disgusted with the cruelty of trapping and was converted to conservation. Ironically, his writings were tremendously popular in Britain, where he toured twice as Grey Owl and met the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Grey Owl died of pneumonia in 1938 at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Photograph of beavers building their lodge inside Grey Owl's cabin, 1932

Beavers working on their lodge inside Grey Owl's cabin, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, 1932

Photograph of Grey Owl feeding a beaver, 1932

Grey Owl feeding a beaver (possibly "Jellyroll"), probably at Ajawan Lake, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, 1932


"Belaney, Archibald Stansfeld." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica.
(accessed February 23, 2005).

Anahareo. Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl. Don Mills, Ont.: PaperJacks, 1975.

Dickson, Lovat. Wilderness Man: the Strange Story of Grey Owl. Toronto: General Paperbacks, 1991.

Livesay, Robert. Footprints in the Snow: the Heroes and Heroines of Canada. Mississauga, Ont.: Little Brick Schoolhouse, 1978.

Ruffo, Armand Garnet. Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney. Regina: Coteau Books, 1996.