hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 17:05:23 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information

Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Aboriginal People

Grant MacEwan has recognized the importance of Canada's aboriginal people in shaping the history of the West. MacEwan's ability to objectively convey the customs, traditions, and history of Canada's aboriginals only further enhances his reputation as the country's foremost popular Western historian. From a young age MacEwan was fascinated with their history-an era filled with stories about courage, tragedy and leadership. When writing about aboriginal history, MacEwan set out to accomplish three goals: to give recognition to aboriginals, including the Métis people who deserved to be remembered as heroic individuals by their people and all people; to share unique stories about aboriginal people with the general public; and, finally, to showcase the broad range ok skills Canada's aboriginal people possess. 

According to MacEwan, aboriginal history is described most notably by a series of tragic events. Their existence in Canada beginning with the arrival of white Europeans was marred by racism and oppression. MacEwan describes the volatile relationship as "heedlessly arrogant to assume that the native way of life could offer nothing of value to men." In his account of aboriginal history, MacEwan tended to focus on writing biographies of fascinating individuals like Crowfoot, Maskipitoon, Sitting Bull, and Tatanga Mani (Walking Buffalo). Aboriginal leaders bridged the old and the new in western Canadian history. MacEwan was inspired by such men because they all shared a similar belief system: they were all students of nature, devoted searchers of truth, and men of faith. By writing these biographies MacEwan believed he could capture history in a way he knew best-through story telling.

MacEwan, through his work, urged all Canadians to learn more about aboriginal history. Historically known for their skill and courage in warfare, MacEwan reminded us that aboriginal people were also great athletes, orators, leaders, and philosophers. Human accomplishment, regardless of the subject, should never be forgotten. Aboriginals have typically maintained their long line of customs and traditions through oral history. MacEwan sought to capture these oral histories and transform them into written stories. Much of his work was developed during a crucial time in Canadian history. When Portraits From The Plains was published in 1971 aboriginals were seeking greater autonomy in the administration of Indian affairs. Thus why MacEwan believed his approach to the topic was so vital and urged other authors and historians not to broach the subject with a condescending tone and, rather, seek objectivity. There are many great stories and great individuals that have eluded written records but MacEwan completed a noble task when he published several histories on the aboriginal people of Canada and by doing so he successfully introduced the general public to a world of remarkable people.


MacEwan, Grant. Métis Makers of History. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1981.

____________. Portraits From The Plains. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Company, 1971.

Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
            For more on Grant MacEwan, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

Copyright © Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved