In his remarkable and entertaining memoir of his beloved grandfather, Ted Chamberlin conjures up vividly the never-before-told story of a particular time and place not long after Canada was founded. And shows us not only what Canada once—briefly—was, but what it still could be.
This is the story of when "Sorreltop Jack" was friends with Crop Eared Wolf; of two decades, 1885 to 1905, when the people in the foothills of modern-day Alberta—First Nation and Métis, rancher and settler—respectfully set out to accommodate Blackfoot sovereignty and new settlement, before Canada broke its Treaty promises to the first peoples.
It was a colourful, unpredictable time. Fort Macleod was a small ramshackle town nestled in the heart of Blackfoot territory when young Jack Cowdry arrived and met Crop Eared Wolf—the legendary Káínai (Blood) warrior, brilliant horseman and sophisticated strategist, who would soon succeed his father, the great statesman Red Crow, as head chief of the Bloods. Friendship and trust became a bond. Here Jack opened his first bank and fell in love with the author's grandmother, Gussie Thompson, who travelled across the country to work as a teacher, her heart open to whatever adventures life could offer her. The new town embraced it all—Sun Dances and social dances, bibles and medicine bundles, horse races and polo matches, and a wild variety of great characters. Here we meet Madame Kanouse (Natawista), admired for both her influential intelligence and her stunning fashion sense; Kamoose Taylor, hospitable patron of the Macleod Hotel—where Francis Dickens, son of the great novelist Charles, or the Sundance Kid himself might be found at the bar; the taciturn Jerry Potts, unequaled Métis guide and interpreter; John Ware, successful Black rancher;and Peigan chief Big Swan, irreverent co-conspirator with Jack Cowdry on the satirical newspaper The Outlaw.
Resonant with the power of storytelling, this compelling memoir illuminates the challenges we face now, and the opportunity we still have to uphold the promise made when Canada was founded.
From the Hardcover edition.