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  Grey Owl Biography

  • Born: Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, Sept.18, 1888, in Hastings, Sussex, the first child of George Furmage Belaney, (a spendthrift, alcoholic and ne'er-do-well), and Kittie Scott-Brown, the sister of one of George's wives. "Archie" may have seen his father only once or twice. George died around 1910 after moving to North America. From the age of 2, Archie was raised in Hastings by two aunts, Ada and Carry Belaney. His mother Kittie occasionally visited the household with Archie's brother, Hugh, who was permanently institutionalized after the war.

  • Education: Extensive home education by his stern, disciplinarian Aunt Ada; small Anglican school from age 8 to 11; middle-class Hastings Grammar School, from 11 to 15. Archie earned a school prize for French and topped his class in English. Left school to work as a clerk in a lumber yard.

  • Childhood: Emotionally damaged by his father's rejection and stifled by the rigid upbringing by his aunts, Archie collected unusual animals and played "Red Indian" with his few friends, one of whom accompanied him on frequent adventures into the countryside. He was mischievous and bucked authority at school, leaving him at odds with his schoolmasters.
-courtesy Parks Canada
Archie Belaney, a.k.a Grey Owl.

  • Immigrated: Departed on a ship to Canada, with Aunt Ada's approval, on March 29, 1906. He wanted to live in the wilderness, near the Indians.

  • Work: Toronto department store for several months, then to northern Ontario (and briefly Quebec), where he learned to trap, canoe and survive in the wilderness. Also worked as a forest ranger and guide. Canadian Army, 1915 to 1917. Canadian Parks Branch, briefly at Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, and then at Prince Albert National Park, 1931-38.

  • Marriages: Angele Egwuna, an Ojibwa Indian, in 1910, daughters Agnes and Flora; Marie Girard, common law partner, 1913-14, son Johnny; Ivy Holmes, a childhood sweetheart in England who later divorced him on the grounds of bigamy, in 1917; Anahareo (born Gertrude Bernard); common law partner, off and on until 1934, daughter Shirley Dawn; Yvonne Perrier, Ottawa medical assistant, 1936 (while still legally married to Angele).

  • Died: In 1938, at age 50.

  • Books: The Men of the Last Frontier, published in London by Country Life, 1931;Pilgrims of the Wild, published in Toronto by Macmillan, 1934; The Adventures of Sajo and her Beaver People, published in London by Lovat, Dickson &Thompson Limited, and video at Amazon.cain the United States by Scribner's, under the title Sajo and the Beaver People, 1935; Tales of an Empty Cabin, published in London by Lovat, 1936; The Tree, published in London by Lovat, originally one of the short stories in Tales of an Empty Cabin, 1937. Numerous magazine articles and several documentary films (see below). Some of Grey Owl's books, and books written about him, are available at Sir Richard Attenborough's 1999 Grey Owl movie, starring Pierce Brosnan, is available on VHS and DVD.

    Smith at
  • Biographies: From the Land of the Shadows: The Making of Grey Owl, by Donald B. Smith, first published in Saskatoon by Western Producer Prairie Books, 1990 (the definitive biography of Grey Owl, includes an extensive bibliography of articles, films, interviews, archival material and other resources); Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl, by Anahareo, published in Toronto by New Press, 1972; Grey Owl: The Many Faces of Archie Belaney, by Jane O. Billinghurst, published by Greystone, 1999; Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney, by Armand G. Ruffo, 1997; Wilderness Man: The Amazing True Story of Grey Owl, by Lovat Dickson, MacMillan Canada, 1999.

We invite you to read our popular feature article for a more in-depth story about this most compelling man. The tale begins in the present, on the trail to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park.

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