According to Grey Owl, he
was born in Mexico to a full-blooded Apache
girl and an Indian scout, a close friend of
Buffalo Bill Cody who Grey Owl claimed had taken
him on his Wild West tour of England. He would
place himself in Ontario at 15, learning Indian
lore from the Ojibway who called him He-Who-Flies-By-Night.
Although this fiction suited the noble
savage persona he adopted in his life
as conservationist/ best-selling author/lecturer
that would make him wealthy and famous, once
exposed, the invention so damaged his credibility
that his extraordinary genius and essential
contribution to the preservation of the endangered
beaver, bear and lynx was for a time forgotten
in the world's indignation over the hoax.
He was born Archie Belaney
in Hastings, England and abandoned at age four
to the care of his grandmother and two maiden
aunts. In spite of his achievements in school
- he topped his class in English - his real
interest was in playing Red Indian.
He departed for Canada before he was 18 and
did actually learn to trap, canoe and survive
in the wilderness from the Ojibways of northern
Ontario, choosing to communicate in their dialect
combined with broken English and sign language
while emulating them with skin dye and braided
hair. By 1928, he had all but abandoned trapping
and was attempting to start a beaver colony.
Also at this time, he published an article on
life in the northwoods and had given his first
lecture. Two years later, the National Parks
Board of Canada, concerned with the near extinction
of the beaver, made a film about his work and
later hired him to start a beaver colony at
Riding Mountain, Manitoba.
By this time his drinking
had become a problem and his lack of commitment
and instability in his personal life were strangely
at odds with his growing passion for the plight
of endangered wildlife. He spent his last eight
years writing books on his experiences in the
Canadian wild and romancing the world in his
extensive lecture tours. His war dances and
pet beavers were a sensation that charmed his
followers by the thousands; his books sold out
and were reprinted. At his command performance
at Buckingham Palace in 1937, he greeted King
George VI as brotherand played the
Red Indian in a costume of buckskin
and feathers completely winning over the royals.
Exhausted, in very poor health
and drinking heavily, he returned to Prince
Albert where he died within the year, his work
as the worlds leading spokesman for the
preservation of wildlife habitats undiminished
by his harmless fabrications.