2016 Ontario Historical Society Joseph Brant Award — Winner • 2017 Speaker's Book Award — Shortlisted
A man of two cultures in an era where his only choices were to be a trailblazer or get left by the wayside
Dr. Oronhyatekha (“Burning Sky”), born in the Mohawk nation on the Six Nations of the Grand River territory in 1841, led an extraordinary life, rising to prominence in medicine, sports, politics, fraternalism, and business. He was one of the first Indigenous physicians in Canada, the first to attend Oxford University, a Grand River representative to the Prince of Wales during the 1860 royal tour, a Wimbledon rifle champion, the chairman of the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario, and Grand Templar of the International Order of Good Templars. He counted among his friends some of the most powerful people of the day, including John A. Macdonald and Theodore Roosevelt. He successfully challenged the racial criteria of the Independent Order of Foresters to become its first non-white member and ultimately its supreme chief ranger.
At a time when First Nations peoples struggled under assimilative government policy and society’s racial assumptions, his achievements were remarkable.
Oronhyatekha was raised among a people who espoused security, justice, and equality as their creed. He was also raised in a Victorian society guided by God, honour, and duty. He successfully interwove these messages throughout his life, and lived as a man of significant accomplishments in both worlds.
Keith Jamieson, a Mohawk of the Six Nations of the Grand River, has worked extensively as an ethno-historian, a curator of museum exhibits, and an adjunct professor and guest lecturer internationally. He has written extensively, including exhibit catalogues and commentaries for news media. He lives in Ohsweken, Ontario.
Michelle A. Hamilton is director of public history at the University of Western Ontario and the award-winning author of Collections and Objections: Aboriginal Material Culture in Southern Ontario. Hamilton is a specialist in nineteenth-century Canada, including indigenous history and colonial relations. She lives in London, Ontario.
This biography is about one of the most interesting men in Canadian history about whom little is known, and it thus fills an important gap.
Puts forward a convincing argument that there is much for us to learn from Dr. Oronhyatekha’s life. Though there is little doubt that he lived an exceptional life, Jamieson and Hamilton’s interpretation instills a vision of late nineteenth-century Ontario few other books can convey. This was a place where Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe individuals continued to wield influence, and maintained an important presence.
With their detailed biography of this giant of Canadian history, Jamieson and Hamilton have done an enormous favour both for aboriginals and non-aboriginals living on this piece of geography currently known as Canada.