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Reflecting on his evolving identity as a human being, a Canadian and a Métis westerner, Herb Belcourt tells the remarkable story of one familys enduring connection to the dramatic history of western Canada. Belcourt traces his ancestry directly to an early French-Canadian voyageur and his Cree-Métis wife who lived in Ruperts Land after 1800. The eldest of ten children, Belcourt grew up in a small log home near Lac Ste. Anne during the Depression. His father purchased furs from local First Nations and Métis trappers and, with arduous work, began a family fur trading business that survives to this day. When Belcourt left home at 15 to become a labourer in coal mines and sawmills, his father told him to save his money so he could work for himself. Over the next three decades, Belcourt began a number of small Alberta businesses that prospered and eventually enabled him to make significant contributions to the Métis community in Alberta.
Belcourt has devoted over 30 years of his life to improving access to affordable housing and further education for aboriginal Albertans. In 1971, he co-founded Canative Housing Corporation, a non-profit agency charged with providing homes for urban aboriginal people who confronted housing discrimination in Edmonton and Calgary. In 2004, Belcourt and his colleagues established the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards Fund, a $13-million endowment with a mandate to support the educational dreams of Métis youth and mature students in Alberta and to make a permanent difference in the lives of Métis Albertans.
Awarded an honourary doctorate of laws by the University of Alberta in 2001, Belcourt is also the 2006 recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Housing. In this memoir, Walking In the Woods, he describes Albertas opportunities with admiration while speaking bluntly about the loss of aboriginal and Métis land in western Canada, and about the difficult consequences of generations of interracial misunderstanding in the West. Addressed to young Métis, and to all Canadians, he speaks with compelling candour about his love for this country, and his concerns about its future.
- Brindle & Glass, February 2011
Brindle & Glass
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