Her Story

About the free-spirited woman who transformed a trapper into a conservationist.

Who Was Anahareo?

"I speedily discovered that I was married to no butterfly, in spite of her modernistic ideas, and found that my companion could swing an axe as well as she could a lip-stick, and was able to put up a tent in good shape, make quick fire, and could rig a tump-line and get a load across in good time, even if she did have to sit down and powder her nose at the other end of the portage."

~ Grey Owl, Pilgrims of the Wild

Ancestry     • Her Early Years      • Anahareo & Grey Owl       • Finding Her Own Way     
Her Later Years      • Anahareo Remembered

Anahareo and Dawn on Lake Ajawaan, Saskatchewan, 1936. Courtesy of Margaret Charko.
Anahareo and Dawn on Lake Ajawaan, Saskatchewan, 1936. Courtesy of Margaret Charko.

Guide. Trapper. Prospector. Adventurer. Conservationist. Wife. Mother. These are all roles that Anahareo took on in her life, yet none fully captures the essence of this amazing woman.

Born in Mattawa, Ontario in 1906, Anahareo was raised in a modern town, attending Catholic school and taking part in all the appropriate religious observances with her family. Yet, as Anahareo herself admits, she was not cut out for a conventional life. As a child, Anahareo regularly skipped class, preferring to spend her days in the woods -- or making one kind of mischief or another.

Later on, when she was near the age at which her sister had married and started a family, Anahareo instead convinced her father to allow her to go to Camp Wabikon, a wilderness resort a fair distance from home. What began as a chaperoned summer vacation became a summer job as a waitress, which is when Anahareo first met her "Jesse James", Grey Owl. Though their first encounter was cut short, the adventurous Anahareo would soon follow him into the bush, unchaperoned, and later live with him there on a permanent basis.

Later still, due to a combination of financial pressures and the frustration of "living with a zombie" -- a Grey Owl obsessed with writing -- Anahareo would strike out on her own as a prospector. Although the profession was by no means the exclusive domain of men, the women who ventured into it faced a more difficult path than their male counterparts.

Arguably, this is what made Anahareo especially extraordinary: her refusal to conform to society's expectations of her in a time where aboriginals and women -- and aboriginal women in particular -- were held in very low regard. Anahareo had the courage to do what she felt was right, ignoring what the world thought of her stepping out of her place, speaking her mind, and looking to her own conscience for approval.

This is her story.