Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Honoré Jackson: Prairie Visionary

Jackson, William Henry (1861–1952)

Read the  first definitive biography of this complex political man, who served as Louis Riel’s secretary in 1885, and went on to be a labour leader in Chicago and a “capitalist” in New York City.

Born in Toronto to a Methodist family and raised in Wingham, Ontario, William Henry Jackson attended the University of Toronto before moving to Prince Albert, where he began to sympathize with the Métis and their struggle against the Canadian government. Jackson became personal secretary to Louis Riel, was captured by the Canadian militia during the 1885 Resistance, and was convicted of treason and sentenced to an insane asylum near Winnipeg. When he escaped to the United States, joining the labour union movement, he told everyone that he was Métis and modified his name to the Métis-sounding Honoré Jaxon.

After a lively career as a politically radical public figure in Chicago – where he befriended, among others, the revolutionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright – Jaxon eventually moved to New York City to attempt life as a real estate developer. His ongoing project was to collect as many books, newspapers and pamphlets relating to the Métis people as possible, in an attempt to establish a library for their use. However, he was evicted from his basement apartment at the age of ninety. His entire collection was dispersed, most of it to the New York City garbage dump, the remainder sold. He died a month later, in early 1952.

Book available from Coteau Books.

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