Eyewitness to History: R.H. Macdonald


180 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-88833-141-X




Reviewed by Ross Willmot

Ross Willmot is Executive Director of the Ontario Association for
Continuing Education.


Most of the articles and fiction in this collection, like many others by Cameron, were published in the quality magazines of Canada, the United States, and Great Britain in the last 20 years of the eighteenth century. They are fittingly dedicated here to the Cree Indians of the Canadian Northwest. The Cree culture, their leaders, their trade with the whites (among whom was Cameron), and the North West Mounted Police are described “in authentic, vivid detail.”

Several gripping extracts from Cameron’s first book, The War Trail of Big Bear, are of particular interest because they tell how Cameron was captured by the Crees in 1885 during the massacre of other whites at Frog Lake. Because Cameron spoke Cree and was a friend of some of the Indians, they helped him escape. He later helped track down the murderers and testify against them.

The book’s editor had bought articles for The Western Producer from Cameron as an “eyewitness” of the early history of the West while Cameron was alive. Later he located Cameron’s scrapbooks with a view to republish his work. A comprehensive biography of Cameron’s career as a freelancer is supplied here, covering the tremendous number of supportive jobs he held as trailblazer, Indian trader, cowboy, museum curator, salesman, and public speaker, among others.

Cameron describes a land and its people that were unique and no longer exist. His well-crafted writings are based on honest, first-hand observation and are well worth preserving for our present generation.


Cameron, William Bleasdell, “Eyewitness to History: R.H. Macdonald,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36237.