Daylight in the Swamp: Memoirs of Selwyn Dewdney


192 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55002-251-2
DDC 760'.092





Edited by A.K. Dewdney
Reviewed by William A. Waiser

William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan, and the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground: A History
of Prince Albert National Park and Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of
Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915–1946.


This book is about a love affair—between a man and the North. From his
early childhood days on the edge of the boreal forest in Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan, to his adolescence in the vast Keewatin lake district
north of Kenora, Ontario, Selwyn Dewdney was never far from a canoe and
the rock, bush, and swamp of the Canadian Shield. And even though he
moved from career to career—from itinerant Anglican minister to
Geological Survey field assistant to high-school art teacher to
pictograph specialist—Dewdney’s life remained firmly rooted in the

Dewdney’s memoirs of these years have been carefully edited by one of
his sons. None of the intimacy has been lost. Dewdney provides a rare
first-hand glimpse of the people and places of the provincial north in
the interwar years, where life existed on the margins of Canadian
society. He also gives a sense of what it was like to paddle the rivers
and lakes of the sub-Arctic, only to discover that the history and
rhythms of the region had changed little over the decades.

One of the book’s few disappointments is the space devoted to
Dewdney’s work in documenting Native pictograph art across the
country—this could have been a story in itself. At the same time, it
is readily apparent why this research was a natural outgrowth of
Dewdney’s relationship with the land and its past and how he had both
the skill and the sensitivity to undertake the task.


Dewdney, Selwyn., “Daylight in the Swamp: Memoirs of Selwyn Dewdney,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,