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Fardy, B.D.

Langley (B.C.) Mr. Paperback, c1984. 144pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-919531-18-0. Distributed by Sun-fire Publications. CIP

Grades 7 and up
Reviewed by Beatrice Russell

Volume 13 Number 3
1985 May

The setting for the story is between the years 1832 and 1896. It takes in the time when the first fur traders and mountain men entered western American and Canadian territory, through the years when different fur companies were competing for trade with the natives, until the coming of the North West Mounted Police. The author portrays the history of those violent times by following the life of Jerry Potts, a Metis whose childhood had been very unsettled. Numerous examples are given which show the unassuming little man to be a diplomat, able to prevent outright war between the Indian tribes or between Indians and whites. He had the ability to act as scout, guide, and interpreter.

He had gone on yearly buffalo hunts with his mother's people, the Blackfoot, and from this had become familiar with the territory from the head waters of the Missouri to the North Saskatchewan River. This may have been the reason he seemed "to have such an uncanny sense of direction that he used in guiding people through a blizzard or an unfamiliar area. The Indians attributed it to the supernatural.

He preferred the Indian way of life and was so much respected that he was asked to sit on the tribal council. But he had also learned that in the white man's world one had to work to acquire property and not resort to theft.

Although a drinking man himself, Potts began to see that the whiskey brought by the white man was destroying the Blackfoot, turning once proud and fearless warriors into skulking beggars. So, with the coming of the NWMP, he became their trusted interpreter and guide. When Colonel Macleod of the NWMP came to Fort Whoop-Up to put an end to the whiskey trading, Potts told him the traders had gone away after hearing that the NWMP were coming. Macleod could not believe it, but on entering the fort found that Potts was right. On Potts' advice he established Fort Macleod at its present site because Potts had made an agreement with the Bloods, Piegans, and Blackfoot tribes that they would co-operate with the police.

The author has written the book to honour a man whom history seemed to have overlooked while making heroes of those who were less deserving. Potts' character may best be summed up in the words of Sam Steele: "As an interpreter he was the most reliable we ever had . . .truthful and clear. As a scout and guide I have never met his equal. He had none, in either the northwest or the states to the south... It would take a large volume to describe even a small pan of the usefulness of this man, his record being worthy of a place in the archives of the country which he served so well." While he has been mentioned in history, this aspect of his life has not been emphasized.

The book would make interesting reading for either the student or the lay person. It has a table of contents to help locate information, but does not have an index. On the back cover there is a short, spicy description of Potts that would probably spark the interest of the reader. There are suitable illustrations, maps, and pictures and the type is clear and easily read. It could be used for curricular needs or for leisure enjoyment.

Beatrice Russell, Lacombe, Alta.
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