The Next Chapter

Bill Waiser's book In Search of Almighty Voice aims to set the record straight about the Cree leader

The Saskatchewan historian talks about In Search of Almighty Voice: Resistance and Reconciliation.
In Search of Almighty Voice is a nonfiction book by historian Bill Waiser. (billwaiser.com, Fifth House Publishers)

Saskatchewan historian Bill Waiser has made it his job to interrogate history, and he has been lauded for it. In 2016, he won the Governor General's Award for Nonfiction for A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905. He also won the Governor General's History Award for popular media and in 2020, the Canadian Historical Association presented Waiser with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

His latest book is called In Search of Almighty Voice: Resistance and Reconciliation. Almighty Voice was a member of the One Arrow Willow Cree Nation who killed a settler's cow to feed his family. 

He was arrested for it. He escaped, fled and killed one of his pursuers. Almighty Voice died a violent death at the hands of the North-West Mounted Police in 1897. Waiser worked with the One Arrow community to understand the life and investigate the tragic death of Almighty Voice. 

Waiser spoke with The Next Chapter about writing his latest book.

Setting the record straight

"I made sure that there was Indigenous involvement and Indigenous participation. I combined that with the original records. I went back and examined Indian affairs and North-West Metro police records, knowing there is an inherent bias in these records. I found several interviews that have been collected with First Nations people that told a different story about Almighty Voice since that.

I found several interviews that have been collected with First Nations people that told a different story about Almighty Voice since that.

"That's the story that's presented in the book. After the Almighty Voice incident, there is this mistrust between police and government authorities and First Nations people because of the way that First Nations people are not regarded as part of Western Canada's future. As far as white settler society is regarded, First Nations people should ride off into oblivion and never be heard from again."

Journey to reconciliation

"What happens in the early 20th century is that there's a concerted effort by the government to reduce or take away resources from First Nations. What's not widely known is that in the first decade of the 20th century, 21 per cent of the land is removed from First Nations prairie reserves.

Our colonial past was an ugly one, and it's a two-step process toward reconciliation.

"Our colonial past was an ugly one, and it's a two-step process toward reconciliation. We need to recognize what happened in the past — how and why First Nations, people were treated the way they were — and with that recognition move forward and try to create a better relationship today."

Bill Waiser's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

now