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A Metis Man's Dream cover

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  • 318 pages
  • 6.0 x 9.0 inches

Métis, Northwest Canada, Traplines, Northern crane, Tugboats, Oral history, Northern business

A Metis Man's Dream
From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North
by Neil Gower

Where there’s a Gill, there’s a way.

Gordon Gill is a gentle, hard-working Métis man whose journey began on his Iroquois-Cree grandfather’s trapline and evolved into a successful business career. His story is one of change and the passing of not just one, but several eras in the development of Canada’s North and the evolution of the Indigenous struggle. A Métis Man's Dream: From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North details the history he met, and made, along the way.

Vision, chance, and generosity played integral roles in Gill’s evolution from cook’s helper on the tugboat MV Malta to founding two groundbreaking companies, Northern Arc Shipbuilders and Northern Crane Services. Gill emerged and flourished despite challenging personal injuries, poverty, reading difficulties, and residential schooling. He weathered the ups and downs of northern conditions, the crush of Canada’s National Energy Policy, and changes in culture, economics, and opportunity with a resiliency and way of looking at things that is both visionary and resolutely Métis.

Gill is a man of many eras, having experienced many historic firsts and lasts, including experiencing the final days of the Indian Day School of Hay River, and directing the design and fabrication of the first short-throw tugboat in the NWT, the MT Gordon Gill. Neil Gower brings together all of this and more in his thoughtful, sensitive compilation of Gill’s remembrances of the changes he has seen in his lifetime.

"A Métis Man’s Dream is Neil Gower’s involving biography of Gordon Gill, a Métis shipbuilder, mechanic, and businessman. Gower is meticulous when it comes to sharing historical and economic details. The book covers the realities of residential schools, revealing their impact on Indigenous children and their communities in stark terms. It depicts the growth and later deterioration of the marine industry in Canada’s north—the driving force in Hay River. It discusses oil and mineral prospecting in the region, too, tying these into the industries’ impact on Indigenous communities.

A Métis Man’s Dream is the inspiring biography of a man who navigated massive historical changes and who built a successful company by employing his culture’s values of humility and diligence."

─Foreword Clarion Reviews

"…wonderful poetic imagery of the North…I enjoyed your description of oral history and interviews with Gill and your reasons for writing his story. The book encapsulates so much of his voice directly (a great thing) with your excellent context…a lot of researchers will consult this book as it tells us so much about Métis life."

─James H. Morrison, C.M., Professor Emeritus (History), St. Mary's University

"...Well I’ve read the story and finished it yesterday. I absolutely loved it, and very much enjoyed the history and the description of the flowing of rivers that you included in it. I'm sure it’s because of knowing my uncle and family but at least two times the story was so moving it brought me to tears. I personally thank you for initiating and prodding us gently to keep at it. Very good work Neil and again thank you so much!

You have gotten his story written that I was so scared was going to be lost. I do believe being Métis we were raised not to boast or talk about our accomplishments, I’m not sure why, maybe it has to do with a tribe mentality where everyone worked together and it was a combined contribution and not just one person that made the world go around back in those days. Either way, Gordon’s story is not forgotten and lost now."

─Marvelle Kobbert, daughter of Gordon Gill's sister Mildred

"Gower presents a biography of successful Métis business owner Gordon Gill, whose hardscrabble life encapsulates the rural Canadian experience. Over the course of this book, Gower proves himself to be an excellent storyteller who provides geographic, historical, and cultural context regarding the Métis community while telling the engaging story of Gill’s life. At the heart of the book are Gill’s own words, which bespeak a rugged, down-to-earth worldview."

​─Kirkus Reviews

NEIL GOWER, KC, loves the North, the area around Great Slave Lake, and old tugboats. He holds a BA in history and an LL.B from the University of Alberta. Gower has worked extensively in the North, beginning with four summers working for Northern Transportation Co. Ltd., and then practising law (primarily as a legal aid defense lawyer) in Hay River (1975–1977) and for business clients throughout the NWT thereafter.

A strong supporter of northern business and Indigenous learning, Gower is a fifth-generation western Canadian whose greatgreat-grandfather came to Pile o’Bones Creek (now Regina, SK), in 1882. Gower’s family has been involved in and focused on the history of the great northwest ever since.

Gower’s love of northern history and admiration for Gordon Gill’s initiative and dedication fueled his desire to tell this unique story. Gill’s life of struggle and success, opportunities seized and lost, and continuous adaptation mirror the tremendous changes in Canada’s North over the last half of the Twentieth Century. Gower reveals the remarkable “life and times” of a pioneering Métis entrepreneur against the backdrop of significant historical transitions in Northern development, lifestyles, marine transportation, mining, and petroleum exploration.

Now retired, Gower is a writer living in Edmonton, AB. He was the lawyer for and a long-time friend of Gordon Gill, Métis shipbuilder.


Neil Gower

What People are Saying

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