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History Post-confederation (1867-)

Honoré Jaxon

Prairie Visionary

by (author) Donald Smith

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2023
Post-Confederation (1867-), Native American, Political, Indigenous Studies
Recommended Age
Recommended Grade
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2007
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Born in 1861 to a Methodist family, William Henry Jackson grew up in Ontario before moving to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where he sympathized with the Métis and became personal secretary to Louis Riel. After the Métis defeat a Regina court committed the young English Canadian idealist to the lunatic asylum at Lower Fort Garry. He eventually escaped to the United States, joined the labour union movement, and renounced his race. Self-identifying as Métis, he changed his name to the French-sounding “Honoré Jaxon” and devoted the remainder of his life to fighting for the working class and the Indigenous peoples of North America.


In Honoré Jaxon, Donald B. Smith draws on extensive archival research and interviews with family members to present a definitive biography of this complex political man. The book follows Jaxon into the 1940s, where his life mission became the establishment of a library for the First Nations in Saskatchewan, collecting as many books, newspapers, and pamphlets relating to the Métis people as possible. In 1951, at age ninety, he was evicted from his apartment and his library discarded to the New York City dump. In poor health and broken in spirit, he died one month later.


Heavily illustrated, Honoré Jaxon recounts the complicated story of a young English Canadian who imagined a society in which English and French, Indigenous and Métis would be equals.

About the author

Donald B. Smith is a professor emeritus of History at the University of Calgary.

Donald Smith's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Donald B. Smith’s Honoré Jaxon: Prairie Visionary is a lively page-turner, an engaging narrative of the life of an intriguing chameleon."

<em>Journal of Historical Biography </em>

"It is Smith’s careful attention to detail that allows us to contemplate the shape and consequences of Jaxon’s appropriation of an essential Métis identity. It would have been easy for Smith to slip towards simple condemnation of Jaxon’s conceits, but in this work we also get a truly humane representation of a final prairie imposter. This work is a fine wrap-up to an intriguing series."

<em>Literary Review of Canada </em>

"Honoré Jaxon: Prairie Visionary reminds us that behind every eccentric who lives next door lies a sometimes-fascinating story."

<em>The New York Times </em>

"In clearly written prose, and in a dynamic storytelling ability lost to most Canadian historians, Smith writes a highly entertaining account of Jaxon’s life."

<em>New Breed Magazine </em>

"Smith treats this story with sympathy and understanding. His use of Jaxon’s own letters and interviews enables him to tell it very much as Jaxon saw it, treating all his schemes, ambitions, and pretensions as seriously as possible. It’s a sad but entertaining tale of a talented but unfocused imposter on the margin of history."

<em>University of Toronto Quarterly </em>

Librarian Reviews

Honoré Jaxon: Prairie Visionary

W. H. Jackson, akaHonoré Jaxon, was the secretary of Louis Riel during the 1885 Resistance. Here is an intriguing account of his fascinating and tragic life. His upbringing in Ontario as an Anglo-Saxon Methodist, education at the University of Toronto and subsequent move to the Northwest form the ironic background of an historic life and career, with name change and pretense of Métis origins. His defense of and belief in the Métis cause from 1885 through to the latter part of his life as well as his attraction to and support of leftist and anarchist endeavours are chronicled in a captivating account of his journey.

With this book, Smith, a professor of Canadian History, completes his trilogy of three persons who claimed a heritage that they did not have—Grey Owl, Long Lance and Honoré Jaxon.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.