Marius Barbeau


Pathfinders in the North Pacific, 1958, The Ryerson Press and Claxton Printers Ltd., 238 pages. Illustrations by Arthur Price

Pathfinders in the North Pacific by Marius Barbeau, was published simultaneously by The Ryerson Press, Toronto, Ontario and The Caxton Printers Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho in 1958.

The Ryerson Press 1958 catalogue description states: “Discovery and exploration is the theme of Pathfinders in the North Pacific. The author, an anthropologist for the government of Canada, has explored much of this region and has studied its native annals for over fifty years. His fund of first-hand information regarding the area is well-nigh unsurpassed, and his researches have brought to light a great amount of previously unrecorded knowledge relating to the discovery of the Pacific, especially the North Pacific Coast, Bering Sea, Alaska, and the Northern Rockies.

The results of Barbeau’s studies have been published in several books. In this one he enters into a study of historic times with the arrival of the Russians in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and the coming of Captain Cook in 1778. He also deals with the development of trade with China through the East India Company whose desire for furs – particularly that of the sea otter – made it possible for the English to satisfy their craving for tea, and to develop a taste for porcelain pots, for rich embroideries and chinoiserie and all the wonderful spices and riches of the Orient.

After the Russians and the English came the French, the Spanish, and the American whalers, then the discovery of gold and the further development of the Northland. The story unfolds with the help of ancient chronicles, frequent quotations from logs and journals of sea voyages, and the author’s interpretations of colourful Indian traditions.

Pathfinders in the North Pacific was edited by Joy Tranter and Dr. Douglas Leechman. After a presentation by Dr. Leechamn to the Free Lance Club of Ottawa, the following article appeared in the Ottawa Citizen in December, 1946, “It isn’t a question of can you write. It’s do you write. Writing requires application. Apply glue to the seat of your trousers, glue to the seat of your chair, press firmly together and stick to it until you turn out your story. This was the advice of Dr. Douglas Leechman, instructor in journalism at Carleton College, speaking to the members of the Ottawa Free Lance Club, at a meeting at the YMCA.”

Marius Barbeau was a prolific researcher and writer. A few of his many publications include Jongleur Songs of Old Quebec, interpreted into English by Sir Harold Boulton and Sir Ernest MacMillan, French Canadian Backgrounds, Henri JulienPainters of Quebec, Cornelius Krieghoff.

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Marius Barbeau, 1883-1969, was educated at Laval University and was a Rhodes Scholar, the first from French-Canada (1907-1910). His achievements as an anthropologist, folklorist, and writer with a record for long-sustained activity, won him a doctorate honoris causa, one of the five awarded by Oxford University at the centenary celebration for Cecil Rhodes in 1953. He joined the staff of the National Museum of Canada in 1910 (now the Museum of Canadian History) and made the study of native migrations from Asia into America via the Bering Sea his specialty. His other pursuits belong to the Huron-Iroquois area and to the folklore of New France in America. He assembled over 10 000 Inuit, First Nations and French Canadian and English Canadian folk songs – many of them on old Edison tube records. In 1956 he organized the Canadian Folk Music Society.

Barbeau was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Barbeau worked in the US and across Canada, in particular with the Tsimshian (meaning Inside the Skeena) in British Columbia in an area south of Ketchikan, Alaska. A Tsimshian myth of an ancient migration from distant lands led Barbeau to speculate that these people had made the journey across the Bering Sea. Anthropologists no longer adhere to this theory; however, Barbeau’s activity and that of his Nishga interpreter and field researcher, William Beynon, helped to preserve many of the cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest. Barbeau was a celebrated and decorated anthropologist. Barbeau died in 1969. The Canadian Encyclopedia cites the many awards presented to Marius Barbeau:

Prix David, Province of Québec (1925, 1929, 1945)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Université de Montréal (1940)

Honorary Fellow, Oriel College, University of Oxford (1941)

Parizeau Medal, Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (1946)

Lorne Pierce Medal, Royal Society of Canada (1950)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Université Laval (1952)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Oxford (1953)

Canada Council MedalCanada Council for the Arts (1962)

National Award, University of Alberta (1965)

Diplôme d’honneur, Canadian Conference of the Arts (1968)

Companion, Order of Canada (1967)



About The Ryerson Press Archive

My name is Clive Powell. I worked for McGraw-Hill Ryerson for 35 years. Recently I was asked to find a home for 3000 publications that represent the Ryerson Press Archive. I am happy to share my discoveries.
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