The W. J. (Joe) McDonald North American Native Heritage Resource Centre

Photo of Joe McDonald

W. J. (Joe) McDonald (1948 – 1993)

for the preservation and positive promotion
of Native North American culture, spirituality and history

Native contributions

People of European descent began to arrive in this area of the Prairies in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s in search of furs, but Native people have been in the Turtle Mountain region for more than 10,000 years. The fascinating, exciting and colourful story of their contribution to our civilization today needs to be recognized – a need felt acutely by Joe McDonald.

In his will, Joe McDonald, left a generous donation of $10,000 to the Boissevain & Morton Regional Library for the purposed of recognizing the contributions of Native peoples to North American society and history. McDonald spent many hours as a young person in the Library and wanted to see Native culture better represented in the collection.

Biography of Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald was the son of the late John McDonald and Margaret McDonald. Born in 1948, he passed away in 1993. He graduated from Brandon University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Bachelor of Laws from Osgoode Hall, University of Toronto. McDonald practiced law in Ontario before moving to California. After passing the California bar exam, he practiced law in San Francisco. Interested in taxers and investments, McDonald established a successful and highly respected business as a financial and estate advisor.

Although McDonald left his prairie home community to pursue his education and career, his heart remained with the open skies and its people. He appreciated growing up in a small town like Boissevain, and wanted to enhance the resource literature available to patrons of the library.

During his adult life, McDonald’s association with Native people from Canada to California impressed upon him an appreciation of the Native awareness of nature, the “circle of life”, their culture and history. He wanted to see this appreciation shared.

In his will Joe McDonald directed that a bequeathment should be made to Boissevain & Morton Regional Library for the purpose of fostering this appreciation through a special collection and programming. A committee with representatives of the Library and Community supervises the growth and management of the collection in consultation with the McDonald family.

The collection and programming is Joe’s way of honouring Native voices, past and present. The library is a common ground of the community for positive cultural promotion and learning experiences. Boissevain, Joe McDonald’s home community, is where that journey began for him …

… and the circle continues.

Photo of item on loan from Sheila Mymryk

The Collection

The W.J. (Joe) McDonald North American Native Heritage Resource Centre consists of books, audio-visual materials, and magazines pertaining to Native culture, spirituality, and history. Some display artifacts were collected by Joe McDonald and some of the print material also belonged to McDonald personally.

The collection is housed in separate room next to the Community Archives and above the Moncur Gallery (a museum of pre-contact Native artifacts). Popularly known as the “McDonald Reading Room,” this facility provides a warm meditative place to study Natave related literature.

The collection includes fiction, non-fiction, and juvenile literature. You can pick up a children’s story of Algonquin creation, or biographical encyclopedias of Native historical figures, follow the “Indian Wars” period, or reflect upon Native spirituality. Laugh at the misadventures of the Algonquin culture-hero Nanabush. Reflect upon the wisdom of first-person elder accounts. Learn from hundreds of years of Native and non-Native contact.

As a unique institution in Manitoba, the collection is frequently called upon for Inter Library Loan requests from other libraries.

The committee welcomes recommendations for new acquisitions of literature or audio-visual material in support of the collection’s objectives. Contact information for the Library is available on our home page.

Examples from the Collection

Becoming Brave: the path to Native American Manhood

Daughters of the Earth: the Lives and Legend of American Indian women
Carolyn Niethammer

Flying with the Eagle, Racing the Great Bear: Stories from Native North America
Joseph Bruchac

Handbook of North American Indians
Volume 9 & 10: Southwest
William C. Sturtevant

Indian Cultures of the American Southwest
Steven L. Walker

Indian Story and Song from North America
Alice C. Fletcher

Insight Guides: Native America

Native North American Almanac
Volume 1 and 2

Native North American Biography
Volume 1 and 2

Plains Indians Designs
Caren Caraway

The Sacred Path: Spells, Prayers and Power Songs of the American Indians
John Bierhorst

The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life
Peggy V. Beck

The Spirit of Native America: Beauty and Mysticism in North American Indian Art
Anna Lee Walters

The Programming

The committee from time to time sponsors programming to promote the objectives of the Centre. Presenters have included Mae Louise Campbell, a Turtle clan mother of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa (Ojibway) nation and an in character presentation of 18th century Metis trapper and trader Pierre Bottineau. Noted Manitoba elder Calvin Pompana has told stories and taught the making of dream catchers. The committee has sponsored a local showing of the “Full Circle” travelling exhibit of praire Native artists.