James Bartleman has already written seven books on his extraordinary life as a part-Indian child from Muskoka who grew up to hold Foreign Service posts in some dozen countries, and also serve as Lieut-Governor for the Province of Ontario.
This book has further highlights from this amazing life and gives us all hope in the days of trying to reconcile injustices done to Indigenous people. Bartleman’s mother belonged to the Chippewas of Rama First Nations. His father was white, a steelworker from Welland, Ontario. When James was six, in 1940, the family of four spent the summers in a tent near the village dump in the small Muskoka village of Port Carling. James loved the outdoors life and still dreams of it, in spite of some prejudice against the Indigenous families.
He got his big break when he was sixteen and just finished grade twelve. A businessman for whom he’d done odd jobs, asked if he could help him pay to get his senior matric and go on to university. Bartleman graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1963. The rest of this book tells how he joined the Foreign Service, was ambassador to two hot spots, Cuba and Israel. He served as ambassador to the North Atlantic Council of NATO, and was high commissioner to South Africa, Australia, and ambassador to the European Union. In 2002, Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed him Ontario’s Lieut-Governor. In his later years he writes he has been giving back to society by establishing libraries in Indigenous-run schools, a book club for 5,000 Indigenous children, creative writing awards and summer reading camps for marginalized Indigenous children in Northern Ontario. This is indeed a book of hope.
Reviewed by Anne McDougall