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Dr. Oronhyatekha. Security, Justice, and Equality.

Reviewed by Peter W. Johnson UE


Dr. Oronhyatekha is hardly a forgotten figure but, for those who think they have a grasp of his story, this book offers so much more. One is left wondering how he had the time and energy to be successfully involved in a medical practice, and numerous organizations, especially the Foresters. This barely touches on his achievements, but the book follows others up.

Peter Martin, or Dr. Oronhyatekha as he preferred, was born in Brantford in 1841 and died during a visit to the United States in 1907. While he lived in a variety of locations over the course of his career, he considered Tyendinaga to be his home base, and indeed his wife, Ellen Hill (1843-1901), came from there and was a direct descendant of both Joseph Brant and John Deseronto.

Dr. Oronhyatekha's big break came in 1860 when he had the opportunity to represent the Haudenosaunee and meet the visiting Prince of Wales. He had the intelligence and drive to make the most of this opportunity. Not surprisingly, he encountered racial bias over the course of his life, and very capably countered such slurs with intelligence and even humour.

Aside from his links to Tyendinaga, what interested me was his time spent in Frankford, not far from my home. After graduating from Medical School in Toronto, his first practice was in Frankford. He was already a Mason, and the authors speculated that he could have belonged to the Masonic Lodge in Frankford. In fact, he did, joining in 1867, and he was a member there until 1871, when he moved elsewhere. While he belonged to several fraternal organizations, he is best known for his twenty-nine years of leadership in the Independent Order of Foresters. "He turned the IOF from a struggling and fractured organization into an international company that merged Haudenosaunee and fraternal values with commercial insurance." (page 250).

Of particular interest to Bay of Quinte Branch members is the reference on page 272 to the induction in 2007 of Dr. Oronhyatekha into the Branch's Hall of Honour. The authors then proceed to refer to the aims and objectives of the UELAC. It's nice to be noticed.

I felt it appropriate to approach David Hill Morrison UE regarding this book and he didn't disappoint when he provided the following remarks that nicely sum up the legacy of Dr. Oronhyatekha:

At a time when contemporary generations of First Nations people are becoming more commonplace in the various professions of laws, the medical field and politics, this makes the accomplishments of Dr. Oronhyatekha even more poignant. A pioneer in his own right, his fame and respect set a standard which undoubtedly inspired and compelled future Natives to achieve goals far beyond the expectations of a dubious and sometimes jaded non-Native society.

The book makes for entertaining reading and it is also well sourced with almost a hundred pages of notes plus an Index. Worth checking out.

Authors: Keith Jamieson and Michelle A. Hamilton. Toronto: Dundurn. 2016. soft cover. 368 pages.

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Title Annotation:Eye-Popping Publications
Author:Johnson, Peter W.
Publication:The Loyalist Gazette
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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