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'Part of our history': New book looks at Peter Lougheed and his Métis grandmother


CALGARY — The Indigenous roots of one of Alberta's longest serving and best-known premiers is explored in a new book focusing on the ancestry of Peter Lougheed and his Métis grandmother.

"The Premier and His Grandmother" is written by Doris Jeanne MacKinnon, an academic from Red Deer, Alta., who studies the important role Indigenous women have played in Prairies history. 

The reaction to her earlier book, "Métis Pioneers: Marie Rose Delorme Smith and Isabella Clark Hardisty Lougheed," prompted MacKinnon to write about the Lougheed family.

"As I delved into her history, I don't recall knowing myself that Peter Lougheed had an Indigenous grandmother," MacKinnon said in an interview.

"As I would share the story of my earlier book, I would ask, 'Do you know this?' And most people didn't."

Peter Lougheed served as premier from 1971 to 1985, making him Alberta's second-longest serving premier after Ernest Manning.

His tenure included locking horns with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau over oil and gas revenues, the introduction of the Alberta Bill of Rights, creating the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and helping create the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which affirmed existing Indigenous and treaty rights.

MacKinnon said she based information in her book on "mining the provincial archives" and from conversations with Lougheed's son, Joe.

"It delves into a bit of the time when Peter was in office and also some of the activity of the Métis in Alberta in particular, because a lot of their political activism led to where we are today," she said.

"It touches on a bit of history of the Métis activism in Alberta and, of course, on Isabella's history itself."

Isabella Clark Hardisty Lougheed moved to Calgary when she was in her early 20s to live with her uncle, Sen. Richard Hardisty.

She met and married lawyer James Lougheed and her husband was appointed to the Senate in 1889 and worked to grant provincial status to Alberta in 1905. 

Joe Lougheed said his father was quietly proud of his Métis roots, but it wasn't something he talked about publicly.

"Dad was never wearing this on his sleeve, nor was anyone in our family. It is part of our history," Lougheed said. 

"It's not something he sought to gain any benefit from and it was always a quiet part of his history and I think that's beautiful in a way. I think he would find this current debate over claiming Indigenous ancestry to be very appalling."

Lougheed said he wishes he could have asked his father if his heritage had any influence on his politics, including working toward constitutional status for Indigenous people.

"I guess the question mark about this book is what did my father's ancestry maybe do to colour his politics?" Lougheed said.

"I never had the opportunity to talk to him about it. We'll never know. Did his ancestry enter his mind? I suspect it might have."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2023.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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