Canada’s first indigenous physician? The story of Dr. O (1841–1907)

Canada’s first indigenous physician? The story of Dr. O (1841–1907)

Can J Surg 2016;60(1):8-10 | PDF

Michelle A. Hamilton, PhD


As a physician, temperance advocate, chairman of the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario, the Supreme Chief Ranger of the Independent Order of Foresters, and mistakenly known as a Mohawk Chief, Dr. Oronhyatekha was a well-known, larger-than-life figure in North America and internationally. Since then, his memory has faded in mainstream society. Recently, however, he has re-emerged as a person of historical significance, designated as such by Parks Canada. Now the subject of the first full-length biography, co-authors Michelle Hamilton and Keith Jamieson, have separated out the true stories of his life from apocryphal ones. Although he was much more than a doctor, what follows is the story of how Oronhyatekha, a Mohawk boy baptized Peter Martin at the Six Nations of the Grand River, tenaciously pursued his dream of becoming a physician.

Presented in part as the 2016 Arthur Gryfe Memorial Dinner Keynote, Toronto Medical Historical Club

Accepted Oct. 11, 2016

Affiliation: From the Department of History, Western University, London, Ont.

Competing interests: None declared.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.009616

Correspondence to: M.A. Hamilton, Department of History, 1223 Lawson Hall, Western University, London ON N6A 5B8;